During the Covid-19 pandemic, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) volunteers have called 14,000 people aged over 70 as part of
a National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Ministry of Social Development (MSD) national welfare programme. This
equates to nearly 500 calls a day or 2,300 calls per week for a period of 6 weeks. Many CABs have also been involved in
their local Civil Defence welfare programmes.
“This is a phenomenal effort on the part of our volunteers, made even more impressive when you consider that we have
also continued to deliver the CAB’s information and advice service to over 27,000 clients during this time via our 0800
number, email and online chat,” says Kerry Dalton, CABNZ Chief Executive.
“These calls have provided an extra safety net for the most vulnerable during these unprecedented and challenging
times,” says Ms Dalton.
CAB volunteers were quick to offer their support when NEMA and MSD asked for help with this work. Almost immediately, a
sizable pool of over 300 willing CAB volunteers made themselves available.
“CAB volunteers put their hands up straight away to make these check-in calls, despite also dealing with the challenges
of life in lockdown themselves. It’s a testament to our volunteers’ community spirit and drive to help their fellow New
Zealanders,” says Ms Dalton.
“It has been heartening that the vast majority of those contacted were doing fine,” says Ms Dalton. Where needed, CAB
volunteers were able to connect people up with the support they required. This included helping people to get medical
assistance, being a listening ear to people who were lonely and anxious and putting people in touch with support
services for groceries, transport and in-home care.
“The great thing about our volunteers making the calls is that they could use their CAB training and provide information
and advice when that was needed. Our volunteers reported that people were very grateful for the phone calls and that it
was also a very enriching experience for them to connect with many fantastic older New Zealanders.”
Reflections from a CAB volunteer about making welfare calls
“The people we were calling were overwhelmingly grateful that we were taking the time to contact and speak with them.
Many were alone in their own bubble and were overwhelmed that people cared enough to call them and ask them how they
were. Others spoke highly of the love, care and support they were receiving from family members, friends, neighbours.
There were those who needed help, and it was a comfort to be able to use our skills and resources as CAB workers to
provide people with the information and help they needed, including connecting them up with other support services.
Many of the people with whom I spoke, had vivid memories of shortages experienced during wartime, through polio and
influenza epidemics, and the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was fascinating to listen to their stories. To them the
Covid-19 lockdown was just something they had to do, so they did it.
As the country has moved into Alert Levels 3 and now 2, people have spoken of the pleasure they are getting from being
able to go outside to walk and talk with others. However, there are also some people who have said that they are now
experiencing an increased sense of anxiety. They are nervous about venturing out to the supermarkets, driving and being
close to strangers and may need added support stepping back into their pre-Covid lives.
Speaking for myself and the other volunteers with whom I work; assisting with the calls for the NEMA was one of the
highlights of having to be in lockdown. It was an absolute privilege to speak with so many wonderful New Zealanders and
something that I personally, will never forget.”
- Linda Hodge, chairperson and volunteer, CAB Matamata