With the shake up of Ministers in the new government, CERA and other recovery agencies had to write a few briefing papers (linked below). Ministers who are charged with making decisions will be pretty confident that things are on track and Canterbury residents who are making progress and celebrating the tangible signs of revitalisation could take a lot of confidence from the briefings as well.
Unfortunately, as an organisation which works for people largely still struggling through their earthquake insurance settlements, we have to read the briefings through a different lens. We have to look for evidence that the authors of the briefings have acknowledged the people we serve and have plans in place to support them as part of the overall recovery. We say ‘unfortunately’ because we never come away with quite the same sense of confidence.
There are a few comments within the many briefings that cause us some adverse reaction (which can vary from utter frustration, to cynicism, to head shaking concern):
- “The process is now shifting from short-term disaster response to a longer term set of challenges and opportunities.”
- “Services are in place to support residents who are experiencing difficulties dealing with their insurance and housing issues.”
- “… high levels of stress remain stable at 22%…”
- “There remain a number of complex and often discrete unresolved initial recovery issues, primarily relating to the residential repair and rebuild.”
The comments that leave us with the most questions are:
- “Many of these issues are likely to resolve themselves – over time – without further intervention by central government beyond the current insurance, housing, psychosocial and health support programmes.”
- “A more effective route for central government intervention is to maintain close oversight of progress and use government’s influence and facilitation to ensure insurers achieve and maintain the fastest possible pace, while also monitoring for emerging barriers and opportunities to facilitate faster resolution of claims …”
Over the past 12 months, CanCERN has been concerned that the focus for many recovery groups (CERA included) has moved to the longer term, and the target population being considered is all of Canterbury with subsets of those who are most vulnerable. This isn’t a bad thing but if there is little focus on those who are doing it exceptionally hard here and now, we have a problem.
So if we focus on CERA as the overall coordinating body of the earthquake recovery, what are the current plans and programmes of support they mention above? How do they address the very specific and immediate needs of the stuck residents? Do those plans reflect their understanding of the fact that this is a newly vulnerable group, and one not likely to need the same services and delivery of more traditionally vulnerable groups? Is it enough? And what are they referring to when they talk of using government’s influence and facilitation? How are they monitoring for emerging barriers and opportunities?
It is now well documented that those who are still dealing with the insurance settlement issues are struggling. It is well known what many of the issues are. It is also well discussed within many, many meetings we attend what some positive solutions would look like. What is missing is the necessary level of commitment, capacity and leadership to implement those solutions. The Residential Advisory Service (RAS) does a great job, but is it enough?
This is what CanCERN is continuing to advocate for. Maybe 2015 is the year we can really focus on supporting the stuck residents; getting them through well, one starfish at a time.
One comment that does give us cause for hope is:
“The initial recovery phase will not be fully complete until these remaining stressors, which are disproportionally affecting a significant number of people … are lifted.”
We hope this means that the recovery agencies will not entirely move out of the initial recovery stage. We hope this means they will actually engage in planning and resourcing for this group instead of waiting for the “issues to resolve themselves – over time”. We hope that they will see who those people are and be brave enough to step outside of the ‘business as usual’ and ‘silo’ way of doing things. We hope they will commit to getting the last starfish through.
And if that is all too hard, we just hope they will enable the very few organisations still working specifically in the stuck space to do the job properly.
We acknowledge that pulling lines out of big documents is never the most robust way to make a point. Feel free to read the documents linked below in their entirety.