Thursday, 21 January 2021


Those who need support urged to reach out

Elderly people living alone are the largest group being assisted by Whitianga Social Services since the Covid-19 lockdown began on 26 March.

The organisation’s grocery bank is still up and running with parcels being delivered to those who are unable to get out to the supermarket for the supplies they need.

“The vast majority of the calls we have received have been from older people or others in the community concerned about an older person who is living alone,” said Social Services manager, Sheryll FitzPatrick. “However, we fully expect that more families will be needing assistance in the coming weeks as the financial implications of the lockdown start to be felt. We have good stocks at the moment and we will have the resources to look after those who need support.”

While the Whitianga Social Services offices on Cook Drive are closed, Sheryll said several staff members were working to make up parcels for collection and delivering to those who have no transport. “It is important for people to be aware we are not able to provide a shopping service,” she said. “I would also advise people to be very careful about who they give their Eftpos card and pin number to. This really is not a good idea unless it is a person you already have a close relationship with. If you are having difficulty getting your groceries, please give us a call and we can get a parcel to you. Our staff have all been police vetted as have the additional volunteers we can call on if the need arises.”

Aside from the issue of accessing essential supplies, Sheryll said there were multiple factors contributing to increased anxiety and stress in the community, including isolation, inability to access normal services and money worries. “The first thing is, if you are in danger or fearing for your safety, dial 111 immediately,” she said. “If you are having difficulty coping, whether for a specific reason or just generally struggling to know what to do, please give us a call. We have a councillor and a social worker available who will chat to you in confidence over the phone. We also have various agencies we can put you in touch with if that is what is needed.”

Sheryll emphasised that their counselling services were free and open to anyone who needed assistance. “There may of course also be those who are not able to attend their regular support groups or services at this time and I would urge them to make contact with us if they need to talk to someone,” she said.

Emphasising the wide range of people that Whitianga Social Services works with, Sheryll said it was very important that people weren’t worried about calling, even if they had not engaged with the organisation before. “The lockdown is an enormous thing that we are dealing with and I fully expect that many of us are going to need help in some way in order to get through it,” she said.

Sheryll is happy to be contacted directly on telephone (027) 303 5303. Those calling the office landline during the lockdown period are also being redirected to her number.

A Waikato Civil Defence Emergency Management Group helpline has also been established for people struggling to get food, groceries, medication or other household goods and services during the lockdown period. The freephone service is available by calling 0800 800 405 between 7:00am and 7:00pm daily. Details will be taken and then referred on to the most appropriate local support agency.

Pictured Sheryll FitzPatrick, the manager of Whitianga Social Services.


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