A charity supporting mothers has seen a dramatic spike in mothers in need during Auckland's level 3 lockdown last week.
The Mums Clique charity says 37 per cent of the 716 mothers it helped last week had lost jobs or income in their households during the lockdown - a first sign that the lockdown was the final blow for some jobs.
"It seems that as these lockdowns go on, the ones that are just holding on, the next one comes and they've lost it," charity founder Abbey Fouche said.
One mother said she ran out of food for herself because there was "nothing left" after feeding her children after her husband lost his job.
Another whose husband lost his job was refused a welfare benefit because the husband had found another job, starting in a month - "so for a month they are not getting anything".
Others were doing casual work that was suspended during the lockdown, leaving families with no income for the week. One mother was a casual cleaner; another's husband was a casual labourer.
In a video posted on Thursday, March 4, Fouche said her charity received more than 300 requests for help in the previous 24 hours, compared with a usual average of 30 to 50.
More than 90 per cent of the 716 women who contacted the agency last week said they had been impacted by Covid. Two-thirds (64 per cent) were in financial difficulty and a similar number (67 per cent) reported mental health stresses.
Fouche founded the charity two and a half years ago when she found a lack of support as a young mother herself of children now aged 10, 2 and 4-year-old twins.
"I had my first daughter as a teenager, I had just turned 18. I was in a really violent relationship, so much so he almost killed me," she said.
"Then I had premature twins, and then I had my youngest who has a heart defect. So I've been through quite a lot and just felt there was not enough support available."
The Mums Clique gives every mother who asks for help a gift box of essential items such as nappies and a few nice-to-haves such as toiletries and biscuits. But it does not provide ongoing financial support, instead referring mothers to foodbanks, counsellors and other agencies in their neighbourhoods.
"We aim to create a community where the mum can approach us for support and we guide them," Fouche said.
Although it started in Silverdale, where it has opened a drop-in "haven" , Fouche said it now served 35,000 mothers all over New Zealand.
It is funded mainly by nine brands which it promotes on its social media, including Huggies nappies, Water Wipes and Natureland baby food. But it runs entirely on a voluntary basis - neither Fouche nor any other volunteers are paid.
She said some mothers who approached the charity had been unable to get through to bigger agencies such as Work and Income and the Salvation Army.
Others are on welfare benefits but the benefits are not enough to cover Auckland rents.
"One woman's rent is just under $600 a week and she's only getting $810 a week from Work and Income. By the time you've paid rent and petrol, it's just not enough," she said.
Another, who depended on her husband's student allowance, had only $30 a week to live on after rent and paying off a debt incurred when the family couldn't cope in last year's lockdowns.
Fouche said the latest lockdown has also had unexpected psychological effects.
One mother said: "This latest lockdown has almost destroyed me. I don't know why, but I feel a huge sense of loss, I'm feeling so anxious and nervous."
"The first lockdown was a holiday. The second one was quite hard," Fouche said.
"The third lockdown was three days, no one cared. This one possibly triggered post-traumatic stress disorder because they are looking back at the previous one."
The charity is now fundraising to cover its increased costs.
Salvation Army northern region community ministries director Rhondda Middleton said the Salvation Army gave out 916 food parcels in the region last week, an increase of 30 to 40 per cent above its recent rate of 650 to 700 food parcels in a normal week.
But that was much less than the jump from 700 a week to 700-800 a day in the level 4 lockdown last year when almost all workplaces were closed.
Salvation Army staff worked from home during all levels 3 and 4 lockdowns and sometimes could not answer calls immediately, but Middleton said all callers were called back and food parcels were granted if applicants met the criteria.