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Maori in deep fear of losing jobs, homes RE COVID 19, Mistrust the Health System, Suicide & Ment

“The sheen is beginning to come off the Governments health response as Maori struggle in a post level 4 lockdown – the question has to be what is the plan?” Matthew Tukaki

The New Zealand Maori Council has released data that paints a bleak picture for Maoridom as the lockdown levels reduce showing fears around access to housing, ongoing homelessness, further entrenched poverty, suicide and mental health – but Executive Director of the Council and Chair of the National Maori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, has said its jobs and income that worry Maori more.

“The truth is the vast majority of our Maori people, and I dare say this could be reflected if we were to survey the general population, are worried about the things that create further entrenched poverty, that then lead on to issues around suicide, mental health and domestic violence and more – but chief among the data is the fact that many whanau are worried about the future. The survey we conducted over the last three weeks of the lock down was a simple series of questions around our annual “What keeps Maori awake at night” formula (now running for two years). The truth is Maori were already at the bottom of the run, we already have high suicide rates, homelessness, long term unemployment and lets talk about primary health disparities – before the lockdown things were pretty bad – now we are faced with amplification, heightened fears. Its time to look at new ways and means of addressing these issues and for some they will need a hard look in the mirror. This means not reflecting on what an equal Treaty partnership means but an actual one. Let’s seize the opportunity.” Tukaki said

“The results are staggering and concerning with only small windows of positivity. 92% of respondents were worried about their jobs if they had them or concerned, they would not be able to find employment – this was a significant issue in regional areas. 81% of whanau were worried about their housing situation with a high number also concerned about becoming homeless while 89% indicated they just could not keep up with the cost of living and many had sought food assistance. More people are heading down the path of mental health challenges and the risk of increased rates of suicide is growing.” Tukaki said

The top five things that worry Maori are:

  1. Jobs and employment (92% of whanau agreed that unemployment and retaining their current job was a major concern to them) – by far our highest result in this survey showing that people are both worried about retaining their existing job (many Maori are part of the low skills and low wage side of the economy) and are equally as fearful of gaining further employment if they do. In the regions the figure was amplified to just over 60%. This is because the Stats NZ data shows that unemployment is higher in the regions and long-term unemployment is likely to be more sustained. Of the people who responded to the survey just over 40% indicated they had already lost their employment or were living off the wage subsidy.

  2. Access to housing (81% of whanau were concerned that they may lose their home) – either as a renter unable to afford payments, moving deeper into debt, or if they were a homeowner struggling to keep up with mortgage payments. This was prevalent in the middle age group (34-55). Key to this response was the fear of loss of income or access to employment. A good many were concerned about becoming homeless.

  3. Ability to keep up with the cost of living (89% of respondents said they were fearful they could not) – While many had already broached their concern about keeping up with rental and mortgage costs many highlighted monthly utility bills, many indicated a decision about cutting off things such as the internet or not having enough for credit on mobile phones. A good number indicated that they had delayed paying credit card bills and often were now in overdraft or had “maxed out” what little savings they had. A good number also indicated that they had accepted they would need to accept “kai parcels” or “food parcels” from local community groups – “food had become a luxury item” according to some

  4. Mental Health and Suicide (62% of respondents indicated concern of their or a whanau members mental wellbeing and 41% indicated suicide ideation) – or had thought about suicide). Many respondents had converted financial stress and deep concern of the future into what appear to be early onset forms of depression and anxiety. Some respondents indicated that they did not know where to turn for help and support as the lines being promoted were busy. Others indicated they would be referred to health line which was also experiencing delays. Those experiencing suicide ideation expressed a deep concern that there was no way back.

  5. The Health System (58%) of those surveyed indicated a deep mistrust of the current health system. Many were also confused about where to go for help with “too many players” in a single community. There was confusion about testing and whether or not they should be tested, they were concerned about showing up to the hospital for a regular check-up (more relevant in the higher age group bracket of 55+) and others still were confused about the message about who to call. The opposite of that was the high degree of trust Maori had in sourcing information from a local Hauora or Iwi service (78%) and were confident in the messaging coming from Maori providers. Overall, there was a significant mistrust of District Health Boards.

What Maori think about Rahui

A series of additional questions were also asked about the Maori response such as Rahui and road closures to “protect communities”. A very high 94% of those who responded to the supplementary questions agreed with the concept of “Rahui” but many were equally concerned (76%) that non-Maori did not understand the concept or the reason why it was important (constant referencing to the impacts on Maori of the Spanish Flu and also the higher prevalence of high risk disease amongst the Maori population compared to non-Maori such as respiratory illnesses).

What Maori think about the Government response – health

An overwhelming number of respondents (84%) were happy with the Government’s handling of the response but a number reflected that was because of the leadership of Jacinda Ardern and the Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield. Less favourable comments were afforded to some Maori MPs.

What Maori think about the Government response – small business

Asked if they thought the Government had a plan for small business 74% answered “no”

The data comes from a survey conducted over the last three weeks of the level four lockdown on a sample group of 500 people identified as Maori from the database. The response rate was 61%. 62% of respondents were women and 38% were men. The largest response age group was women in the 34-55 age group

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