PSNZ report to General Assembly

Andrew Johnston / Chair of Presbyterian Support New Zealand reports to the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand General Assembly 2021


  1. That Assembly encourages Presbytery Mission Enablers to find consistency of method in engagement with Presbyterian Support, that can enable and motivate Presbyteries and congregations to initiate more joint activities in the interests of the communities we serve.
  2. That the Assembly asks the Council of Assembly to consider lifting its support, in the next budget round, the Church’s annual contributions to PresCare.

Executive Synopsis of Report
Presbyterian Support continues to be one of New Zealand’s largest and longest-standing community based social service organisations. Our seven regional organisations are located within original Presbytery boundaries, and our services are delivered out of more than 50 offices and almost 200 schools. Our mix of available services varies across the country, and we remain committed to engaging with and working alongside the Church, meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Our Enliven services for older people continue to experience changes driven by regional DHB tenders for home support services in several regions, however we have maintained day programme capacity where possible. We continue to provide residential care and retirement village support in four regions, with a number of those regions investing in their facility development to either ensure their future sustainability as they compete with the larger for-profit corporates.

We are grateful for the wonderful volunteer support and donations that enable us to continue these services as the population of older people in our communities increases and their diversity of cultural and economic background challenges us to provide where it is needed.

Our Family Works services to children, young people and their families and whānau, continue to gain structure in response to the increasing complexity of needs we are seeing in our communities. Our qualified and skilled workforce receive training and support at work to ensure best practice in our delivery of services to people living with trauma, physical and mental distress, and living in chaotic situations.

People walk through our Family Works doors for help either before crisis occurs or because of it. We receive referrals from mental health services to do the work beyond their capacity to offer, and in much of the country we work alongside families and whānau who have come to the notice of Oranga Tamariki care and protection statutory services. We provide community-based counselling, social work and parenting programme support, alongside practical assistance where the lack of basic needs has contributed to family stress. Often this work is supporting people living with family violence, where there are child safety concerns, mental health problems and addictions.

We continue to see and prioritise people living in long term poverty, and we get to see how their mental, social and spiritual wellbeing is impacted by this. Our experience is that a significant minority in society have high needs that are complex and require long term support, and many others manage most of the time, but require support at times of change. We therefore see a significant opportunity to advocate on behalf of these populations with stories of our services to decision-makers and to the community at large through the public realm.

Recently we hired a new National Executive Officer with expertise in advocacy and networking, to ensure that we lift our voice effectively and are better prepared to lead campaigns for equity measures in the future.

Nationally, we deliver on a Department of Corrections contract to help support women to reintegrate back into the community on release from prison. Most of these women are also mothers. Over time we have begun to provide parenting programmes in prisons, and other supports to increase the chances of families functioning better into the future.

We also deliver nationwide mediation services to separated parents who need help to agree care arrangements for their children. Our Central region has broken new ground in developing a children’s rights framework and model which ensures children’s voices are heard in this work. In some regions we also provide Parenting though Separation courses for parents. Family Dispute Resolution Services are funded by the Ministry of Justice.

We also provide family violence-related support to children and adults and in several regions. This includes individual and group programmes to support children who have witnessed family violence. Some of this work is not funded by government and relies on donations. But our Northern region has recently acquired the national contracts to deliver the services called Shine and Lifeline. Shine is a family violence- and sexual violence-related support to people in crisis. Lifeline is a national phone line for people in crisis or with suicidal ideation. Integration of these services with the regional Family Works services is underway to ensure individuals in crisis have a seamless experience with us in getting the help they urgently need.

How our Enliven Services make a difference.

Our Presbyterian Support homeshare and residential Care givers are responsive to the challenges older people face staying engaged with their community: we work closely with other community stakeholders to try and ensure every person is matched with activities, learning opportunities, and cultural events that are important to them.

For example, our HomeShare teams and coordinators work closely with Dementia NZ and their DHBs to identify older people with the beginnings of dementia, to be suitably referred to Presbyterian Support after they have been assessed their level of need in specialist care. A member of our team will spend time with each person, sometimes including their family members, to make sure they are matched with the best HomeShare group and then that they are welcomed into that new environment.

To keep groups joyous and to always look forward to something, we celebrate everything, especially birthdays. Thanks to donations we receive we are even able to take Homeshare groups out for lunch a couple of times a year for meals or other events.

One unique example of Enliven’s collaborative success occurred when a stroke happened to a man in his forties with a full and independent life; he was initially cared for in a rest home where he was considerably younger than all the other residents. He became lonely and frustrated and lost his confidence to remain engaged in his music, boxing and love of bull-riding. Enliven Care givers partnered with Emerge Aotearoa to first organise his exit from the rest home, then ensure he gained back his confidence to live as independently as possible.

