Sallies do tough love

December 23, 2014

The headline suggests a sob story: Kids to go without Christmas, mum says:

An Invercargill couple say their six young kids will go without on Christmas day and it’s the Salvation Army’s fault.

However, the Salvation Army says the parents are to blame for their family’s predicament because they have relied on handouts rather than trying to help themselves.

Shelly Edwards and Leo Hewett said their six children aged 3-10 will get no presents and have a diet of chicken and bread on Christmas day because the Salvation Army failed to help them in their time of need.

“How can we tell the kids there’s nothing for Christmas?” Shelly asked from their south Invercargill state house yesterday.

Shelly said she was on the invalid’s benefit and received a working for families benefit, while her partner was unemployed and seeking employment at the meatworks. Their weekly income was $631 but just $15 was left over after paying for their rent, bills, food and petrol.

Struggling to afford a decent Christmas for their kids, they thought it was sorted when the Nga Kete trust referred them to the Salvation Army scheme called adopt-a-family, which sees businesses and individuals sponsor struggling families during Christmas by providing them with a hamper filled with food and treats.

The family had been on the same scheme last year and received presents for their children, a supermarket voucher and a food hamper, they said.

However, when Shelly failed to turn up to a budget advice meeting early this month she was told she had been taken off the adopt-a-family scheme this year, she said.

She said she did not go to the meeting because she had no petrol money for their vehicle and it would have been difficult to take her six kids, one of whom is disabled, on public transport to the meeting. . .

Some people don’t have family, friends or neighbours to turn to for child minding, but surely there was an alternative to simply failing to turn up.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Brenda King said the family had never been put on the adopt-a-family scheme this year, effectively because they had failed to help themselves.

Shelly had been using the services of the Salvation Army for about two years and when she received more than three food parcels in one year she was referred to a budget advice centre to receive financial planning assistance, King said.

However, Shelly had not engaged with the budget advisory service so was not put on the adopt-a-family scheme, King said.

The Salvation Army’s aim was for its clients to get to the point where they could look after themselves and be self sufficient.

“If we keep handing out we are enabling them to stay in the situation they are in. We aren’t actually helping them at all in the long run.”

Shelly and her partner had six children and they were responsible for them, King said.

“I have been in touch with her budget advisor and she assures me they do have money. Like everyone Shelly has known Christmas is coming.”

Jubilee Budget Advisory Service manager Sharon Soper confirmed Shelly had been on its books in the past but said she had not called in to see the a budget advisor since July 11 and she had failed to front for a meeting on December 4. . . .

I’m on the side of the Sallies who do a lot of good work with very vulnerable people.

Their time and resources are limited and cannot be wasted on people who won’t take up the help that’s available to help themselves where they can.

Benefits aren’t designed to cover more than the basics, though Kiwiblog calculates they’re getting more than $631 a week:

Incidentally I think their estimate of their income is low. I make it:

  • Invalids Benefit (couple rate) $217.75
  • JobSeeker (couple rate) $174.21
  • Family Tax Credits (for six kids) $414.00

So that is a total of $805.96 a week net, not $631. On top of that it is highly likely they get the accommodation supplement or a statehouse subsidized rent. . .

Should the children suffer because of their parents?

In general no. But this isn’t depriving children of basic needs.

They’re missing out on extras for Christmas in a family where, if what’s reported is accurate, the parents haven’t done everything they can to help themselves.

The Sallies aren’t being heartless, they’re demonstrating tough love.


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