Low take-up in contraception scheme

Only four women across Marlborough, Nelson and the West Coast have taken advantage of a $1 million scheme providing free long-term contraception for beneficiaries.

Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett announced in last year's budget that free long-acting contraceptives would be made available for beneficiaries and their 16-to-19-year-old daughters.

Teenage beneficiaries were able to get a free implant, intra-uterine device or depo provera injection from July, while all women receiving a benefit could take up the offer from October.

The Government set aside more than $1m for the scheme over four years.

Only $7368.29 had been spent on 35 women across New Zealand by the end of last year, with $1219 spent across Marlborough, Nelson and the West Coast.

A breakdown of the figures for only Marlborough was not available.

Family Planning national medical advisor Christine Roke said the poor uptake was likely because free contraception was already provided to Marlborough women at their Blenheim clinic.

It had provided 65 free implants, through Ministry of Health funding, since May last year.

However, not all women had access to Family Planning clinics making the beneficiary scheme, run through Work and Income, worthwhile, Ms Roke said.

It allowed more women to access subsidised long-acting contraception, she said. "Maybe in Blenheim, it's not needed that much, but in other parts of the country, it might be a boon for women. We don't have Family Planning clinics everywhere."

Women going to their doctor for a long-term contraceptive were likely to pay about $100, she said.

"We are talking about beneficiaries, and their daughters, who have a very low income so finding the money for [long-term contraception] can be very difficult. I've heard of some people paying up to $400."

Of the four beneficiaries who received their contraception grant, two opted for an intra-uterine device and two for an implant. Nobody opted for the three-monthly depo provera injection.

Kaikoura MP Colin King, a National Party MP, said the initiative needed more effective promotion.

Mr King said he planned to raise the issue at the next meeting of the Marlborough Initiative, a group of representatives from government agencies and community groups.

"I think that's a good place to start the discussion," he said. "We need to broaden the network so more people understand what's available. Community service providers need to know about these things so they can communicate them to the people they interact with."

Mr King said four women across Marlborough, Nelson and the West Coast was not a desirable result for the National-led initiative.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said women were quick to adopt new and highly-effective contraceptives if cost was not a barrier for them.

The Marlborough Express