by Jan Logie
Due to financial constraints Wellington Rape Crisis has been forced to close one day a week, despite client contacts doubling over the last year.
As an ex member of the board and a current member I know they had no choice. They run as tight a ship as they can and they have really improved their community fundraising in recent times. The problem is not with them, the problem is a national one.
In 2007 a taskforce for action on sexual violence was put together, including the Secretary for Justice, Chief Executive of Women’s Affairs, Commissioner of Police, Chief Executive of Corrections, Pacific Island Affairs, Te Puni Kokiri, Secretary of Education, General Manager of ACC, and the Deputy of Health and MSD as well as sexual abuse experts from the community and academic sectors. This group worked together for two years before producing their report. Included in this report was the need to immediately increase funding for frontline services such as Rape Crisis.
This didn’t happen.
What has happened since 2009 has been a massive decline in funding from ACC for counselling from $10,817,622 in 2005/6 to $4,457,674 in 2010/11.
ACC is now providing 16 sessions without the need for assessment, but if you speak to anyone in the sector they will tell you how limited that is, considering the majority of people are seeking support for historical abuse that they have been struggling under the weight of for many years often having their sense of self, warped in the process.
The funding from ACC for these sessions does not cover the full cost of counselling, it only partly covers the counsellor’s fee and then agencies need to cover the cost of room rental, power, phone and social work intake support for those clients.
If a person needs more than 16 sessions they will need to be assessed by an ACC registered psychiatrist who will either diagnose them with a mental illness, accept their claim for further sessions or decline them.
I have personally had a friend go through this process recently and while the outcome is likely to be good (we are still waiting to hear several months on) she was visibly in shock for several days after the assessment.
This delay in processing her claim is not unusual. In 2007, when the taskforce started their work 5919 claims were lodged and none were held, 1928 declined and 3991 accepted. This year 1026 claims are on hold, 250 have been declined and only 49 have been accepted out of a total of 1325
Not surprisingly the number of ACC registered counsellors has also halved in the past few years as the ethical challenge of working within the system has become too much for many.
So instead of immediately increasing funding, ACC funding for sexual abuse has been dramatically cut, and is less accessible, due to poor processes and fewer counsellors.
To mitigate this reliance on ACC many services are partially funded under CYFS but some are now being told that they can no longer use CYFS funding for clients who are not children or parents, leaving adult survivors who aren’t parents with no source of Government funding.
This leaves agencies having to find alternative funding for basic services. This is not sustainable and we are seeing services all over the country stretched to breaking point. Wellington Rape Crisis is just one.
So who is responsible for this mess? Well that is not clear either. Minister Collins is responsible for ACC. When I asked Paula Bennett questions about sexual abuse funding in select committee, despite having overall responsibility, she refused to answer saying she would not undermine the Minister responsible, Tariana Turia, and Jo Goodhew’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs has also led on this project in the past and has said reducing violence against women is her number one priority.
I hear yesterday the media was bounced around from office to office trying to get comment and no-one wanted to take responsibility.
Sexual abuse prevention and support is the responsibility of Police, Courts, Justice, ACC, MSD, Health, Education, and Women’s Affairs but no one seems to be taking leadership to make sure victims don’t slip between the cracks.
It would be great to see the Government respond now by clearly identifying who is responsible, immediately allocating more non aged targeted funding through MSD and put some timeframes on putting the Taskforce for action, into action.
To me this issue is not about money, even though the work done by Sexual Violence services saves the Government money (Treasury estimated that sexual violence directly cost the economy $1.2 billion in 2003-2004).
One in four girls, one in seven boys, one in two trans, and one in twelve women are likely to be victims of sexual abuse in this country. We all lose when they are not offered the support they need. It’s a financial and moral no-brainer.
Jan Logie MP
Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand
Bowen House, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160
Whare Pāremata, Te Whanganui-ā-Tara 6160
T Waea: (04) 817 6902
E Imera: firstname.lastname@example.org
W Pae Tukutuku: greens.org.nz
Authorised by Jan Logie, Parliament Buildings, Wellington