Testing our compassionate response by Kath Curran , Napier Family Centre CEO
My first draft of this column was pretty glum. The topic; a response to this year’s Government Budget. As a manager of a social services agency I rely on the May announcements to help steer our planning and therefore our commitment of resources for the next twelve months. In terms of people needing access to social services and early childhood education this Budget has not been able to deliver respite for our families doing it tough. So, for us at Napier Family Centre, the Government’s latest Budget will require a familiar response – the ‘ask’ is to continue to accomplish more with less resources. Hence the tone of the article was becoming somewhat gloomy.
Changing the mood up is not so hard if we focus on the work being achieved by our families whose courage and determination creates a better future from engaging with services in counselling, budgeting and family social work support. Children’s journeys as confident life-long learners needs quality experiences in early childhood education. There is much evidence that a child’s first years are crucial to how resilient they grow and respond to life’s challenges and embrace opportunities.
Napier Family Centre sponsors many vulnerable children and families through our services with the help of philanthropic grants and donations. Government funding is only ever contributory and this support for agencies has proven uncertain and sporadic. We continue to work smarter as a network of providers. Just as I write this column, one of our budget advisors has shared a story of a family whose desperate circumstances have involved the Family Centre, a school, a church, the local electorate office, a charitable organisation, employer, creditors, and multiple government agencies. Notwithstanding the immediate relief from extreme poverty we can also identify the positive impact of this work in the context of vulnerable children and young people. The value of achieving stability of home and education for three young people who have recently lost both parents – priceless.
The challenge for the charitable sector is to articulate the needs of our families, and the solutions, in a way that our funders, both government and private, can take the courageous decision to support change in a meaningful lasting way.
Homelessness, housing affordability, child abuse and neglect, depression, youth unemployment, food insecurity, family violence are as prevalent in the Bay as in the nation’s big cities. Without a doubt the compassionate response of our community is going to continue to be tested. I believe Hawke’s Bay is up for it if we collectively decide that no child under our watch goes without love, security and opportunity.