Staff slashed as social group faces crisis

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012
Pam Bassett and Stephanie Walden
Gone but not forgotten: Former HRC Family Counselling Services staff Pam Bassett and Stephanie Walden contemplate an uncertain future.

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South and central Taranaki's fight against domestic violence has been put further on the back foot because of a cash crisis.

HRC Family Counselling Services has announced it will axe five of its eight employees and drop all of its frontline services after failing to secure funding for next year.

Three staff will remain to handle Child, Youth and Family contracts, which includes the safe house, but its nationally utilised 24/7 crisis line, social support and crisis work will all be scrapped.

The organisation has run the crisis line since 2002, giving information, advice and support to victims of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence in Taranaki and around New Zealand.

The latest cuts have come after the organisation had already reduced its services across the board earlier this year in an effort to save money.

The decision was made by the centre's board of governance and comes into effect from December 14.

Founding member Pam Bassett, who is now hunting for a job, said both staff and the board were "absolutely gutted".

"We totally believe in the work that we do and we believe we are making a difference," she said. "To have to walk away from that is heart-breaking.

"HRC has over the last 14 years tried, and I think succeeded, to provide services which meet the needs of South Taranaki," Ms Bassett said.

"It saddens us that all that is no longer possible."

Ms Bassett said funding from all sectors, including government agencies, was drying up as similar groups all fought for the same limited funds.

HRC social worker Stephanie Walden said she was personally and professionally devastated.

"To go from being the person who assists and supports people to have to ask for support is so hard."

She feared for her family's future because her partner had resigned from his job two weeks ago.

She hoped the skeleton staff could keep the organisation ticking over until they could apply for funding in 2014.

South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop said it was a concerning development for the community.

"HRC help some of the most vulnerable citizens in our community and it is very worrying to think that support for victims of family violence, and other violence particularly against women, is going to be reduced.

"I will be discussing this with [Whanganui MP] Chester Borrows."

Acting rural Taranaki family violence prevention co-ordinator Sergeant Simon Howard said there was now a risk those who preferred not to deal directly with police could fall through the cracks.

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"We lose a big community partner that helped prevent domestic violence."

The organisation has been instrumental in exposing domestic violence issues across all areas of society.

Earlier this year, it successfully campaigned to keep a Fijian-Indian woman in the country after she left her abusive husband, helping prompt a law review.

Then in September, it unearthed the scale of abuse in south and central Taranaki with its Poll 400 project which is now defunct.

The raw data revealed staff attended more than two domestic violence incidents a day during a nine-month period.

- Taranaki Daily News

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