The Napier Family Centre has been supporting the Napier community for nearly 40 years. This week I caught up with CEO Kerry Henderson and found out more about the centre and how lockdown has affected families.
How long has the Family Centre been operating in Napier and why was it started?
Since 1983. At the time it was recognised that more support was needed for our whānau – particularly mums raising babies. As a not for profit community based social service organisation we currently support people with household budgeting and money management, counselling, family support including social work and parent and education courses and formal early childhood education and careers.
How many families are you helping/working with?
Every year around 2500 families and individuals across Hawke's Bay use our services. A steadfast vision focused on people's wellbeing helps us ensure we respond to our whānau needs.
How do families access the Family Centre's services?
You can access our services in a range of different ways – you do not need an external referral from another agency to utilise our services – just get in contact with us directly. Look at our website to see what services we deliver https://napierfamilycentre.org.nz/our-services/ and then call us on 06 843 7280, freephone 0508 867 8910 or contact us via our website https://napierfamilycentre.org.nz/contact-us/
How has Covid impacted some of your families?
Initially access to food was an immediate concern, being plunged back into lockdown with very little notice for whānau to arrange sufficient kai, particularly when transport is an issue. The secondary emerging issue we also noted was lockdown fatigue and the emotional toll being placed back into lockdown had on wellbeing. Coming into level 2 now, our services are picking up as we're open and we are noticing a greater need for our services in counselling and budget advice.
What are the main areas where the Family Centre has had put in extra support?
Over lockdown we ensured our current clients were all called and had ongoing telephone support, or video zoom appointments were provided based on clients' needs. This time round we noticed increased levels of anxiety and heightened stress, so we did our best to walk alongside whānau, particularly those with children at home. We shared some of our electronic family resources sheets we had developed including filling your children's buckets, boundary setting and building resilience. These helpful family resources are free to access at this link https://www.napierfamilycentre.org.nz/our-services/family-services/family-resources/
Early on we recognised that demand and access for food was becoming increasingly important. We had some staff members who were able to provide this essential service to our clients with the support of the Napier Foodbank. Transport was a common factor so we would deliver contactless to clients' homes when needed.
Have there been any positive impacts from Covid/lockdowns?
Yes. The external communications and networks to ensure whānau were supported was great. Regular zui with the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Education and Ngātahi leaders meant there was good information flow from social service providers and other NGOs and government agencies. This meant we could respond to whānau needs and work together better. A standout group for me was the support from the Central Hawke's Bay District Council through its Safer CHB network.
How has the centre coped with food parcels?
Most of our initial lockdown queries were about food parcels. Initially we were referring on to the Ministry of Social Development, as the lead agency working in this space. However, we soon realised more on the ground support was needed so our own staff offered to provide this essential service and broke their own bubbles to work with Napier Foodbank to support our clients with food parcels. Often we delivered a contactless delivery as many clients could not leave their home and didn't have the transport available to collect the food parcels.
Are there new/extra strategies people have had to access during Covid to get through?
Recognising quite early on that supporting wellbeing was going to be a particular focus, we ensured that our social media and contact with clients directed people to where they could receive support – albeit remotely. We wanted to ensure more support was put in earlier to give parents and caregivers some resources to help.
Have the children been adversely affected from lockdowns?
Yes, we noticed coming out of the last lockdown, an increase in anxiety of our young people. A lot of children struggled being out of schedule or routine and then trying to transition back into school or early childhood care and education. Tips on what parents can do to help children cope with anxiety, advice on how to transitional children back and how to talk about Covid-19 to our tamariki was really important to us.
How does the centre manage the extra demands on its resources?
We are a resourceful bunch and we always find a way to make the government pūtea we receive stretch as far as we can. We also have a large fundraising work programme to help fund the deficit of funding we receive to keep our services accessible and we are very grateful for the support we receive from a range of other partners such as Napier City Council, Hastings District Council and philanthropic funders such as the Hawke's Bay Foundation.
Are the ECEs back up and running?
Yes, both Sunny Days and Bright Futures are back up and running with all level 2 precautions in place. Many Kaiako and Educarers missed their wee friends and we're hearing some heart-warming stories of children seeing their friends again.
How did this lockdown compare with last year's for staff and families?
We saw and heard more mental wellbeing concerns this time around for our families – stressors seemed heightened. I think also the anxiousness with Delta variant being so much more transmissible also played on people's minds more. I think now coming back into level 2 and hopefully down the next few months will be telling for us. We're expecting more people needing support with their finances and budgeting in particular. We saw over a 20 per cent increase in budgeting appointments from last lockdown and we're expecting to see this again.
Our staff coped well. We ensured we had regular zui (video calls) and team meetings and made it fun including a few lockdown challenges of baking, art, and physical challenges – activities we could do in our own bubbles and engage our whānau in. We were very clear to staff that their mental wellbeing of themselves and their whānau comes first and we wanted to ensure we could lead by example.
Do you have room for more families?
We don't turn people away. If we don't think we are the right agency to support a family then we will work with them to get the right support. We are also lucky that we host People's Advocacy and Community Law a few days a week on site – so we can provide a diverse range of services to help families.
Is the Family Centre a place which accepts volunteers?
Yes, we welcome and value our volunteers. We are always on the lookout for volunteers who want to contribute to the difference we make in our community. Last year we had 3614 volunteer hours from our dedicated volunteers. Lockdown has a negative effect on our volunteer team, particularly the elderly who are understandably apprehensive about being out in public under level 2 restrictions and their safety is our number one concern. We would like to see increased interest and engagement from our younger volunteers, school and other groups and individuals with a heart for helping in the community.
■ The Napier Family Centre has a variety of volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in helping visit https://www.napierfamilycentre.org.nz/how-you-can-help/give-your-time/ or call the Charity Shop on 06-650 1835. Follow Napier Family Centre on social media https://www.facebook.com/Napierfamilycentre like and share our posts, tag your friends and write us a review.