His Enliven support person visited regularly and made sure he also received visits from a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist and a dietician. So while we normally work with people who may eventually move into residential care, in this case we worked the other way around because this was what our client needed and wanted.

In a further example, at our residential facilities, our mission is to keep thinking of new and exciting ways to keep residents active. Recently residents in Southland had a fantastic time playing Walking Netball with the regional Netball team, Southern Steel. It was followed with a delicious hearty lunch back at Peacehaven where the residents could enjoy and connect with their local celebrity netballers before they went back to training.

“I could only say two words – GREAT FUN. I never thought I would be doing this again at my age” said one resident who took part on the day.

How our Family Works Services make a difference
Our Presbyterian Support social workers use creative thinking and advocacy to find solutions to the barriers faced by clients: we may not be able to lift anyone out of poverty, but we try to ensure with our support that poverty does not impact on health, social mobility or lessen someone’s engagement with community.

For example, living with chronic asthma is not something we provide support for specifically, but when a social worker discovered that her client’s wife and child suffered these conditions, she was also capable of seeing how heating the home was exacerbating her client’s financial hardship. During conversations about her client’s finances, she learnt that the log burner in their home was broken and emitting too much smoke inside the house, exacerbating their asthma conditions and forcing them to go without this heat source. As Winter set in they were forced to use oil column heaters to stay warm and their power bill was impacted considerably. ur social worker brought in experts to help with a long-term solution, which was to install a heat pump. But before that could happen, our social worker also supported the family to apply successfully to the Mayoral Fund in the region, to help pay for the high power bills. Help to pay the power bill in the meantime, while plans to install the heat pump were underway, made a huge difference to the family’s stress levels, relieving the anxiety caused by their health conditions and financial hardship.

In another example, living with poor eyesight is again not something we provide support for specifically, but only when a troubled young person was referred to our Youth Service in Canterbury, was he enabled to take the first step toward receiving the right professional care and medical treatment. With clear vision, he was able to set a path for himself to stay out of trouble and start studying NCEA Level 1.

Youth Service is a wrap-around support service for young people who are eligible for the Youth Payment or Young Parent programme. If someone is 16 or 17 and not in education, training or work, Youth Service helps by providing them a Coach who helps them access the services and support they need.

Our Youth Coach helped this young person leave the streets where he was living rough and find a home with extended family members. With coaching and help to receive the Youth Payment that he was eligible for, this young person was finally in a position to visit the doctor and receive specialist treatment for his eyesight, a condition he had lived with for many years and which had no doubt impeded his education and learning, and possibly caused his downward spiral of relations with his parents.

How our innovations add value to the community
Much of our work with people young and old is about enabling and preparing them for independence. This stems from our Presbyterian values of aroha, compassion, support, tātou tātou (we are one) and respect. These values put us in a good position to be agents and champions of te Tiriti o Waitangi, upholding its Articles and Principles through our provision of choices and greater sovereignty to all people we serve. So in our new 5 year Strategic Plan we now hold as a key objective Whanaungatanga, to foster strong working relationships with Kaupapa Māori stakeholders and welcome more mana whenua into our governance and leadership.

Our East Coast region leads the way already in this work, celebrating recently its 10 year anniversary of Tauawhi, its Men’s Centre that provides a one stop shop specifically for men, who are often reluctant to ask for help. Tauawhi’s vision is to create a community of caring men; the mission is to support them to change their behaviour and be part of the solution to family and sexual violence. The Centre came about through recognition that while Māori have suffered dispossession and cultural loss of mana due to colonialism and continue to experience structural racism, all men are also affected by pressure in New Zealand to be “hard”, ie deny their emotions and not ask for help. The large majority of Tauawhi clients are Māori. Tauawhi has always aimed to bring to life the values of te Tiriti o Waitangi in its work and interactions with clients.

In Southland, one way we support struggling young people is through providing Foster Care. These young people either do not have adults to assist them, or the adults in their lives provide limited support for a variety of reasons. With funding assistance from The Tindall Foundation, Family Works Southland facilitated focus groups with young people, parents/caregivers and professionals, to develop a resource to help young people transition out of care and navigate systems in society, care for themselves and access the supports they would need. The resulting work was the creation of the ‘Get Ready, Transitioning to Independence’ workbook which can be accessed from PS Southland’s website.

In South Canterbury we support former refugees on their settlement journey in Aotearoa. In March 2020 the government temporarily stopped the arrival of refugees into New Zealand, however we were pleased to hear that in February 2021 the Refugee Quota programme would resume. We now support families to complete their mandatory quarantine requirements, prior to their five-week reception programme, with understanding that this settlement journey is not a straightforward road for refugees.

