In Part One, I critiqued the government’s domestic violence justice reforms. However, we will not get the results that we need unless we take a whole of society/government response to this problem. The justice system is an essential component of our response to domestic violence but it is only one part of the puzzle. As just one small example of other things we need to get right, let’s look at accommodation.
“New” money for refuges
The Government recently announced that $200k a year from emergency housing fund will go towards refuges. Sadly, $200k works out at $250 per woman or around $3,500 per refuge in NZ. Most refuges in Aotearoa are swamped by demand. I heard just today of one refuge having to turn away more women and children than they are able to work with. This is solely down to lack of resource and will not be fixed by that little bit of money.
There’s been no increase in our core service funding since about 2008 and all of the reforms which are being signalled as being put in place are requiring more — Dr Ang Jury, CEO of Women’s Refuge
This ‘new money’ is not even for any more places, it is only to fund existing places. Most refuges are already pretty much always full. There is a shortage of affordable private rental houses. Moreover, changes to the Housing NZ criteria and systems mean women and children in refuges are finding it much harder to get into Housing NZ houses.
Yes, the Government has also recently announced a pilot for a house for men who use violence, and I think that’s great, but it is never going to be the complete answer. The funding was comparable to existing funding for refuges which we know is fundamentally inadequate.
If women think they will be homeless or stuck in a refuge with their children for months, there is no doubt this will make many think twice about leaving or calling the police. This situation gives more power to abusers. It is not good enough.
New Zealand does need to do more to address domestic violence, but we need to consider broader changes that affect women. We need to see the whole picture for any changes to be effective. The health and safety of women and children is too important to delay any further.