Support the Guardian

Available for everyone, funded by readers

Local role to go amid family violence cuts

Local role to go amid family violence cuts
Rangitata MP James Meager, left, Safe Families coordinator Anna Arrowsmith, Ashburton Community Alcohol and Drug Service health promoter Andrae Gold, and Safer Ashburton general manager Kevin Clifford met recently to discuss planned funding cuts. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The axing of a local family violence coordinator is yet another example of people in Wellington taking away services from local communities, it has been claimed, amid a major funding slash.

More than 30 family violence coordinators across the country are set to lose their jobs next year, after the Ministry of Social Development confirmed in September their contracts will end on June 30.

In Ashburton that means the part-time role held by Anna Arrowsmith and delivered under the Safer Mid Canterbury umbrella will be scrapped after 16 years.

Service providers have been told there will be five regional leads put in place across the country instead. When asked what areas those leads would cover, the ministry said no decisions had been made yet.

Arrowsmith, who has held the role for nearly a decade, said a huge amount of local knowledge and connection will be lost.

"We link in with different significant stuff and bring campaigns locally to suit our community.

"What the coordinator could be doing in South Auckland for their community is completely different to what I do for our community.

"Because I've been in the job for so long, I'm so well connected with everyone. That's not just me, when I talk to the other coordinators and they say what they're doing, I'm so blown away."

As well as organising events, campaigns such as White Ribbon, and training, Arrowsmith is also a point of contact for people in the community who don't know where to turn.

"People will ring and say 'this is my situation, where do I get my guidance from'? Because if you don't have that central point....they get really overwhelmed and lost in the system."

The Guardian asked the ministry if there would be a loss of local knowledge, connection and services after the roles were scrapped.

Safe Strong Families and Communities general manager Mark Henderson said there are other services which cover the Ashburton community that will continue to be available and accessible, including the 24-hour crisis line operated by Women’s Refuge and funded by the ministry.

Arrowsmith said Women's Refuge did a great job helping people leave unsafe situations - but some people just weren't ready for that yet.

Safer Mid Canterbury general manager Kevin Clifford said because the contract was on a 'year on year' basis, it had always had a little bit of uncertainty.

"But we've had the contract for 16 years so it's something that's well established in the community.

"Over the last few years there's been talk of maybe not continuing it, but it's always been continued. This is the first time there's been a proposal."

That proposal was presented in September.

"It unfortunately seems to us that a group of people in a national setting have sat around a table and convinced themselves that it's a better way to do things, than have people in the community with local connections making a local difference.

"They'll come to town, they'll have a consultation, they'll invite people, we'll all go, they'll say nice things, and we'll never hear from them again. It happens again and again and again."

He and Arrowsmith believed if there were five regional leads, the South Island might get one or two in total.

A document detailing feedback from consultation on the proposal, obtained by the Guardian, is scathing.

It included concerns about the impact on local communities, a loss of local connection and knowledge, and that it was a "top down model which serves government not communities".

Issues around rural and remote areas being missed within a regional approach, and a lack of clarity about how the new model would work on the ground, were also highlighted.

Positive feedback was noted around the potential for better information sharing with government, and more consistency.

Arrowsmith, Clifford, and Ashburton Community Alcohol and Drug Service health promoter Andrae Gold met with Rangitata MP James Meager recently to ask him to advocate for the continuation of the service.

He said he shared their concerns about "yet more vital services being removed from the regions".

"I’ll be speaking with the relevant Ministers to make sure they are aware of the proposed cuts and will be advocating my support for any programmes that demonstrate reductions in family violence, offending, and harm to children and families.

"We can also step up as a community. Commit yourself to not be a perpetrator of violence, and if you see family harm, intervene and get people the help that they need. And give generously to organisations like White Ribbon, whether that’s with your time or your cash."

By Daisy Hudson