For example, we continue to support two refugee families from Syria who arrived in Timaru June 2020, to attend English classes and for their children to settle into kindergarten, primary and secondary school. We also support them to learn about New Zealand culture and experience the diversity of activities available to us in South Canterbury such as swimming, fishing, cycling, arts and crafts and all the playgrounds in the area. They have joined in several events and now have friends, which have led to job opportunities and volunteer roles. Members of the families have even learnt to drive and have obtained NZ drivers licences.

In a final example, on Anzac Day Enliven’s Levin Home for War Veterans saw a welcome return of its service (cancelled in 2020 due to Covid 19). The front lawn was lined with crosses, the majority to honour WWI veterans who passed away at the home, with a smaller but growing section to honour WWII veterans. Otaki Labour MP Terisa Ngaio and Horowhenua Mayor Bernie Wanden attended the ceremony. The service is regarded by many residents as the most important event of the year. It was very special for us to provide for our veterans, to be able to march and participate in an Anzac Day service with their proud families.

Our advocacy work
We are responsive to and engage with our local and national sector networks – Health, Education, Police, Oranga Tamariki, local Councils, Ministry of Justice, Dept of Corrections, MSD, and other social service providers to advocate at policy levels for the development of more integrated services for vulnerable community members. The Social Welfare and Health systems supporting our communities have become fragmented and people are not always receiving adequate or timely care. Presbyterian Support’s work in this area is often ‘behind the scenes’.

For example, at our face to face national Council meeting held annually in Wellington we choose a theme from one of our work areas to then design a programme of speakers, various decision makers or representatives from the government agencies commissioning work or administering policy in that area. On the day before the Board’s meeting, our members then have an opportunity to discuss issues and barriers to our work and foster strategic relations with those in power who can make the most difference through policy and legislation. On this day this year, we also invited key stakeholder partners advocating alongside us on our chosen theme, to come network with board members over lunch.

In other examples: The National Executive Officer recently submitted to the Social Services Select Committee in response to a petition regarding availability of care for older residents; Our national Family Works Managers Group also contributed to the Social Service Providers Association’s submission to government’s Joint Venture on developing its Work Plan to prevent Family Violence and Sexual Violence; A member of our national Enliven Managers Group currently sits on a national advisory group to reset the sector standard and specifications for commissioning services, and this participation helps us in turn prepare for the changes ahead, as the Health and Disability System undergoes its transition next year.

Government funding to support our work has been neglected for more than ten years, making the challenge of delivering our services more difficult, let alone advocate for the populations we serve. Our staff have a passion for helping people achieve their potential, their values aligning with our Presbyterian mission and values, and helping us to retain our community-based service delivery. It is vital to this work that there is also advocacy ‘behind the scenes’ and direct to decisionmakers regarding the barriers to providing such services to those who need it.

New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS)
NZCCSS is the main umbrella group for Presbyterian Support and the social service arms of the other 5 main denominations (Baptists, Methodists, Salvation Army, Catholics and Anglicans). For over a decade this has been one of our main avenues for national advocacy, contributing to social policy development and commenting on existing Government policy. Bonnie Robinson has provided the PCANZ voice on Council as its new Chair, alongside Presbyterian Support representation provided by Dr Prudence Stone, PSNZ’s National Executive Officer. Both NZCCSS Chair and Executive Director were invited to the network lunch event in Wellington with Presbyterian Support’s national council.

An important contribution is the annual Heads of Churches meeting with the Prime Minister. These meetings are attended by the Moderator and his Presbyterian Support adviser – the National Executive Officer – and their counterparts from the other five denominations. The group prepared three position papers for the meeting this year, to discuss in detail with the hope of influencing Government policy on the housing crisis in New Zealand, poverty and income measures, and New Zealand’s response to Covid 19. These meetings are always well received by Government, and the broad reach of our combined voice is significant.

Following this meeting the National Executive Officer tabled these position papers before Presbyterian Support’s national council, to discuss how we might support the position papers of the Church Leaders with advocacy and action. We agreed to develop our own positions on these policy areas, that outline the measures Presbyterian Support will take to raise awareness of the issues and their policy solutions. The National Executive Officer has also developed a Communications Plan that outlines the strategy for raising public awareness of our positions and advocating directly with decisionmakers.

The National Executive Officer has been introduced to the three policy groups maintained by NZCCSS and will in future contribute more actively in this way.

Our commitment to working together with the Presbyterian Church through PresCare
Anne Overton continues to be the coordinator of PresCare’s work, PS Northern’s CEO Denise Cosgrove the Chair. Meetings are held every three months with many regional CEOs routinely in attendance, to report on the ways we engage with the Presbyteries to make tangible difference to our communities together.

