Kids to go without Christmas, mum says
An Invercargill couple say their six young kids will go without on Christmas day and it's the Salvation Army's fault.
However, the Salvation Army says the parents are to blame for their family's predicament because they have relied on handouts rather than trying to help themselves.
Shelly Edwards and Leo Hewett said their six children aged 3-10 will get no presents and have a diet of chicken and bread on Christmas day because the Salvation Army failed to help them in their time of need.
"How can we tell the kids there's nothing for Christmas?" Shelly asked from their south Invercargill state house yesterday.
Shelly said she was on the invalid's benefit and received a working for families benefit, while her partner was unemployed and seeking employment at the meatworks.Their weekly income was $631 but just $15 was left over after paying for their rent, bills, food and petrol.
Struggling to afford a decent Christmas for their kids, they thought it was sorted when the Nga Kete trust referred them to the Salvation Army scheme called adopt-a-family, which sees businesses and individuals sponsor struggling families during Christmas by providing them with a hamper filled with food and treats.
The family had been on the same scheme last year and received presents for their children, a supermarket voucher and a food hamper, they said.
However, when Shelly failed to turn up to a budget advice meeting early this month she was told she had been taken off the adopt-a-family scheme this year, she said.
She said she did not go to the meeting because she had no petrol money for their vehicle and it would have been difficult to take her six kids, one of whom is disabled, on public transport to the meeting.
The couple said they had always believed the Salvation Army was there to look after people, "not push them away".
"We were relying on adopt-a-family ... it's sad they won't help people like us," Shelly said.
The children would not be getting any presents and the family would eat what was in the fridge, including bread and chicken on Christmas day, they said.
"I feel sad for my kids because they are going to miss out on Christmas ... we were counting on that for Christmas," Shelly said.
Salvation Army spokeswoman Brenda King said the family had never been put on the adopt-a-family scheme this year, effectively because they had failed to help themselves.
Shelly had been using the services of the Salvation Army for about two years and when she received more than three food parcels in one year she was referred to a budget advice centre to receive financial planning assistance, King said.
However, Shelly had not engaged with the budget advisory service so was not put on the adopt-a-family scheme, King said.
The Salvation Army's aim was for its clients to get to the point where they could look after themselves and be self sufficient.
"If we keep handing out we are enabling them to stay in the situation they are in. We aren't actually helping them at all in the long run."
Shelly and her partner had six children and they were responsible for them, King said.
"I have been in touch with her budget advisor and she assures me they do have money. Like everyone Shelly has known Christmas is coming."
Jubilee Budget Advisory Service manager Sharon Soper confirmed Shelly had been on its books in the past but said she had not called in to see the a budget advisor since July 11 and she had failed to front for a meeting on December 4.
Soper said it was a shame the focus had gone on the incident given all the good the Salvation Army did in the community.
"Those people around there are volunteers and have been working 10 to 11 hours days to get the hampers out. It's amazing what they have done for families for christmas."
The issue highlighted the need for people to plan for Christmas during the year, she said.
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- The Southland Times