The Government’s closure of Relationships Aotearoa creates a worrying gap in the provision of specialist counselling services to Maori and domestic violence victims and perpetrators, the Green Party said today.
“By shutting down Relationships Aotearoa, the Government is shutting down years of highly specialised knowledge and experience, which has made a real and positive difference to thousands of New Zealanders,” said Green Party women’s issues spokesperson Jan Logie.
“Relationships Aotearoa was New Zealand’s largest provider of counselling – a national, secular, community-based organisation with a reach into some of our smallest communities that cannot be replicated.
“We share the concerns of RA’s Cary Hayward that the four providers named so far by the Government to take over the work done by Relationships Aotearoa may not have the capacity or experience to give the kind of help that’s needed, particularly among Maori and domestic violence victims and perpetrators.
“Relationships Aotearoa provided a Maori for Maori service, to assist Maori in a culturally sensitive way; it’s thought that none of the new providers will be able to do this.
“It’s also concerning that the named providers do not appear to have a lot of experience dealing with domestic violence – one of the core services provided by Relationships Aotearoa.
“We all know domestic violence is a huge problem in New Zealand.
“The Government knows it too, and yet it’s hell-bent on shutting down an organisation that dedicated a lot of time and resource towards addressing it.
“Relationships Aotearoa was doing good work towards assisting families caught up in the domestic abuse cycle – I’d like to know which of the four named new providers will be able to match that work and then build on it.
“If we are to reduce domestic violence and protect women and children we need a full range of services, including intensive therapeutic intervention – something Relationships Aotearoa specialised in and which the new agencies don’t.
“It’s also worth remembering that Lifeline, one of the named new providers, will most likely be undergoing its own restructuring later this year because of Government cuts, with redundancies a possibility.
“This is a Government focused on the short-term bottom line, which puts many of our trusted social services at risk.
“Unfortunately, the closure of Relationships Aotearoa will affect some of our most vulnerable people,” said Ms Logie.