Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Bay of Plenty social agencies cite safety concerns over new disclosure rules for funding

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Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angela Warren-Clark says the need to protect client personal details was a safety issue. Photo/File
Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angela Warren-Clark says the need to protect client personal details was a safety issue. Photo/File

The head of one Tauranga social agency says he is unfazed by having to disclose client details to the Government in exchange for funding but others fear it could scare clients off from coming forward.

Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive Murray Edridge has confirmed all 823 agencies funded by the ministry's $330 million community investment arm would have to provide client details for funding by next July.

The data would be used to track the outcome of services under Finance Minister Bill English's "social investment" approach to check whether services helped people overcome their problems or were recycled back into the social support system.

Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services executive director Tommy Wilson said he and his organisation were comfortable about the new disclosure funding policy.

"I am fully aware of the new direction of the Ministry of Social Development which is outcome-based and we are completely comfortable with that.

"I know [MSD] Minister Anne Tolley wants to fix up the problem of professional agency hoppers . . . We agree that we need to ensure those with the greatest need get most of the funding rather than any sort of back-room dividing up of a pool of money."

Mr Wilson said he hoped weeding out professional "agency hoppers" ultimately might lead to more funding for agencies which were already focused on the Government's objectives for results-based outcomes for their clients.

He did not see any perceived danger or risk of genuine clients becoming reluctant to come forward to seek help due to the new disclosure funding policy, he said.

Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angie Warren-Clark said her agency welcomed closer scrutiny regarding the work it did with families in this community.

"We want to tell the stories of change and the help we offer to families - we have nothing to hide. Perhaps this means we can get more income from MSD.

"However, the families accessing our services deserve the same rights as all citizens to keep their business private if they choose to. Privacy is a safety issue."

Mrs Warren-Clark said Tauranga Women's Refuge hoped that in the coming months it would be able to enter into an open and honest dialogue with MSD about what these changes would exactly mean.

Tauranga's Shakti Women's Refuge manager Sonia Pathak said she was deeply concerned as clients wanted their information to be kept confidential for safety reasons.

She feared that some women fleeing violent relationships would be reluctant to come forward if their personal details had to be disclosed.

Ms Pathak said the agency already shared a lot of information locally with other agencies and they often worked together to help clients to ensure the best long-term outcomes.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said the service worked in a transparent and open way but clients had to be able to trust budgeters with their often embarrassing financial details.

"Our clients would naturally be concerned about us protecting their privacy, but at the same time we all want to ensure the right funding gets to the right people," she said.

Tauranga St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Lynne MacKenzie-Brown said the society chose to go it alone because it felt the Government funding rules were quite restrictive.

"We also wanted to be proactive in terms of meeting our clients' needs rather than be pigeon-holed as to where we could direct funding," she said.

Details which will need to disclosed include

Each client's name, address, date of birth,
gender, ethnicity, iwi, country of birth,
Number of dependent children,
Details on the service client receives.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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