Salvation Army braces for Christmas demand

Salvation Army Tauranga corps officer Francis Vemoa with a handful of the gifts handed out to parents in need last Christmas. Photo: File.

Thousands more people may be without income and looking for work as Christmas approaches, says the Salvation Army.

The charity says most of the 27,000 people who ceased receiving the 12-week COVID-19 Income Relief Payments did not go into paid work.

The application period for CIRP ended last week, and only one in ten people who have already finished the CIRP have found employment.

“While some people have been able to transition onto the Jobseeker benefit, more than 20,000 will not have been eligible for Government support as the payments run out, just as we are heading into Christmas.”

Added to this is the extra 37,000 people who lost their jobs in the three months to September - the biggest quarterly increase since 1986 - bringing the number of New Zealanders unemployed to 151,000.

This is expected to translate in a 20 per cent increase in demand for Salvation Army support with Christmas food and gifts this year.

"Increasingly, our clients are severely stressed and anxious about how to get through the festive season, and, beyond that, what the future holds," The Salvation Army director of community ministries, Jono Bell, says.

Already, 92 per cent of clients who use their financial mentoring service have incomes of less than $50,000 a year, with 22 percent earning less than $20,000 a year.

"The pressure on our clients and their whanau to make ends meet is enormous, and COVID-19 has added more uncertainty," Jono says.

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