2 Sep 2021

Covid-19 support: Whānau Ora to receive $23m funding boost

6:07 pm on 2 September 2021

Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare has announced $23 million in funding to help with support during the lockdown and the vaccination rollout.

Dozens of locals turned up to a Covid-19 vaccination clinic at Mõkau at the boundary of Taranaki and the Waitomo District on Tuesday, set up by Māori health provider Tui Ora.

A Covid-19 vaccination clinic at Mõkau at the boundary of Taranaki and the Waitomo District, set up by Māori health provider Tui Ora last month. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Watch Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare discuss the funding at today's Covid-19 update:

Yesterday Māori Ministers fronted select committees and accepted the government's pandemic response could have done better by tangata whenua.

Vaccination rates for Maori are creeping up - but the numbers for those aged under 60 are far behind other ethnicities.

The $23m announced today will help provide support for whānau through Whānau Ora agencies to help with the current Covid-19 response.

Part of the funding, $8.816m, will go straight to the three Whānau Ora agencies (North Island Commissioning Agency, Te Pūtahitanga and Pasifika Futures).

An additional $14.216m will essentially be held and has been allocated for longer terms needs and distributed based on need as information on the impact of the current change in alert levels unfolds.

Henare said this will support the work of Whānau Ora providers to meet the increased community need for support and services, including accessing vaccinations, testing and self-isolating spaces.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister Henare were challenged as to why it took another lockdown to invest money into agencies that have been calling for more resourcing for a diverse range of needs for whānau Māori.

 Minister Peeni Henare speaks to media while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern looks on during a press conference at Parliament on September 02, 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister Peeni Henare at the media briefing. Photo: Pool / 2021 Getty Images

Ardern said that was not the case and that extra funding had been allocated to Whānau Ora before the Delta outbreak.

The Ministry of Social Development is also making a $2m fund immediately available to partner with iwi responding to critical unmet needs.

Funding of $1m, from the Covid-19 Response and Resilience Fund, will also be available to support iwi community responses and assist them to update pandemic response plans to take into account the new reality of the Delta variant.

'We know what is at stake'

Chair of the Whanau Ora North Island Commissioning Agency Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said this funding shows that the minister trusts them to deliver.

She said there was little time to prepare so they had to jump into action to support families.

Raukawa-Tait said kai is the most in demand item and although government departments have their role they don't know whānau like their navigators do.

"We know what is at stake when the whānau don't get what they need. We are trusted, our providers are trusted."

She said the money will help increase their capacity and ensure no one is turned away.

Te Pūtahitanga, the South Island Whānau Ora commissing agency, chair Helen Leahy said the extra funding will help meet the increased needs of whānau.

"It is really important those that are often at greatest need, who might often fall off the radar of state agencies, are being able to access support through Whānau Ora and the government's announcement today recognises that," Leahy said.

She said many whānau are experiencing income uncertainty which means they are unable to pay for power, food, and internet which is a problem with devices for schooling.

Te Pūtahitanga has received 5700 whānau applications for kai over the last 14 days, which covers 24,000 whānau members, and 8000 applications to assist with paying for power.

'Timely recognition' - Māori Party

Te Pāti Māori is welcoming the funding drop - but said it's a bittersweet situation.

They say it shouldn't take a crisis for Māori to be listened to.

"Our Māori providers have continued to provide outstanding services, not only to Māori but to everyone, the announcement today is a timely recognition of that.

"This is a great start but we have a long way to go. Whānau Ora requires the resource to match its success. As one of the highest performing portfolios in this government, we should only expect greater resource to come," Waititi said.

Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the party is pleased that the providers will get the reprieve they desperately need to carry out the amazing work they are already doing.

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