5 Jul 2017

Women's centre funding 'whisked away'

12:33 pm on 5 July 2017

Thousands of people may lose support after two women's centres lost government funding, the centres say.

A young woman - sad or upset - sits on a bench with her head in her hands.

Photo: 123RF

The Auckland Women's Centre, which has provided support services to tens of thousands of women since 1975, has been forced to turn to the community for support after a massive cut to its funding.

It supports about 4000 women including those suffering abuse, eating disorders, health issues and those needing parenting support.

It was receiving $100,000 from government a year but as of this month it will not get anything.

The Ministry of Social Development last year began transferring about $11.3 million in funding from some community organisations to programmes meeting Whānau Ora outcomes, which target the most vulnerable communities including Māori and Pasifika.

It said contracts that did not meet this requirement would not be renewed - and the Auckland Women's Centre has missed out as result.

The centre's manager, Leonie Morris, said the ministry has not explained what it needed to do to keep that $30,000 in funding.

"It doesn't make any sense - it's completely inefficient to take money from one project that is producing good outcomes to give to another project.

"We fully support Whānau Ora, but there should be other ways for the government to find money to fund it."

The centre's parenting support funding, which supports 600 low-income families including 300 who are Māori and Pasifika, has also been cut.

"We were doing good work, which they acknowledged, and we had expertise working with single mums," Ms Morris said.

That funding - worth $70,000 - has now been "whisked away", she said.

The ministry said they were giving parenting support funding to other groups who were yet to receive support and would try new ideas with vulnerable parents.

The Auckland Women's Centre said it was calling for a dedicated women's fund to ensure women were supported.

New Plymouth centre also worried about future

The New Plymouth Women's Centre is also facing a funding loss, of $18,000.

Administrator Caroline Walsh said while it was not desperate yet, it could be forced to close, leaving about 2500 woman without anywhere to go.

She said government funding has become focused on programmes, instead of services, making it easier for the government to measure outcomes.

"Social outcomes can be interpreted in lots of ways. If someone is hungry and you feed them, is that effective?"

"Or if someone's isolated and feeling sad and they have somewhere to go where they feel safe ... it sounds minor but for those people it can lead to a major event if they don't have something that resembles family."

The Ministry of Social Development said the 2017/18 funding was yet to be confirmed.

Centres fill a gap - woman

One woman, who was in a cycle of physically and emotionally abusive relationships, said she felt like her life was in the gutter, until she was told about the Auckland Women's Centre.

She said the centre fills a gap for those who are not financially equipped to pay for services like therapy.

It enabled her to become a contributing member of society, she said.

"If it weren't for them, I would never have got out of that."

"I may have been a weight on the system. There is more to it than just a place for women to feel supported by other women."

"They're delivering these programmes from a place where they have truly been there - not from behind a medical clipboard"