16 Apr 2014

Counselling groups make funding plea

10:13 pm on 16 April 2014

A Parliamentary inquiry into the funding of specialist sexual violence services has been told the sector is starving and in desperate need of help.

The Social Services Committee heard the situation is so bad that South Auckland's only crisis counselling service may have to close its doors.

South Auckland Counselling Services Centre manager Tania Blomfield told the committee on Wednesday the centre's funding has significantly deteriorated over the past few years.

Ms Blomfield said there is nowhere the centre can cut costs without risking the safety of clients and front line staff.

Funds available through grants and trusts have decreased and the centre has had to invest a significant amount of money in upgrading its IT systems because its server crashed, she said.

"We cannot sustain more than another year before we look towards closing our doors."

Rape crisis representative Andrea Black said specialist services need better Government help.

"The sector is starving, we are distressed, we are being divided and (are) absolutely beside ourselves. We need help," she told MPs.

Rape survivor Louise Nicholas said there is very little in the way of specialist support for victims. Nothing has changed since she went looking for help 30 years ago and did not know who to turn to, she said.

Christchurch-based sexual violence agency manager Maggie Tai Rakena from START told the inquiry the Government's funding model has left many agencies seriously under-resourced. She said in some parts of New Zealand, children who are raped have no recovery services.

Ms Tai Rakena said the sector should be funded similar to an Accident and Emergency department in a hospital.

Social Services Minister Paula Bennett said she is sympathetic to the situation sexual violence services find themselves in.

The inquiry has been told that this year's Budget should allocate more funding to specialist sexual violence services.