Budget tight for social assistance trust

The main street of Reefton. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The main street of Reefton. PHOTO: ODT FILES
A Reefton social services trust has resorted to squeezing three cups of tea out of one tea bag to eke out its meagre income as demand soars for its help.

Chairwoman Lisa Neil told the Inangahua Community Board meeting last week the Who Cares Trust was now spending up to $600 a month getting people to medical appointments as far away as Nelson and Christchurch.

‘‘People can’t afford to run their vehicles — some months our volunteer drivers are taking 30 people to hospital, dental appointments, or Work and Income or court,’’ she said.

‘‘It can cost $200 in petrol if we take someone to Christchurch, and we are triple-rinsing our tea bags ... these days to keep within budget.’’

Who Cares was reliant on grants from Lotteries and the Government’s community organisation grants scheme, and could not claim petrol expenses from the district health board.

‘‘If we take people for eye surgery in Nelson, for instance, only patients can claim for their own expenses, and we’re lucky if we get a $20 koha.’’

She expected the situation would get worse over winter with Reefton losing its GP services and some people being forced to travel to Greymouth (78km) to see a doctor in person.

‘‘You need to be more than 80km away from a DHB service to be able to claim travel costs — so it all depends where you live in the district. Some people in the Reefton area will qualify and others won’t.’’

The West Coast DHB has been unable to find locums to staff the Reefton Medical Centre and said in the absence of a GP, appointments would be via phone or with a practice nurse.

The community board approved a grant of $500 — the last of its annual disposable fund — to help out Who Cares.

Ms Neil was grateful.

‘‘It won’t help with the tea bags — we’ll go on squeezing them — but it will help with our transport costs. That’s our petrol bill covered for a month.’’

Demand for food parcels in Reefton had also increased, she said.

— Lois Williams, Greymouth Star



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