26 Dec 2012

Refuge overloads a worry for volunteers' health

3:23 pm on 26 December 2012

The head of Women's Refuge says she is increasingly worried about the workload placed on refuge volunteers.

Heather Henare says that during 2012 workers answered nearly three times the number of crisis calls for which the organisation is funded, and handled more than 10 times the number of police calls to visit and help victims of family violence.

She says the refuge used to help one woman every nine minutes - now it is one every six minutes, and the burden on workers is becoming intolerable.

"More and more, our refuge workers are put at risk, and our refuge workers are burned out," she says.

"We have limited resources ... women are working ridiculous hours".

"They do refuge work during the day and then a good 50% of them will then go home and work crisis lines all night," says Ms Henare.

Ms Henare says she worries about how that workload is affecting workers' health.

Nationally, Womens Refuge answered 80,000 calls. It is funded for 29,000 crisis calls and 2500 personal visits to women, but made 10 times that number.

The Salvation Army is in a similar situation.

The Mangere Budgeting Service says it worked with 2000 families - it is funded to work with 300.

All three services believe 2013 will bring no reduction in demand for their help.