People are catching flights, rugby stadiums are full and public gatherings and festivals are all happening again. Things seem to be coming back to some form of normal in post-Covid-19 Aotearoa. This is reassuring, given the ongoing impact of the pandemic around the world. In this context, The Salvation Army believes it is crucial to keep monitoring the levels of hardship in our communities, particularly for poorer and potentially vulnerable New Zealanders.
In 2020, The Salvation Army released six Covid-19 Social Impact Dashboards that tracked the impacts of Covid-19 and lockdowns on housing, food security, addictions, income support and employment and financial hardship. These Dashboards also focussed on telling the stories of the real-time effects of Covid-19 on the poorer and those often marginalised in our societies. This intentional focus is central to the mission of The Salvation Army to care for people, transform lives and reform society by God’s power.
This short advocacy paper picks up on the work of these Dashboards to give a brief snapshot of financial hardship in Aotearoa, looking at specific public and Salvation Army data. The purposes of this paper are to highlight key areas of financial hardship and talk about policy ideas and recommendations that we believe could help alleviate, and maybe even prevent, financial hardship for New Zealanders. This is a snapshot as we see things in mid-2021, focussed on key indicators of financial hardship. But this paper is also part of a wider movement of advocacy, research, frontline work, high-level strategy and public discourse on money, debt, lending and financial hardship that has been strongly moving forward in recent years.
This focus and energy on the usefulness and issues connected with money, debt, hardship and lending is encouraging. This recalls the ancient biblical proverb from Ecclesiastes 7:11,12 (NIV), ‘Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it’. Money can act as a shelter, safety-net and enabler for all of us. But, as this biblical proverb highlights, we all need wisdom and knowledge in how we handle money. The challenge for those on lower and/or fixed incomes is that they have less money (compared with those with more money/income/wealth) and, therefore, have smaller financial buffers in their lives in which to cope with the realities and challenges of life. Consequently, these people and whānau have less shelter, stability or protection when financial shocks come. This financial knowledge and wisdom for all New Zealanders is, therefore, vital.