CMM staff returned to workstations at our premises from their improvised home offices on the first Alert Level 2 Monday in mid-May to warm greetings and smiles from colleagues.

As a designated essential service organisation, CMM was among the group of providers countrywide which worked throughout the weeks of lockdown, assisting clients in the community remotely and with the provision of emergency supplies, motel accommodation for those who were homeless, and continuing the delivery of care and support for residents at WesleyCare and Wesley Village.

Across all departments CMM teams were mobilised not only to ensure the continuity of service for clients but to participate meaningfully in the Prime Minister’s call to go “hard and early to stamp out the virus” and prevent the uncontrolled explosion of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

“CMM has been busier than usual during the lockdown period,” says Executive Director Jill Hawkey. “WesleyCare, the Social Services Team and Housing Division were all deemed essential services and staff quickly responded to this new situation.”

Significant work was undertaken in the early days of the pandemic to keep WesleyCare residents and staff safe. These measures have proved successful, with no residents or staff testing positive for Covid-19 to date.

“Decisions were made prior to the lockdown to restrict visiting at WesleyCare. We knew this would be difficult for everyone so we introduced virtual visiting to keep residents and their families connected.”

WesleyCare purchased tablet devices to enable residents to hold video conferences with their loved ones and this has proved to be a popular way to maintain these essential links while face-to-face visiting remained unsafe for residents.

During Alert Levels 3 and 4 staff from other CMM divisions provided work cover at WesleyCare for those who had to take leave due to age or underlying health conditions, helping with additional cleaning, work in the kitchen, and general caring duties.

For Aratupu Preschool & Whānau Hub, the first 10 days after reopening went smoothly and the bubble was expanded to include a further six children before Alert Level 2 came into effect. Aratupu Manager Katie reports that whānau and staff alike have adjusted well to the new health precautions, with families expressing their appreciation for the support that Aratupu continued to provide during the lockdown.

The flow of referrals for the Social Services team remained steady over the weeks of operating under Alert Levels 3 and 4, during which time they and the Community and Wellbeing teams engaged with clients via Zoom and continued to supply food vouchers to families who were struggling financially.

The Housing First teams in Christchurch and Blenheim supported people who are homeless into motels over the lockdown, with 79 people housed in Christchurch and 14 in Blenheim by the start of Level 2. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD) has indicated it will be providing ongoing shelter for these people so that they do not return to the streets. In early May CMM submitted a proposal to them on how it could continue providing support to this group, building on the organisation’s current housing services in both Christchurch and Blenheim.

Jill notes that any review of this period would be incomplete without recognising the tremendous support we received from regular donors and community funders to cover extra Covid-19 expenses and the costs associated with new ways of working.

“A very big thank you to everyone who helped us ‘go hard and early.’ Your generosity and ongoing support meant that we had the resources that made it possible for our teams to be there when people in the community needed assistance and to keep staff, residents and clients safe,” says Jill.