Thu 1 Oct 2020 AT 13:00 pm , Wellington

Caring for Communities - An All of Government Response to COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit New Zealand’s shores earlier this year, New Zealand moved swiftly to eliminate the pandemic and it’s potentially disastrous impacts on the country and its people. A part of the all of government response was a workstream called Caring for Communities. The aim of the work stream was to provide important information and effective support to all individuals, whānau and communities at greater risk of experiencing adverse health, social or economic outcomes as a result of COVID-19. Government agencies connected with their networks of non-government organisations and service providers who work directly with vulnerable communities to understand the challenges they were experiencing, and to support them with information and resources they needed to provide adaptive and responsive services.

In this session, our speakers will talk about how the response team worked through identifying the communities that needed help, what they understood the communities were experiencing during COVID-19 and what support was required, and how the nationwide response was mobilised.

Speakers from the Office of Ethnic Communities, Immigration New Zealand and the Caring for Communities team will talk about how they worked with their networks to support them with information and resources responsive to the needs of ethnic communities and recent migrants and refugees. This included developing informational videos in different languages, working with the Human Rights Commission to develop resources focussed on combating COVID-19 related discrimination, providing regular updates to community organisations, mobilising regional support and ensuring an ethnic community and recent migrant and refugee lens was applied to policy development. Regional visits to meet with grass-roots community providers gave first account insights of the challenges encountered by vulnerable communities. The visits also highlighted the food distribution support provided by Ethnic Community groups to many communities in need across the country.

About our Speakers:

Shane Whitfield is the Regional Manager for Community Engagement for the Office of Ethnic Communities in the Southern (South Island) Region. This roles focuses on the development of community engagement strategy and the leadership of a team of advisors who engage with ethnically diverse and faith communities to understand their needs and aspirations, for consultation, and to provide community insight into the development of government services, policy and information. During COVID-19 Shane represented the Office at the National Welfare Coordination Group and OEC also supported groups within the Caring for Communities workstream. OEC were involved in multiple aspects of the all-of-government response including developing informational language videos, supporting the Public Information Management releases, providing an ethnic community lens over policy and guideline development, regional Civil Defence responses, and working with the Human Rights Commission to develop a campaign to help address COVID related discrimination toward Chinese and Asian communities.

Anna Spencer has been a Senior Advisor in the Refugee and Migrant Support team within Immigration New Zealand (INZ) for the past five years. Her work focusses on supporting INZ’s leadership of cross-government collaboration to implement the New Zealand Migrant Settlement and Integration Strategy and to develop policy and strategic advice related to migrant settlement and integration. During COVID-19 Anna represented INZ as the network lead for the recent migrants and refugees population group on NEMA’s cross-government Caring for Communities group. To support this role she coordinated a cross-INZ group made up of national and regional staff with well-established settlement sector networks. The INZ group shared insights from their networks about the challenges recent migrants and refugees were experiencing and then supported the settlement sector by sharing information and resources responsive to identified needs.

Jeanne Rogers is a Principal Advisor who works in the Capability Delivery Division with the Ministry of Defence. Although Jeanne’s work in MOD focuses primarily on Practice Delivery, she also has significant experience working at a grass-roots Community level, which is a big passion of hers. Jeanne was re-deployed to the National Crisis Management Centre on the 24th March, and is currently working in the All of Government COVID response Caring for Communities team, now part of the Department of the Prime Minister in Cabinet (DPMC). The team under the leadership of Lil Anderson CEO Te Arawhiti, has been focused on supporting existing community-based, regional and/or local leadership groups by “bringing the right people together” to respond to COVID-19. As part of regional engagement with communities, they identified pockets of communities unable to access support, advice and assistance from agencies during lockdown. These groups were referred to as “Invisible, hard to reach” communities – mostly Māori, Pacific, ethnic and migrant workers and/or foreign nationals. Jeanne and a sub-Group of government agencies travelled to meet with a number of Community Providers (Providers) who are largely self-funded, generally volunteer based organisations without service contracts from government or philanthropic funding. The connection with Providers revealed strong links with invisible communities who were vulnerable well before COVID-19 reached New Zealand. Most of these Communities have never recovered from the Level 4 lockdown. Jeanne will share some key themes that resulted from the Regional Community engagement.