Social workers’ Hīkoi Whakaara concludes with rally in Cathedral Square

Canterbury social workers, who have walked almost 100km during the Hīkoi Whakaara of the last three days, will arrive in Cathedral Square at 2pm today to rally against four issues from the frontline of their work: poverty, inequality, homelessness and underfunding, says the Public Service Association.

"Today we’re going to hear about the increasing challenges facing social workers in the Canterbury region and their concerns about the erosion of the safety net for those facing severe hardship in Aotearoa," says Erin Polaczuk, PSA national secretary.

Led by the PSA and the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW), a growing group of social workers and other supportive Cantabrians set off on Friday from Ashburton via Rakaia and Rolleston and will be arriving in Cathedral Square today at 2:00pm. They have marched almost 100km.

"Social workers see the the devastating effects of austerity and underfunding, increases in inequality and poverty, and the way governmental policies can impact on the lives of vulnerable people," says Lucy Sandford-Reed, ANZASW Chief Executive.

"They want to see equality and access to services, and are worried by the growing threat of a health system that is struggling to cope with massive demand, particularly in Christchurch."

"We often hear how prosperous and egalitarian a country we are, but how can that be true when some working people are sleeping in cars, or when kids are going to school everyday without access to the basic things that the rest of us take for granted?"

Today’s rally in Cathedral Square features speeches by Janet Quigley (PSA president), Lucy Sandford-Reed (ANZASW chief executive), Jill Hawkey (Christchurch Methodist Mission executive director), Dr Sue Bagshaw (298 Youth Health Centre medical practitioner), Gen de Spa (It’s Our Future) and Richard Tankersley (Kaikarakia). There will also be a performance by The Eastern.

"We’ve had an incredible amount of support from the community along the way - people joining the hīkoi, drivers tooting, locals inviting us into pubs and homes, and the police and local authorities have been so supportive," says PSA organiser Luis Arevalo.

"There’s real solidarity between social workers on the hīkoi and the communities they work in, and they’re determined to make sure these issues are on the agenda before we all head to the polling booths on September 23rd."