Frontline Salvation Army staff are alarmed by recent survey results showing life for New Zealanders this winter is even tougher than they’d feared.
A nationwide survey commissioned by The Salvation Army ahead of its Winter Appeal that launches today (July 23rd) found that close to one in two New Zealanders have gone without heating in the past year, or put off going to the doctor because they didn’t have enough money.
National Practice Manager for The Salvation Army's welfare services, Jono Bell, says the results show that the winter struggle goes much further than those who have typically needed The Salvation Army’s support.
“We are seeing our most vulnerable people struggle this winter and these new statistics show that the problem is even wider than what we see through our work. It is very alarming,” he says.
While most New Zealanders are using a heat pump (47 per cent) or electric heater (46 per cent) to warm their home this winter, one in ten are warming their home using just their oven or stove.
“Unfortunately conventional heating is often the first to go when money is tight. It’s common for us to see families pull mattresses into the lounge and bunk down to share heat in the winter,” says Bell.
“The oven door will be open and cranked up high. These families know about the inefficiencies of using an oven to heat the home, but for some, it’s the only choice they have.”
The survey of more than 1000 respondents found that 37 per cent of people skipped a meal and 16 per cent missed a rent or mortgage payment in the past year because they couldn't afford it.
Around one in four avoid buying fresh produce due to cost (30 per cent) and 23 per cent are often worried their card will be declined when paying at the supermarket. The greatest pressure is on 25-44 year olds, who are more likely to struggle with the cost of supermarket shopping.
“The largest proportion of people we’re seeing this winter are seeking food relief. No-one should have to choose between warmth, food or shelter, but this is becoming more of a reality for a wider spread of New Zealanders,” says Bell.
“We often hear of parents going without a meal so their kids can eat and many who struggle to feed their family. They feel whakamā (embarrassment), and won’t talk about it, making it harder for us to find who needs support,” says Bell.
The Salvation Army is worried it won’t be able to keep up with the rising demand and are appealing to those more fortunate to help. The organisation’s Winter Appeal starts July 23rd and people can donate by visiting www.salvationarmy.org.nz/winterappeal.
“People are getting poorer and we need help to get our most vulnerable through this winter,” says Bell.
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Issued on the Authority of Commissioner Andrew Westrupp (Territorial Commander)
The Salvation Army, New Zealand Fiji & Tonga Territory