17 May 2019

Budget funds tipped for scheme tackling family violence

10:04 am on 17 May 2019

A major anti-family violence pilot programme is expected to get the green light for more funding at a pre-Budget announcement on Sunday.

Abandoned sad wife with wedding ring, s

Photo: 123RF

A three-year police-led pilot - known as Integrated Safety Response - concludes at the end of June and police and women's refuges are calling for it to be extended.

Responsible government ministers declined to confirm whether the scheme would be renewed, citing the closeness of this year's Budget.

But RNZ understands a domestic violence funding announcement is set for Sunday which will address the programme.

Integrated Safety Response (ISR) was set up in Christchurch and Hamilton by the former National government in 2016.

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This chart summarises how the programme works. Photo: Screenshot / NZ Police

Under ISR, every family violence call to police is referred to a team of government agencies which share information, assess risk and then set up a safety plan.

Speaking to RNZ, ISR director Leanne McSkimming said the multi-million dollar programme was worth every cent.

"If we share information, if we wrap-round and support all parties in a family and whānau in a collectivised way, we can actually save lives."

Ms McSkimming said there had been just two family violence homicides in Canterbury since the pilot began - down from an average of two or three a year.

"I know the difference that it has made for our community and definitely want to see it continued... I know the difference we're making in people's lives."

The Battered Women's Trust chief executive Lois Herbert said ISR was making a real difference in Christchurch.

"One of our fairly long-term clients... said to us just recently that the big change for her [is] when she picks up the phone and calls the police, she knows something will happen, not just for her, but for, and to, her partner."

Ms Herbert said the trust's safe house was empty over the last Christmas/ New Year break for the first time during her 15 years in charge.

National MP Chris Bishop said his party was very proud of the ISR pilot and he hoped the government would expand it into other centres.

"We know that family violence is a scourge right around the country and... where there are people on the ground willing to get involved and work in a collaborative and multi-agency way, then they absolutely should have the opportunity to do that.

"It just needs the government to step up with the money."

A spokesperson for Police Minister Stuart Nash declined to comment, citing the closeness of this year's Budget.

Green MP Jan Logie - who is the government's point person on domestic violence issues - also refused to confirm whether the programme would get more funding but issued a positive statement.

"The ISR pilots in Waikato and Christchurch have delivered really promising results," she said. "People affected by family violence are feeling safer and experiencing improved wellbeing."

Police confirmed an interim report on the ISR pilot was due out on Sunday.

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