"For 14 days and 14 nights Elijah Saitu, 15, has lived in a damp motel room, bordered by KFC to the left and a Denny’s 24-hour takeaway to the right.
He spends his days watching music videos on television and eating white bread, tinned sardines, fizzy drinks and packets of chips.
“He’s suffocating,” says Elijah’s mother, Emily Fiame Saitu, who has been begging the government to help her family.
“It’s cut-throat in New Zealand. If you’re struggling you get left behind.”
The Saitu family are a tragic portrait of New Zealand’s most shameful national secret: an epidemic of child poverty that belies the image of a Pacific haven offering equality of opportunity and a prosperous, clean, healthy life of plenty for all."
"We are concerned that recent media coverage on the Saitu family misrepresents their situation, and disregards vital details on work the Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand have done to find a solution for this family.
Last Thursday they were offered a property within their preferred area, close to their support network, with necessary modifications including wheelchair access. They have accepted this offer, and Housing New Zealand will continue to work with them to arrange a move-in date.
Family circumstances and the medical conditions of the children meant the family had very specific housing requirements. These requirements, along with the need to find a house in South Auckland, an area of high housing demand, meant a suitable property was not immediately available.
The Saitu family first approached us for emergency accommodation help in late May of this year. They had been living with family following their return to New Zealand from Australia in April.
We granted over $8000 for one-month’s motel accommodation, and they were placed on the social housing register on 28 June as a high priority.
Since then we have been in close contact with the family’s agent - to discuss both social and private housing options, what support is available to move, and ensuring they continue to receive their full and correct benefit entitlement.
It is disappointing that their case has been presented as an example of a family falling through the cracks – they’ve received significant assistance from government agencies, the community, and their agent, who has indicated they have been happy with the support offered. We’ve worked closely with housing providers to get a solution, and find a house."
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