Women's refuges say some women fleeing from violence may no longer be able to get a safe bed after a surprise Government policy change chopped $700,000 off their funding.

The 45 refuges have lost $382,200 from their national contract and just over $300,000 in contracts held by some refuges for family violence co-ordinator and child advocate jobs, which have been scrapped.

They can apply by tomorrow for money from a new "family-centred services fund" which aims to shift funding to "frontline services" targeted to the areas of highest need.

But Refuge chief executive Heather Henare said officials in the Social Development Ministry's family and community services (FACS) unit told her yesterday that "family-centred" services did not include crisis refuges for women and children.

"When we asked directly to FACS if we were to put in an application on Friday would we be likely to be given priority around receiving this money, the answer was no because it doesn't fit the criteria," she said.

The changes, announced on April 1 by Associate Social Development Minister Tariana Turia, have been rushed through.

Tim Metcalfe of the national child abuse network Jigsaw said the online application form was finalised only last week and maps of high-need areas were still not available as agencies worked on their applications through the Easter break. They were finally posted on the ministry website on Tuesday.

The changes abolish four funds from June 30 that have been worth $13 million a year: a family violence education fund ($4.9 million), advocates for children who witness family violence ($4.2 million), Te Rito family violence coordinators ($1.9 million) and the Whanau Ora Family Violence Fund ($2 million).

They will be replaced from July 1 by the new family-centred services fund worth $8.5 million, plus a transitional $2.8 million one-year fund for "family violence coordination". The remaining $1.7 million is being diverted into the "It's not okay" campaign and related campaigns, which are being scaled back to a total of $2.5 million a year.

An official backgrounder says the family-centred services fund will "deliver direct services to family and whanau that restore safety and wellbeing where family violence has occurred, and that help create the longer-term changes needed to prevent violence from recurring".

The ministry website says the fund's primary intended outcome is that "the needs of those who have experienced family violence are met through wrap-around support which is effective, holistic, culturally appropriate and responsive".

A FACS spokeswoman said the $382,200 cut for Women's Refuge's national contract came out of the family violence education fund.

But Ms Henare said it was coming out of funding for women and children needing safe accommodation for up to six days.

"We currently get paid $520 per client for just over 3000 [short-stay] clients, spread amongst the 45 refuges. Take $382,200 out and that reduces to $251," she said.

"We have to make a decision as to whether we can actually provide that service any more."

The Women's Self-Defence Network, which runs self-defence classes for girls in 372 schools, has lost all its $377,000 funding with the abolition of the family violence education fund. Founder Alison Broad said the network's loss seemed to be "inadvertent" and it was reapplying to the new fund.

Mr Metcalfe said Jigsaw's local agencies, which manage the 45 advocates for children affected by violence, were reapplying "for projects that are quite similar to the child advocates project" but "with an emphasis on frontline services".

"The child advocates were specifically about building a stronger protection - trying to get a little bit back from the top of the cliff to build a stronger capacity within communities for prevention," he said.

"New Zealand will be virtually locked into a cycle of shocking child abuse unless more resourcing is put into really good quality prevention."

However, a $1 million-a-year family violence education initiative run by seven Northland iwi, Amokura, will close from June 30 with the loss of five jobs because it does not provide "frontline" services.

Spokesman Allan Pivac of Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua said Amokura did not want to compete for funding with frontline providers.

"We were set up to get involved in early intervention and prevention," he said. "The Government now has another strategy. All of a sudden what we were doing doesn't suit."

Need for help rated as higher in rural areas

Five largely rural areas have been pinpointed as having the highest needs for tackling family violence through a new Government fund.

The Far North, Rotorua, Whakatane/Kawerau/Opotiki, Gisborne and Horowhenua come out most in need in the Ministry of Social Development analysis for the new family-centred services fund.

South Auckland, most of the Waikato, Hawkes Bay and Porirua are listed in the next-highest category of "moderate to high need" based on applications for protection orders, police family violence incident reports, notifications to Child, Youth and Family Services, welfare rolls and deprivation levels in 32 territorial authority clusters.

Other urban areas have been assessed as having only "moderate" needs (Central and West Auckland, Hutt Valley, Christchurch) or "lower need" (North Shore/Rodney, Wellington, Dunedin).

Rotorua agency Family Focus, which runs programmes for men, women and children, said the assessment could help to meet a desperate need for more services in its area.

"Our statistics have doubled," said manager Stacey Ford. "We had 700 people through our agency from July 1 to December 31 last year. We normally do only 700 in a year.

"Our staff are absolutely exhausted and there is a never-ending stream through the door. We can't turn people away so we are just having to work very quickly with them," Stacey Ford said.

Two other Rotorua agencies that provided counselling for men - the Rotorua Violence Prevention Service and Challenge Violence Trust - have closed in recent years, and Barnardos closed its local service for children and their families last year.

Dale Johnson of the Kaitaia women's refuge Te Whare Timatatanga Hou Ora said there were few services for men with violence problems in the Far North.

"We have an Auckland-based group which functions out of here, and otherwise the perpetrators have to go to Whangarei," she said.

"The money is being redirected to high-need areas and our area has been identified as a high-need area. I think that is fantastic.

"But some of the major cities like Auckland and Christchurch are going to lose large contracts."