I’m really pleased to see Paula Bennett’s announcement that she will increase funding to the Auckland Sexual Abuse Help Foundation (HELP) by $190,000 per annum.
It was less than a year ago they were being told they would have to cut their 24 hours phone line because of a $200,000 funding shortfall. It is great that finally a Minister has taken responsibility and is starting to recognise the importance of specialist services for the survivors in Auckland.
I want to celebrate this as what I hope it is a tide change. I would note though that the cost of one incident of sexual abuse is over $70,000 so in the scheme of things $190,000 will probably save this government a significant amount. Specialist services are the place where social and cultural change is most likely to be developed and lead from. To under fund specialist services is to condemn ourselves to the on-going social and economic costs of high rates of sexual abuse. Funding is not a favour it’s a good investment.
Too many people in New Zealand are abused – one in three girls and one in eight boys are likely to experience sexual abuse and reporting rates are increasing.
Reporting is increasing and we need the services to be there so everyone can get the right help.
Services in provincial areas are running on much tighter margins and many are cutting back services. People in Thames have to go to Hamilton for specialist support. There are only four hours available to all the male survivors in Otago a week. People with disabilities, the group most vulnerable to sexual abuse, have no specialist services.
Strong leadership and sustainable funding are desperately needed right across the country.
Apart from personal anguish the costs of sexual abuse have been estimated at over $2 billion and funding to tackle this issue would be money well spent.
At the moment funding comes from a wide range of different ministries and the community, with no security or single body in control. Paula Bennett needs to keep up the momentum and get a comprehensive cross-sectoral review happening to ensure everyone gets the right help.
In recognition of the size of the problem and urgency I’ve been leading a campaign for extra funding on Facebook and with postcards – ‘everyone needs the rights help’. You can go to our Facebook page and order postcards and join us to keep the pressure on government.