Salvation Army report lays bare disparities and continuing challenges for the vulnerable | The Salvation Army

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Salvation Army report lays bare disparities and continuing challenges for the vulnerable

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Posted February 15, 2022

The continuing Covid-19 pandemic has had an ongoing impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in New Zealand, many whānau are struggling with the rising costs of food, rent and house prices, along with the effects of increased family violence and victimisation, according to The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation 2022 report.

Now in its 15th year, the report titled ‘Navigating the rapids’, draws on existing data to provide a snapshot of our social progress as a nation.

“The report is about painting a picture of the realities whānau are facing,” says Lt-Colonel Ian Hutson, director of The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit (SPPU).

“Our intention is to reflect what New Zealanders are seeing in the community. We aim to shine a light on the issues that affect the people most in need so that we as a nation can make the necessary changes to improve the wellbeing of the most vulnerable and make society better for everyone.”

The six sections of the report encompass Children and Youth, Work and Incomes, Housing, Crime and Punishment, Social Hazards, and Māori Wellbeing.

“A lot of families were already living on the edge when Covid-19 hit our country,” says Lt-Colonel Hutson. “The pandemic not only pushed some of them over the edge, but also increased the vulnerability of others, pulling them closer to desperation.”

Key findings in the report:

  • Children and Youth – The number of households relying on welfare benefits has increased and children in these families are the most likely to live in poverty. Although government financial assistance has increased, the continued pandemic and rising living costs contribute to increasing uncertainty around lifting the most vulnerable children out of poverty. Also worryingly, the number of children identified as victims of abuse, including sexual abuse, has increased. Covid-19 has contributed to disruptions in children’s education, while disparities in educational outcomes have worsened between Māori and non-Māori.
  • Work and Incomes – More positives than negatives characterize the findings in this section, reflecting that the health response to Covid-19 has continued to spare the country from the worst of the global pandemic. Unemployment has hit record lows, and core welfare benefits and the minimum wage have increased. By contrast, marginalised groups including younger people and Māori continue to struggle to find employment and numbers on the Jobseeker welfare benefit are still well above pre-Covid-19 levels. Inflationary pressure on living costs and continued Covid-19 uncertainty add to pressures on the most vulnerable. 
  • Housing ­– The report shows that “it’s more than a crisis, it’s a catastrophe” and describes a generally gloomy and challenging situation. House prices and rents have continued to soar, while at the same time, the waiting list for social housing has ballooned to more than 25,000, leaving many families in unstable, temporary accommodation. Although the supply of housing is increasing in total, much of it is unaffordable for the most vulnerable in the community.
  • Crime and Punishment – Alleged offenders and proceedings against these offenders have been declining, while the number of victimisations and victims have been increasing, particularly violent offences such as assaults and sexual assaults. Family violence reports continue to increase, with police investigating family harm every three minutes on average. The less punitive approach adopted by the justice system has reduced imprisonment – with the lowest prison muster in the past decade – and there are more community sentences. Although recidivism rates remain high, particularly for Māori.    
  • Social Hazards – Positive changes include fewer hazardous drinking behaviours for many groups; less detection of illicit drugs in wastewater; less expenditure on gambling; and fewer pokie machines nationally. Negatively, hazardous drinking continues for 18- to 24-year-olds, Māori, Pasifika and those living in communities with high levels of deprivation; gambling via New Zealand Lotteries increased significantly; and financial hardship likely worsened for many New Zealanders. 
  • Māori Wellbeing – A pattern of unfair and inequitable outcomes for Māori that is visible across most of the available data and underpins findings across all other sections of the report. Changes to how police and the justice system dealt with youth offending had seen big reductions in the number of 17- to 19-year-olds going to prison and the number of 12- to 16-year-olds charged in court. On the reverse, the housing crisis means that Māori are almost five times more likely to need social housing.

The full report can be found at: