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Essential social services

The latest guidance and information for all social services

What social services are considered essential?

For social services, five categories of essential services have been identified.

  • Category 1: Where the social service is the only way for people to access food and other goods they need to live day-to-day (e.g. money management services (where an organisation manages living expenses on a client’s behalf), food banks, and delivery of essential goods).
  • Category 2: A social service that provides and supports a place for someone to live (e.g. Supported Accommodation, Housing First, Residences, Bail Hostels, Night Shelters, Family Homes, Remand Homes, foster carers of children in state care, resettlement services for recent migrants and refugees).
  • Category 3: A social service that supports disabled people to maintain critical wellbeing (e.g. disability services for those with high needs or very high needs – excluding disability employment services).
  • Category 4: Crisis support for people who are unsafe (e.g. helplines, refuges and family violence crisis services including those funded by the Ministry of Justice, elder abuse services, foster carer support services, sexual violence crisis services, services for youth and their families who have statutory involvement with Youth Justice, other social services for people and families in crisis, including youth)
  • Category 5: Childcare provision for children of essential workers by a licensed childcare provider

These categories are subject to review

Who is providing essential social services?

A register of current social service providers of essential services has been compiled.

We have deliberately kept the register of essential social services focused on culturally responsive services that meet people’s immediate needs and require staff, in exceptional circumstances, to visit homes and work with people from other organisations. Please note that what is considered an essential service may change over time. Some activities may become essential if New Zealand remains at Alert Level 4 for a sustained period of time. The register will be updated as necessary.

Some social sector organisations are already essential services, providing they can operate within the COVID-19 guidelines. This includes organisations that are:

  • Providing or delivering food and other essential goods (e.g. food banks, food rescue, food parcels)
  • Providing childcare services for essential workers (e.g. ECE, OSCAR)
  • Providing regional services as part of a national organisation that is already on the list of essential service providers
  • Whānau Ora providers who are already covered by the inclusion on the list of the Whānau Ora commissioning agencies

These organisations should contact us to be included in the register of essential social services. This will allow us to support and keep you updated, and those checking the register to find help for themselves or others will be able to find you. Please let us know by sending an email to Community_Information@msd.govt.nz.

All providers of essential services need to follow the Government’s guidance on the COVID-19 website.

Working and practicing safely

We are supporting essential social services with access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and guidance on using it safely.

How can I be registered as a provider of essential social services?

Please note that social service organisations do not need to be on the register if they can operate within the guidelines of a non-essential business i.e. business premises must be closed and people need to be working remotely from home.

If you are a social service provider and believe that you need to be on the register, let us know by email at Community_information@msd.govt.nz. Please tell us:

  • how you provide ‘essential social services’ in your communities during this time
  • that you understand and can operate within the significant restrictions on how essential services need to be delivered at Alert Level 4
  • about your current capacity and how you propose to operate the service
  • where you propose to deliver the services so we can make sure all parts of the country are covered and avoid duplication
  • the government agency or agencies you receive funding from.

Non-essential social services

Please note that social service organisations can continue to operate as long as they can do so within the Government’s guidelines. It is essential that you operate within these guidelines to maintain the health and safety of the people within your organisations and the people you work with.

You can find information for organisations, employers and employees on the COVID-19 and Ministry of Health websites.

What can you be doing?

Government social sector funding agencies want to facilitate the sharing of resources to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable are met.

  • We ask that you let your contract or relationship manager know about staff in non-essential services that could be made available to meet the needs of other priority tamariki and whānau.
  • We will then facilitate connections with other service providers in your area who may need to call on this capacity, including government agency services.
  • You may already be sharing resources in this way and you should continue to do this without involving us if it is not necessary.
  • We also want to ensure capacity is retained within the sector for when the alert levels drop.
  • It is essential that we sustain the capacity of the social sector workforce during this time so that we can reactivate existing services, and provide responses to the emerging needs, as the alert levels drop.

Please remember that non-essential services should continue to be provided where they can be done safely and in keeping with the requirements of each alert level.

Keeping you updated

If you have any specific questions, please contact your contract or relationship manager in the first instance. You can also email us at community_information@msd.govt.nz. We will try to get back to you as soon as we are able.

The Government’s COVID-19 website is constantly being updated with information on New Zealand’s response to the pandemic and is the first place to go for information you may need.

This website provides information on the COVID-19 Alert Levels and what we need to do in response. Please note that alert levels will change over time and may be different in different parts of the country.

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