These meetings routinely expose the variance of capability to engage meaningfully with the Presbyteries. While PS Northern has been able to foster good working relationships and a Memorandum of Understanding between their Presbytery’s Mission Enabler and their Community Relations Team, other regions find it more difficult to engage despite trying continuously. There is considerable discussion at meetings to decipher a consistent approach and relationship, particularly as we understand that the work of every region’s Mission Enabler is independently determined.

We note Presbyterian Support Northern’s Relationship Agreement with the Presbytery’s Mission Enabler and seek the support of the General Assembly to endorse this as a progressive method of engagement to all other Presbytery Mission Enablers, in the interest of fostering more regional partnership between us in initiatives that will benefit our communities.

Regardless of these challenges to consistent engagement, we continue to forge meaningful initiatives with Presbyteries. Many of these are achieved through the Family Fund of the Tindall Foundation, which Presbyterian Support NZ manages. PresCare representatives in each region also collaborate with Presbyteries to host initiatives on Neighbours Day and White Ribbon Day, and together foster more local partnerships to initiate community development projects.

For example, our Cashmere and Huntleigh Homes in the Central region celebrated Neighbours Day by inviting the local community to drop in and get to know each other with a sausage sizzle and entertainment. Mr Whippy was a hit with residents and staff lining up for a cold treat. We also had some lively jazz and people couldn’t resist swinging to the beat. We met many new neighbours of all ages and were proud to bring the community together in this way.

In a further example, our Northern region have been humbled to be involved in Te Taurahere Whatumanawa, in Tāneatua, Eastern Bay of Plenty, providing sustainable food security through community gardening. With no local supermarket, limited public transport and minimal job opportunities, creating a locally-led source of nourishment and connections was the main driver behind the garden. Our Northern region collaborated with Tamiana Thrupp, an Amorangi minister of Te Aka Puaho and the chairman of Ohope marae, and his wife Honey, to bring their vision of a residential community garden to life on their street, Hughes Place.

From the outset, the tamariki of Tāneatua were engaged to brainstorm what they wanted for the garden. A covenant was developed to outline the beliefs and values that underpinned the project, with the tamariki and families of Hughes Place all signing it, some with handprints and fingertips. Te Taurahere Whatumanawa, Hughes Place Garden has since become a place where whanau and friends can come together to share transferable skills, build on local strengths and address local challenges together.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the abuse of children in state- and faith-based care.

On 1 February 2018, the government announced the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care relating historical abuse in state and faith-based care. The inquiry is looking into what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in state care and in the care of faith-based institutions. Through hearing from victims and survivors, evidence and research, the Royal Commision will make recommendations to the Governor-General on how New Zealand can better care for children, young people and vulnerable adults. The final report is due to be released by February 2023.

All seven regions of PSNZ have made confidential submissions to the Royal Commission. No public submissions have been made by PSNZ, nor have any victims sought to appear in person describing their experiences in a Presbyterian Church-run institution. Nevertheless in some regions there are records of abuse cases in our facilities, that we carefully documented alongside our processes for dealing with them; in some regions we had to disclose that records are missing, some destroyed. Due to these liabilities, we commissioned a Communications Agency to work with us to develop a crisis communications plan.

Regional representatives have been carefully selected to be the key respondents to media enquiries, to receive media training, and to form a peer-support group so that all responses to media, wherever they are, are consistent and appropriately conciliatory about our past, without divulging details that would breach privacy of any victims/survivors. The crisis communications plan has been shown to Wayne Matheson so that PCANZ is reassured of Presbyterian Support NZ’s commitment to mitigate risks to our shared name, and might use a consistent approach with us to all media enquiries related to the Inquiry.
A memorandum of understanding is being considered so that PCANZ and Presbyterian Support agree to support each other’s representatives in this context to be as consistent as possible in our representation of the Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Support’s two arms of services, Family Works and Enliven.

We sincerely appreciate PCANZ support for our work
Presbyterian Support New Zealand’s national advocacy and policy work receives no external funding and is fully funded by our regional organisations, which are all under increasing financial pressure.
Over the past three years, PCANZ has financially supported the PresCare and NZCCSS work with a contribution of $15,000 per year. This is paid to Presbyterian Support and we pay the difference. Each year our subscription to NZCCSS increases to cover CPI. We ask the General Assembly to also consider the rate of inflation and rising costs of membership, advocacy and effective community outreach, when determining PCANZ’s contribution to Presbyterian Support going forward.

Andrew Johnston / Chair Presbyterian Support New Zealand / 29 June 2021

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