Wanganui's non-profit health and social organisations are struggling for money, according to a health board member, with two groups closing and another cutting its service by 40 per cent.

While Whanganui District Health Board members discussed the possibility of a break-even budget at a recent meeting, member Judith MacDonald was highlighting the vulnerability of local non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Relationships Aotearoa and the YWCA had both fallen over recently, and Jigsaw Whanganui had cut capacity nearly by half to one of its services, Ms MacDonald said.

"The health board is responsible for funding a whole other group of providers, including NGOs," she said.


"I was pointing out how financially tight it is for NGOs out in the community and how vulnerable some of them are right now.

"People really do rely on those providers and the role they play in the community."

She said many groups had concerns about the viability of their organisation, and the feeling among other groups was that they would also end up being unable to continue.

Some NGOs are funded directly through contracts with the health board. While the DHB was not the sole funder, it was "one of the big funding agencies for our community", Ms MacDonald said.

"It's necessary for them to break even, no doubt about it. The issue that we're facing ... a lot of these investments are currently in hospital services.

"The minister is expecting that there will be much more investment in primary care ... we haven't been able to achieve it yet because of the requirements to provide a range of services."

Jigsaw Whanganui's Tim Metcalfe confirmed it had reduced the capacity of its intensive home-based social work service last year by 40 per cent, meaning there were about 40 families cut from the service.

Funding for the service had been reducing over "some years" and management had to make the decision last year to cut its capacity, he said.

While government funding had stayed the same for the past 15 years, it did not increase to match higher demand, and funding from independent donors had dropped.

Jigsaw also had to cut back capacity on its parenting programmes by about 20 to 30 per cent.

"We needed to address the situation last year in order that the organisation was properly sustained," Mr Metcalfe said. "We didn't want to be in the position of the whole thing just getting run down."

While Jigsaw was in a "good financial state" it wanted to be able to help more people, he said.

The home-based social work service involved having a "highly skilled" social worker visiting families with "complex needs" at least once a week.

"That service is quite highly regarded - it has a national reputation."

The Government funded 12 per cent to 15 per cent of the service, he said.

"We're facing huge expectations to be delivering high-quality services to more people ... with reduced income."

Annie Firaza, manager of Wanganui at-risk youth service Life To The Max, said the fact that local NGOs were falling over was "very concerning" and she expected to see more pressure on them.

"The demand for the community hasn't changed."

Miss Firaza believed Life To The Max was "one of the lucky ones" and delivered a programme that fit within the Government's targets, but it had a waiting list large enough that it could employ another social worker if it had the funding.

There was a feeling among local NGOs after Relationships Aotearoa and the YWCA closed down, "like, who's next?"

Miss Firaza was mindful of people becoming dependent on organisations and expecting help: "It's like breakfasts in schools . . . whose responsibility is it to feed the children? Is it the school or is it the parents?"