18 Apr 2023

Report flags overstretched and under-funded community groups as needs increase

2:39 pm on 18 April 2023
Boxes of shoes, clothes and more at the Flaxmere Community Centre.

The report found people in need were seeking help with multiple issues. Photo: Lauren Crimp / RNZ

A new report has found community groups stretched by the increasing numbers and complexity of requests for support.

The 'state of the sector' report says the mostly non-profit community services sector is in dire need of more funding, as more people ask for help with food, housing, power, health and education.

Just under three-quarters of community groups reported an increase in demand, and people often needing help with more than one problem at a time.

SocialLink is a network of Western Bay of Plenty community groups. General manager, Liz Davies, said the iwi, community and voluntary sector had seen an increase in demand as a result of cost of living, the housing crisis and Covid-19.

"We're seeing more and more people with more and more complex needs," she told Morning Report.

Those needs require specialist intervention in many cases, beyond what organisations are able to keep delivering.

"It can be struggling with budget and finances, which can also put stress on relationships. It can be a mental health issue that's really, really prevalent amongst many, many people," she said.

"It can be addiction issues, a whole range of issues."

The availability of volunteers was a key key in groups being able to function, something that the pandemic had affected in recent years, she said.

"The sector has been hugely reliant on volunteers. Without them, we wouldn't be able to deliver anything like the types of services we deliver. But if you know with Covid, really impacted on the number of volunteers available."

She added funding was on a year on year allocation basis for many groups and some groups were effectively getting defunded.

"They're often having to apply to other sources of philanthropic, or fundraise, in order to deliver the services that the community needs."