Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Family violence fear as funding-cut off nears

White Ribbon marches are part of the effort to stop family violence. Photo / APN
White Ribbon marches are part of the effort to stop family violence. Photo / APN

Local networks trying to reduce family violence say more women and children are at risk of being killed as a June 30 cut-off date for the networks' funding looms.

National Network of Stopping Violence Services manager Brian Gardner says skilled staff are leaving agencies because they have no secure future.

"We have spent 10 years trying to build capacity in the community, and we have agencies now that are losing staff because they haven't got the funding to hold on to them," he said. "When we take away those inter-agency groups, we put people at risk of being killed."

A new report by the Family Violence Clearinghouse also calls for secure ongoing funding for the 32 local networks that have been set up since 2003 under the former Labour government's "Te Rito" family violence strategy, named after the heart of a flax plant that needs to be nurtured for the plant to grow. Associate Social Development Minister Tariana Turia said a year ago that the networks' budget of $2.8 million would be extended only until June this year.

She diverted another $11 million out of programmes such as child advocates and family violence education into a new "family-centred services fund", with a brief to "work more flexibly and innovatively with families and whanau where family violence has occurred" along the same lines as her Whanau Ora project for Maori social services.

She promised a "review on how best to achieve good co-ordination of family violence services" before this June. She said yesterday: "There is a process underway and to date no decisions have been made."

Mr Gardner said: "I have some concern that that process is going slowly and may not happen quickly enough to safeguard something that is really valuable."

He said the local networks had produced "really big returns for a relatively small investment".

A 2009 evaluation found that the networks had made "great progress in local joined-up responses to family violence", but suffered from a lack of national co-ordination and support.

Family Violence Clearinghouse co-director Dr Janet Fanslow, a co-author of the new report, said each local network was being forced to "reinvent the wheel", often without training. She said the choice should not be between frontline family services or co-ordination.

"With the scale of the problem we need to approach it in multiple ways," she said.

The 2009 evaluation found confusion over the networks' role. Half of the co-ordinators spent much of their time on inter-agency groups responding to individual cases, while the other half left this to the agencies and concentrated on the networks' original role.

Jane Drumm of Auckland's Safer Homes In NZ Everyday (Shine) said individual case meetings in Auckland were convened by police and Child, Youth and Family, while Shine's Auckland network co-ordinator focused on preventing violence.

Hauraki network co-ordinator Rachel Harrison said the Te Rito funding paid for two separate co-ordinators in her area, one for individual case meetings and herself for awareness campaigns such as the annual White Ribbon Day.

ANTI-VIOLENCE NETWORKS
* 32 regional family violence network co-ordinators were funded until last June.
* 32 (sometimes different) agencies funded to co-ordinate networks for one year to this June.
* The Wairarapa network says it has helped cut family violence by a third.
* Ministers have yet to decide what will happen after June.

ON THE WEB
nzfvc.org.nz/node/578

- NZ Herald

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