Rehab service under threat

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 12:00 22/01/2014

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A Manawatu organisation that helps rehabilitate former prisoners is facing an uncertain future as its national parent body prepares to close at the end of the month.

The Manawatu Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society (Pars) is expected to strike a deal with the Corrections Department that will enable it to carry on but there are concerns about its long-term future.

The national body, Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Trust (Part), had made redundant all of its 30 fulltime staff located around the country, chief executive Jane Hossack said yesterday.

The trust, which had always been separate from its individual societies, had decided to close because it was harder to get funding, she said. "Funding was not meeting the requirements. There was a gap between the funding available and the cost of service delivery."

A Corrections Department spokesman said the department had a contract with the trust, not its individual member societies, one of which was Pars.

"Part will be ceasing operations at the end of January and to ensure prisoners receive the same level of support, the department is negotiating with the local Pars," the spokesman said.

"Corrections and Manawatu Pars are working together to build the capability to undertake this role. A grant will be provided to achieve this.

"Negotiations on the final form of the grant for the local Pars is expected to be finalised soon," he said.

Pars provides support to prisoners, former prisoners and their families, with the aim of reducing recidivism.

Manawatu Pars president Garry Buckman could not be reached for comment.

The situation has caused concern among other groups working in the sector.

Shepherd's Rest Trust is one of the organisations that works with people referred by Manawatu Pars.

"I'm concerned that there's no security for Pars here," said co-ordinator Lew Findlay. He said if funding were not guaranteed for the long term, there was nothing to ensure its future.

If Manawatu Pars were to close at some point, as a result of long-term funding not being assured, "somebody would have to take up the slack", he said.

Palmerston North Salvation Army community ministries manager Kevin Richards said the Salvation Army would be "very concerned" if Manawatu Pars was unable to provide its existing services, as the two organisations worked with many of the same people, and the Salvation Army was already under-resourced and its staff overworked.

"Pars performs specific services such as being an interface between clients and prisons. There are aspects we wouldn't be able to pick up."

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Part was formed in July 2010 after the closure of the 132-year-old New Zealand Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society (NZPARS).

The society shut down after the Government cancelled its contract, with Corrections Minister Judith Collins saying at the time NZPARS head office had "insurmountable" financial issues that were restricted to the national body.

Before Part was formed, individual Pars ran on short-term contracts after NZPARS was closed. Part has offices serving Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch, Marlborough, Nelson, Wellington, Hutt Valley, Manawatu, Whanganui, Turangi, Taranaki, and Hawke's Bay.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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