Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Sex-abuse helpline faces closure

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Auckland's main 24-hour crisis line for victims of rape and sexual assault faces closure at the end of next month after losing its Government funding.

The Auckland Sexual Abuse Help line receives 10,000 crisis calls a year, an average of just over one an hour, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

It was funded by $365,000 a year from the Accident Compensation Corporation until 2009, when the corporation decided it was outside its legal mandate.

Simon Power, when Justice Minister, put together an interim package which shared the costs among the Health and Social Development Ministries, police and the Auckland District Health Board last year, and between the two ministries this year, while ministers considered a long-term solution.

But the Social Development Ministry's contribution of $220,000 this year was paid through the Community Response Fund (CRF), a short-term fund ending next year that was set up to help social services cope with the recession.

Help's crisis services manager, Iona Winter, said officials expected the agency would be funded again through the latest CRF round, but it has missed out unexpectedly.

"So all of a sudden everyone is surprised and we are at ground zero," she said.

"We have to advise staff if we need to have a restructuring or have redundancies. Because it's from the end of January, we have to give notice before Christmas."

Ms Winter said 14 or 15 people, including casuals, could be affected.

The agency still receives funding for other services from the Social Development Ministry, philanthropic trusts and other fundraising, with a total budget this year of $1.6 million.

But Ms Winter said it could not run a 24/7 service without the funding.

"We are looking at potentially having to cut back to running it at about a quarter of what we are running now," she said.

A Social Development spokeswoman said the ministry would keep talking to Help and other agencies about funding.

Minister Paula Bennett has set up an advisory panel to recommend a long-term solution for all sexual abuse services by June.

The Health Ministry was unable to comment before deadline last night.

Crisis management

10,000 crisis calls a year
$1.6m total budget for Auckland Sexual Abuse Help
$365,000 a year funding from ACC up to 2009
$220,000 a year from Social Development Ministry's short-term Community Response Fund

- NZ Herald

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