Greens' survey shows region's refuges hit by underfunding

By Tracey Chatterton

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Hastings Women's Refuge manager Julie Hart hopes the 2016 Budget will see more funds directed to refuge services. Photo / Paul Taylor
Hastings Women's Refuge manager Julie Hart hopes the 2016 Budget will see more funds directed to refuge services. Photo / Paul Taylor

Women's Refuge centres are critically underfunded and are struggling to provide services to those in need.

A survey of Women's Refuges conducted by Green Party MP Jan Logie has revealed that Women's Refuges are not getting the funding they need.

Out of the 20 refuges surveyed from around the country, including the three in Hawke's Bay, 11 had been forced to cut staff or services in recent years.

Hastings Women's Refuge manager Julie Hart said all three of the region's refuges were struggling.

She had lost two staff due to budgetary constraints in the past 12 months.

"Our capacity is failing to match demand and we continue to struggle to retain our funding, let alone increase it."

The Ministry of Social Development provides 36 per cent of the what the Hastings refuge does, Ms Hart said.

"That money has to pay for almost 100 per cent of what we provide."

On top of that, the numbers needing the services keep climbing and expenses rise with inflation, yet funding has reduced year on year.

In 2009, Hastings Women's Refuge received $36,000 more than what it did in 2015.

Ms Hart was hopeful the 2016 Budget would see more funding come their way.

She didn't know what the answer would be if funding was cut. The refuge already ran on the goodwill of staff who went "over and above", Mrs Hart said.

Domestic violence services saved lives and traditionally Women's Refuge had provided women and children with a roof over their heads when they had nowhere safe to go, Ms Hart said.

"That wasn't the case this weekend," she said.

Between 9am and 1pm on Sunday morning alone she had to turn away three families, while Napier turned away two families, because refuge beds across Hawke's Bay were full to capacity.

"Impacting on this is also the lack of accommodation for families to move into once they are ready to move on from the safe house," manager of Napier Women's Refuge, Megan Thomassen-Clarke, said.

Te Whare Whanau Purotu manager Vi Pirini said: "The demand goes up but our ability to meet it goes down. Women return home to the abusive partner when they have nowhere else to go - that is hard for our staff to face."

Reporting of domestic violence has increased but government funding has not, with many services saying in the Greens' survey they have not had funding increases for seven to 10 years.

"If we received more sustainable funding we could provide more support to our community and ensure staff are not stretched to their limits," Ms Pirini said.

"We always aim to provide qualified and competent staff but without money to pay them and support them, how can we reach the expectations of our funders and our community?" she said.

Get help:

* If you or someone you know is experiencing physical or psychological abuse, phone Women's Refuge on 0800 REFUGE (0800 733 843).

- Hawkes Bay Today

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