Come back next week for food, hungry families told

By Simon Collins

Families who have run out of food for Christmas have been told to come back next week by Work and Income staff in south and west Auckland.

Auckland City Mission and the Salvation Army's Henderson team said people were being told to "come back in a week" to get either special needs grants or letters confirming their needs so they could get food parcels.

City Mission crisis team leader Irene Rama said Work and Income policy was that people needing special needs grants did not need appointments and should go into their local office to be seen. But one woman spent two days at the Manukau office last week and could not get to see anyone.

Mrs Rama rang the Mangere and Otahuhu offices for the woman, but neither office could promise that they could see her "because they are so busy".

Emergency appointments are not available until January at Otahuhu, she said.

However, she said the situation changed yesterday after the Herald began making inquiries.

"We are now getting appointments for everyone we ask for. I think you ringing them has gone from office to office and we are getting appointments straight away," she said.

The manager of the Salvation Army's Waitakere community ministries, Zandea Lee, said they were giving out food parcels even without a Work and Income letter.

"We have a lot of people saying they have been told to come back in a week to get their letters. It just doesn't make sense to us." Both agencies have been giving Christmas hampers to needy families, including chicken and toys for those with young children. But the City Mission has run out of chicken and ham.

"We just pray that they come in this week," Mrs Rama said.

Work and Income regional director Losa McAlpine apologised for the delay, adding: "Anybody needing emergency assistance will be seen within 24 hours. They just need to call the contact centre or come into the office to make an appointment."

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