Wednesday, 8 September 2021 - 2:29pm

Police and MSD team up to support communities

3 min read

News article photos (2 items)

Constable Sam Penning - 'They sounded like they were opening Christmas presents'.
Constable John Malpas , and RRT food boxes under preparation.

Police has been working with the Ministry for Social Development and community partners to help our communities access the support they need under COVID alert level restrictions.

COVID Response is a joint Police and MSD collaboration put in place for the 2020 Alert Level 4 lockdown. It was reinstated last month to help families and individuals get the support they need but can’t access because of the necessary restrictions.

During the 2020 lockdown, COVID Response helped 566 whānau - so we know working together works and that providing assistance creates reassurance in uncertain times.

“With MSD offices closed and our people still active in our communities, this collaboration is extremely important to help people in need,” says Jevon McSkimming, Police Deputy Commissioner, Strategy and Service.

“Our well-established relationships with community partners, our AWHI network, and our commitment to prevention, gives Police an opportunity to work with an essential partner like MSD and other support providers to continue delivering their services.”

AWHI is an interactive tool used by Police staff in nine of the 12 districts, accessed via Police cellphones. Through it they can connect people in need with local community services, or with MSD, providing the person agrees.

Police has been operating in the referral space for a long time to help prevent harm, using a range of supported resolutions and accessing support from AWHI partners. “We want everyone to be safe and feel safe,” says Jevon.

Our partners agree. “It’s great that the Police and MSD can work together in making it happen for the communities we serve!” says MSD Waikato Regional Commissioner Te Rehia Papesch. 

“The kaupapa is bigger than us and we have a responsibility to do the best we can.”

Mark Goldsmith, Regional Commissioner for Social Development Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau, says the Police-MSD partnership is essential. “We work together putting the people of our community at the centre of what we do, so people in need can get the assistance and support they need quickly.” 

A need might include emergency food parcels, advice on whānau matters, health enquiries or accommodation.

“Through AWHI we are able to offer assistance and support to whānau who need help,” says Senior Constable Dennis Bidois, who co-founded AWHI in 2018.

Recently Central District Community Liaison Officer Constable Sam Penning  recognised that a grandfather left to care for mokopuna during lockdown needed help to bring stability and reduce anxiety in the home.

Sam made a referral to MSD for financial assistance and food and within an hour a representative had contacted the grandfather. It was found he was eligible for help - and he was told how to access ongoing assistance through community partners while his mokopuna were in his care.

“When I dropped the food box off, he yelled out ‘Come and have a look at what the Pirihimana have done for us’,” says Sam.

“I could hear the kids going through the box as I was leaving. They sounded like they were opening Christmas presents. Lots of excitement and laughs after that, very cool.”

Dennis says Sam’s referral addressed the need at hand and provided a plan for the future.

“Working with MSD under an emergency management situation, like COVID Alert Level 4 lockdown, allowed this grandfather to get the necessary assistance to look after his moko.”

In Counties Manukau District the Rapid Relief Team (RRT) was introduced as an AWHI partner by Senior Constable Tony Tumai. RRT helps communities in immediate need in emergency situations, especially with food boxes.

“The RRT food box opens the door to communication,” says Tony. “A knock on the door by Police is often met with resistance or aggression but when the box is presented it creates a different engagement.

“Their behaviour changes, aggression changes to appreciation - sometimes with the officer getting a hug. The food box is an engagement and helping tool for all officers, much like AWHI. They go hand in hand.”

From Bay of Plenty District, Constable John Malpas agrees. “Giving something tangible like kai helps the proud people in this community.”

Since the start of the restrictions in August, Police staff have made 456 referrals for help, 177 to established AWHI partners and 279 to MSD for emergency assistance.

“Our staff have been sharing stories of successful partnerships and as a result are duplicating these in other districts,” says Jevon.

“I encourage our staff to continue their fantastic work of preventing harm through the use of our AWHI networks and supported resolutions.”

Since 2018 Police has made more than 24,000 support referrals to community-based service providers.