17 Jun 2020

Post-Covid demand could stretch Whānau Ora

5:48 pm on 17 June 2020

A huge increase in demand on Whānau Ora post-covid would prevent it from playing a greater role in preventing uplifts, the minister for the organisation says.

Peeni Henare, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Minister for Whānau Ora, and Youth.

Whānau Ora minister Peeni Henare. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The $136m funding increase the agency received over the next two years was under the microscope at the Māori Affairs Select Committee today.

The funding boost included $53m allocated to the Covid-19 response and $73m divided up between the three commissioning agencies: Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, in the North Island; Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, in the South Island; and Pasifiki Futures, which works with Pacific families across the country.

Peeni Henare was asked if Whānau Ora had the capacity to be the first referral before a child is uplifted by Oranga Tamariki.

"I believe that Whānau Ora can provide a service here for whānau with regard to Oranga Tamariki, what I am mindful of, however, is the huge demand on Whānau Ora navigators at the moment in a post-covid world."

"We're now expecting them to look towards how we shift whānau into employment opportunities, training, connect them better with social wellbeing, health and now if we call upon another branch in this respect, Oranga Tamariki, I am mindful that it will put a strain on the demands of Whānau Ora."

"However, I am optimistic, and I know full well that navigators, when they go into the home, won't turn a blind eye to one thing, and we'll continue to look to see how they might help the whānau."

Whānau Ora deputy chief executive Hamiora Bowkett said his staff were in talks with Oranga Tamariki "about where an early intervention might sit, possibly delivered through commissioning agencies, that sits in the spectrum before a statutory uplift."

Henare expected pressure on Whānau Ora services to rise, so a portion of Budget 2020 had been allocated to upskilling the workforce to meet that demand.

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