Whānau Āwhina Plunket Adds Online Options to Support Rural Families

Recognising that the cost-of-living crisis may impact the ability of young families to participate in-person at meetings, Whānau Āwhina Plunket is now offering some of their services online.

With a huge geographical area to cover and with sparse populations in some regions, Whānau Āwhina Plunket’s staffing resources can get stretched.  However, changes in how people access services following the pandemic have opened up opportunities for some services to be delivered virtually.

“Transport and petrol costs are becoming unaffordable and so we acknowledge that rural people may not travel into a town unless in an emergency,” says Maria Van der Plas, Regional Operations Manager at Plunket.

“The pandemic has given us the ability to utilise technology, if nothing else! When we all had to be at home during lockdown, our team very quickly got setup with the tools to be able to connect with the families we support online.”

For rural communities, travel costs can combine with seasonal pressures around farming in making it difficult for families to find the time to travel into town to attend Whānau Āwhina Plunket group meetings. Virtual education sessions where a facilitator talks about a topic and attendees can share their experiences are one of Plunket’s online services which assist with issues brought about by distance.

“Often people want to connect to avoid feeling isolated and they also want to receive parenting support. In our community services we try to create platforms which cover the full range of face-to-face and virtual options,” says Maria.

“While we still offer in person initiatives such as swim programmes, music and movement classes, and car seat safety checks, growing our service offering to include online education and virtual playgroup sessions allows us to still offer some support for those who can’t make it in person.”

The post lockdown continuation of some virtual services is balanced with finding ideal locations to offer in-person support in rural areas. The Clinical and Community Services teams at Whānau Āwhina Plunket therefore look to find locations to hold drop-in clinics where people might already be going to do their grocery shopping.

“Our virtual programmes are designed to support those struggling with travel costs or as an option for really rural families who only come into a main centre every few months.  However, we continue to remain committed to delivering our usual face-to-face education and social sessions in rural centres,” says Maria.

“The ethos Whānau Āwhina Plunket and of Plunket’s Community Services is about strengthening communities to eventually become their own support group.”

Call Plunketline on 0800 933 922 for 24/7 parenting support for families with children under 5 years.