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Source: Auckland Council

Since receiving a directive from the National Crisis Management Centre to stand up a welfare assistance service a little over three weeks ago, Auckland Emergency Management has taken more than 25,000 phone calls and responded to around 13,500 requests for basic food parcels.

The service is offering some welcome relief for Aucklanders who have found themselves facing sudden hardship due to the COVID-19 lockdown until they can access longer-term help through government subsidies, or support from friends and whānau.

Auckland Emergency Management Group Controller Kate Crawford says the team is working hard to deliver the best service possible in such unusual circumstances.

“Since the welfare distribution centre became operational, we’ve helped people from all walks of life; from single parents to individuals who are isolated or have medical conditions, families with up to 10 children and older people too. This lockdown is affecting thousands of Aucklanders, and we know that these parcels are a lifeline for them.

“That is always at the forefront of our minds as we work hard to process and distribute thousands of parcels across the region each week”.

Not without its challenges

Establishing such a large operation in tight timeframes comes with its challenges and work is going on behind the scenes to continually improve the processes that are in place.

“The national supply chain is under considerable pressure. Other agencies like ours, foodbanks and charitable organisations are all trying to source bulk supplies from the same supply chain.

From time to time, availability of supplies will slow down our distribution of food parcels and we will continue to do our best to manage both expectations and demand,” says Kate.

Some issues the team has faced include sourcing large quantities of products from suppliers, with items such as nappies being in short supply across the country.

“We stood up our response quickly and are doing our best to deliver the best service we can in such unusual circumstances. However, due to the nature and scale of the operation, and the timescales we’re working to, it’s fair to say it has been challenging and some mistakes have been made.

“We’ve received feedback from those who have used the service and we’ve used both the good and bad to help us continually improve our processes.

“We really appreciate the heart-warming messages we have received to tell us how much of a difference these parcels have made to people’s day-to-day lives as that’s what this is all about – we’re all in it together,” says Kate.

Who are the food packages for?

The basic food packages are available for Aucklanders who are in self-isolation with no access to other support networks for essential items. Those applying for the package will be assessed for eligibility when they phone in. 

People who need to access the service can call the Auckland Emergency Management helpline on 0800 22 22 96. The helpline is open between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week.

I’ve requested a parcel and haven’t received it yet

We have had reports that some parcels have not been delivered as expected. If you have had your request for a parcel approved and it hasn’t arrived after five business days, please call the helpline on 0800 22 22 96 and let them know.

My box isn’t full, are some items missing?

Due to the weight of some of the items, each parcel is spread across two boxes, which is why boxes may not appear to be full.

I’ve received my box, but it looks like it has been tampered with

Due to the weight of some items, each parcel is spread across two boxes so it may appear as though items have been removed but this is unlikely to be the case.

Because the boxes have some empty space, they may get slightly squashed during stacking and transit.

I’ve requested specific items but they’re not in the box

Some items, such as nappies, are in short supply but we are doing our best to fulfil these requests where possible. However, to help avoid delays parcels may be issued without these items. Our suppliers are working hard to resolve these issues and are getting them to us as soon as they are available.

We’re also aware of requests for items such as chocolate and wine and as much as we’d like to help, these parcels are about delivering basic essentials so luxury items such as these won’t be included.  

Where to get longer-term help

If you have lost your job or had your hours reduced, you may be able to get a benefit or some other financial help from Work and Income. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can call Work and Income on 0800 559 009