Volunteers restore crisis centre

As rape crisis centres throughout New Zealand struggle under the weight of increased demand and dwindling funds, Hawera's embattled social service is finally bucking the trend.

Last month, it relaunched under the new Summit House Trust banner and is now well on its way to being back in the black.

Trust chairwoman Te Aroha Hohaia said it was important for the community to understand that the same services still existed and that the changes were being made at an internal business management level.

She said it was also a reflection of how far the service had come since it came under severe financial pressure and laid off five staff in December 2012.

"The operating loss was $115,000, the liabilities in March 2013 was around $60,000", she said.

"Our biggest debtor was the IRD for unpaid taxes."

The manager, a cultural adviser and social workers were among those laid off, and the board of trustees walked away, Hohaia said.

She was approached to try to help save the facility and stepped in as chairwoman of a new board.

"Since then we've been very fortunate to get support from a lot of places," she said. Funding grants have helped make cost savings, volunteers have rallied, a new office was found in Hawera's High St, and the debt is almost cleared.

However, it is a painfully different situation in the rest of the country.

Wellington Rape Crisis manager Eleanor Butterworth estimated that about 20 per cent of its staff hours was spent on completing funding applications and reports, but despite their efforts the agency is running on a deficit of up to $100,000 every year.

Butterworth said one in four women and one in eight men had experienced sexual violence, and as the stigma around it was broken down there would be greater demand to plan for.

If the cost of sexual violence were to be reduced - Treasury estimated it cost New Zealand $1.2 billion a year - resources needed to be put into education and prevention, she said.

Abuse and Rape Crisis Support Manawatu manager Ann Kent said some clients had to wait three months for an appointment because the organisation could not keep up with demand.

"Our team is exhausted and frustrated by a lack of resources, but we continue to work hard for the services our clients need."

While in Hawera the aim was to continue providing a safe house, counselling services and anger management courses while also facilitating families to live violence-free lives.

It is working on a new service model that continues to deliver the same services to the community while creating better and more-achievable outcomes. The goal was to live up to their slogan "making it happen".

Summit House is opposite The Warehouse in High St, Hawera.

Taranaki Daily News