Covid-19 response for h2r whānau

Covid-19 information sessions

As the coronavirus pandemic spread to New Zealand the government developed a strategy to eliminate covid-19 from New Zealand. As part of this strategy the government announced on 23 March 2020 that a level 4 lockdown would take place at midnight Wednesday 25 March.

To help hard to reach communities prepare for the lockdown and identify what support was needed we organised two videoconferences with h2r community leaders. The kaupapa of the videoconferences was for Dr Julia Carr, GP and Dr Armon Tamatea, Senior Lecturer in clinical psychology at Waikato University to share their knowledge on covid-19 and the implications for h2r whānau. The videoconferences were an opportunity for leaders to ask any questions they had of these experts and to support a flow of evidence-based information and health and wellbeing resources into these communities.

Two sessions were held with h2r leaders. The first was on Friday 27 March with leaders from the Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa, and the second was held on Friday 3 April with Bay of Plenty and Gisborne leaders. In total 20 h2r leaders participated in these two hui. We supported the majority of these attendees to connect with zoom for the first time, including holding group and one-on-one practice sessions prior to the events.

Key points from the discussions included:

  • Providing public health information about how to keep safe and prevent the spread of covid-19 and why these strategies are important, including frequent handwashing, wiping down of surfaces, and physical distancing;
  • Gaining on understanding of what to expect over the coming weeks and months as New Zealand fights covid-19;
  • Some of the mental health implications whānau are likely to experience and ways to provide support;
  • Focusing people on the importance of keeping safe rather than getting caught up in conspiracy theories about where covid-19 originated from; and
  • Preventing the spread of misinformation, e.g. dispelling myths that drinking alcohol or hot drinks protect you from the virus.

Following the hui resources were circulated to attendees for additional health and wellbeing support. These were also posted on a dedicated covid-19 facebook page established by the Hawke’s Bay community leader.

Support for hard to reach whānau impacted by covid-19

Through Government funding we were able to reach over 250 hard to reach whānau impacted by covid-19 around the country during the lockdown. We worked with hard to reach leaders across the country to develop targeted initiatives for hard to reach whānau and to identify whānau in need of support. The initiatives encouraged whānau to stay at home during the lockdown period and supported good physical and mental health through improved connection.

Key initiatives were:

Access to internet data – This initiative recognised that many whānau face barriers accessing the internet and that this is a critical way of keeping connected, informed, and accessing support at this time. We connected whānau with phone and broadband plans that provided value for money and that don’t lock whānau into expensive contracts.

Phone credit to enable inmates and whānau to keep in touch whist visiting was suspended – This initiative recognised prison visits had been suspended because of the lockdown and that a number of hard to reach whānau have family members in prison. We understand the importance of whānau maintaining contact with their loved ones whilst they serve ther prison sentences or whilst they are on remand awaiting trial or sentencing. The absence of visits by whānau can cause undue anxiety and stress to the inmates and family. Increased anxiety can increase the tension within the prison and has the potential to increase assaults between inmates and inmates with prison staff.

Hard to reach leaders provided critical input identifying whānau who would be assisted through these initiatives, as well as in some cases identifying their own targeted initiatives that met the needs of their local communities. These included:

  • Delivery of meat to h2r whānau in Central Hawke’s Bay;
  • Tailored support packages for whānau in Te Karaka that recognise the unique need of rural, isolated communities, including meat, access to water, petrol for generators, and wood for heating;
  • Korowai packages containing material and detailed instructions for parents to make korowai with their children in the Hawke’s Bay;
  • Blankets, warm clothing, and essential food and home items for whānau in Gisborne, East Coast and Wairoa.

We would like to thank all the hard to reach leaders who supported this mahi and made it possible to get this valuable support out to our hard to reach whānau.

Published by


Co-director of H2R Research and Consulting Ltd

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