Throughout the year, CMM's Social Services team provides support to some of the most vulnerable families in Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn. The stress on these families only increases at Christmas time.

Severe and enduring poverty is having a big impact on families in our community. Sole parents and families affected by redundancy or income insufficiency are facing huge financial strain at Christmas. An inability to buy their children Christmas presents and limited food and holiday options leave parents with no option but to seek help from the Christchurch Methodist Mission and other organisations.

"We are seeing really significant poverty in the families we work with," says CMM Social Services Manager Eve Lafferty. "Not only material hardship but also the poverty of experience. There are children in the seaside suburbs that have never been to the beach. The cumulative stress of poverty really grounds down parents to the extent that finding the energy to take their kids to local amenities is hard. Other options that require transport or cost money are out of the question with such restricted budgets."

Eve and her team of social workers, child & family psychologists and budget advisors will be providing a range of support to families at Christmas. Some of the more practical assistance includes helping secure funding for holiday programmes and nominating clients to receive a Support a Family Hamper.

Working individually with parents is the biggest aspect of the wrap-around support that Eve and her team provide. Parents are often struggling with children's behaviour especially when children have their own mental health issues. Many parents are not only impacted by the effects of poverty, but also have their own mental health needs, disabilities or issues with drugs or alcohol.

Family violence remains a major problem in our community and over the summer months the team will support many families impacted by this. "There is a significant increase in alcohol abuse and family violence over Christmas," says Eve. "There are over 12,000 incidents of domestic violence reported to police in Christchurch every year. Many of these involve children. Only 20% of such incidents are reported to Police which is sobering to say the least."

There is a huge demand for the support provided by CMM. The Christchurch Methodist Mission is one of the few organisations in the region that provide home-based support services for families. For families facing significant hardship it means transport is not a barrier to receiving the support that they need. "I could employ another 10 social workers easily," says Eve. "There is such a huge demand from parents in our community. Our waiting list is getting bigger and bigger."

Families under stress this Christmas