Family violence networks scramble to fight cash cuts

By Simon Collins

The Ministry of Social Development is believed to be reallocating money to its Whanau Ora programme. Photo / Supplied
The Ministry of Social Development is believed to be reallocating money to its Whanau Ora programme. Photo / Supplied

The Government's "it's not okay" campaign may be axed to free up funding for the new Whanau Ora programme.

The linchpins of networks tackling family violence around the country may be axed to release money for the new Whanau Ora programme.

Associate Social Development Minister Tariana Turia is believed to be pushing to scrap the 31 local coordinators, 45 local child advocates and the "it's not okay" family violence campaign, to free $11.5 million a year for Whanau Ora.

National Network of Stopping Violence Services manager Brian Gardner said the Cabinet's social services and justice committee, chaired by Health Minister Tony Ryall, planned to consider the proposal on Wednesday.

Family violence services have not been consulted on the proposal, which is being treated as a Budget secret, and began a frantic campaign yesterday to try to head off the move.

Police national family violence coordinator Inspector Brigitte Nimmo said police opposed any cut to family violence services, and had asked for a copy of any Cabinet paper - "if it exists" - about the plan.

"I've been told it's a budget of about $12 million which is not currently being used for frontline services but is used to fund the Te Rito co-ordinators. A large number of those undertake our family violence inter-agency process.

"They manage the collaboration of those groups who provide services to people involved in family violence.

"If there is anything that is going to disrupt those processes, it would be a significant concern."

Liz Kinley of the national child abuse network Jigsaw, which manages the 45 child advocates, said she had not been asked for any information and was seeking an urgent meeting with Mrs Turia to find out what was going on.

She said the advocates' roles were created in 2005 after the 2001 murders of Masterton sisters Olympia Jetson and Saliel Aplin by their mother's partner Bruce Howse. They aim to make sure children are safe in any family where domestic violence is reported.

Sources said Mrs Turia had always been cool about the emphasis of the "it's not okay" campaign on encouraging victims or perpetrators of violence to seek help individually rather than keeping the family together.

Her primary passion in politics is Whanau Ora, which aims to fund regional collectives of Maori and Pacific agencies to work with families on all aspects of their wellbeing, including physical and mental health, income and employment, youth, parenting and the elderly as well as family violence.

Last year's Budget gave it $33 million a year, and 25 regional consortiums were given seed money in November to prepare "plans of action" due by the end of this month.

Papakura Marae manager Tony Kake, a member of a South Auckland consortium, said the programme did not provide any extra money for services but money would be needed to make sure services to each family were integrated.

"They have only allocated establishment money to start writing up the proposals. We certainly can't get by on that," he said.

Te Whanau O Waipareira chief executive John Tamihere, who is part of a National Urban Maori Authority consortium, said he supported axing the existing family violence coordinators to fold services into Whanau Ora.

"The problem with the present delivery model for domestic violence is that whilst Maori perpetrate violence out of proportion to their numbers, the delivery agencies do not engage with those communities," he said.

"Why would you continue to spend money on domestic violence programmes that don't work? I'd rather the money go back into the general pool than be wasted on the street."

- NZ Herald

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