When first-time mum Kellie Mulgrew started having epileptic seizures six weeks after giving birth, a tiny agency called Parent Aid Waitakere was her lifesaver.

The agency helped look after the baby when she was in hospital, helped with housekeeping at home and generally provided a sympathetic ear and a helping hand.

But the agency, and three others like it across north and west Auckland, have lost all of their funding from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) from June 30 - casualties of a Cabinet decision to shift $11 million of MSD funding a year to the Maori Party's flagship programme, Whanau Ora.

Gayle Marshall of Parent Aid said its $34,000 MSD grant provided a quarter of the agency's budget, and it would have to cut the 1000 visits it did every year by 150.


Sharyn Simpson of Takapuna-based Parent Support said MSD provided a majority of her funding and its loss could force a closure.

"We couldn't keep going without it unless we find another major funder," she said.

Mrs Mulgrew, a former social worker, and her husband Tom, a computer programmer, have been through a nightmare since their daughter Jessica's birth four years ago.

"We used to be a professional couple," Mrs Mulgrew said. "Everything just changed. It can happen to anyone at any time."

Mrs Mulgrew had a difficult birth, losing a lot of blood. Six weeks later she suddenly started having seizures and other neurological problems.

"There was a period when she was having one every 15 minutes," Mr Mulgrew said. "Then they changed her medication and she was fine for three or four weeks, and then suddenly she'd be back in hospital with a brain inflammation. In good times, it's one a week."

She was terrified of dropping the baby. She hasn't been able to drive since Jessica was born. And then 18 months ago, Jessica was diagnosed with autism. At 4, she is not speaking and has no sense of danger.

"While she can play by herself, if you don't watch her you never quite know if she's climbed out the window," Mr Mulgrew said.

The family have sought help from numerous agencies, but often don't fit into each agency's narrow category. "Often it boils down to all that's left is Parent Aid. It seems to be the only agency that doesn't need to have a category," Mr Mulgrew said.

Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni said cutting funding for Parent Aid, which intervened early, risked more families slipping into crisis.

MSD deputy chief executive Murray Edridge said the four Parent Aid agencies were among 19 contracts whose MSD funding totalling $660,000 would end this week because there was not "a commonality of alignment" between their work and Whanau Ora.

Another 31 contracts worth $5.63 million would transfer to the Whanau Ora framework.