Group seeks unity on partner violence

Last updated 12:00 21/07/2014

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The Government's top-down policies are failing on domestic abuse, says a new report which calls for a national agency and regional hubs, writes Caleb Harris.

New Zealand must stop "wringing its hands" about an $8 billion domestic violence problem, and start fixing it, former Glenn Inquiry director Ruth Herbert says.

Herbert's Impact Collective, which she founded after splitting from Glenn's group last year, releases its 155-page model today for solving the horrific "epidemic", entitled The Way Forward - an Integrated System for Intimate Partner Violence and Child Abuse and Neglect in New Zealand.

The report, written by Herbert and Deborah Mackenzie, calculates this violence and abuse costs every New Zealander $1833 annually, for a total of $8.3b - more than the annual value of the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries combined.

Denouncing a current approach to domestic violence as being in "overwhelming disarray . . . broken, fragmented, inconsistent, has gaps and overlaps and no infrastructure", The Way Forward proposes a new integrated model with a national "backbone agency" and 32 regional hubs, starting with a pilot in Wairarapa.

The report says these types of violence are serious, pervasive, prevalent, and under-reported in New Zealand, which consistently ranks worst among comparable countries in addressing domestic violence.

It argues domestic violence and child abuse "snowball" into myriad other violence, health and social issues, and said the Government's failed, top-down response excludes crucial grassroots expertise, as well as being hopelessly overstretched.

But Herbert said the report, which references other recent reports on the issue, was primarily about proposing a solution. "We've got lots and lots of great people working their hearts out day after day with [domestic violence] survivors and offenders at the frontline."

She said the call for an Integrated System model was based on what most other comparable countries were finding successful. Rather than a strategy or a new service initiative, it was the "chassis" on which improvement could occur.

The report also outlines what Herbert calls a "very robust" economic assessment of what partner violence and child abuse cost the country annually, as well as a long-term business case for implementing an improved model.

"There have been umpteen reports, we know we've got a problem . . . these issues have taken generations to create and there's no way we're going to address them in one political term or even three political terms."

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said any work providing a greater understanding of the complex issues around family violence and child abuse was welcome. "I agree we need a much better integrated approach to addressing family violence, which is why we've got officials right now looking at the effectiveness of the $70 million we spend on family violence services and advise on ways to improve the integration of services and support."

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle also welcomed the report's contribution. "The Way Forward is a comprehensive report that requires careful consideration and that work is underway."

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the Government had recently announced plans to address the high rate of family violence. "However, we always remain open to new ways we can improve the justice system for New Zealanders and offer better protections and rights for victims."

She had received the report but would seek advice from staff before commenting in detail.


- The Dominion Post


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