13 take up free contraception offer

Only 13 Canterbury women 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 reversible 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 the Depo Provera injection from July, while all women receiving a benefit could take up the offer from October.

The Government set aside more than $1 million for the scheme over four years, but only $7368.29 had been spent on it by the end of last year, with almost half being spent in Canterbury ($3412).

The money went to 35 women across the country, including only 13 from Canterbury. No daughters of beneficiaries had taken advantage of the scheme as of December 31.

The women received an average of $210.52 each to cover the cost of attending a medical appointment and the contraceptive itself, where the cost was not covered by Pharmac or subsidised by a district health board.

Of the 13 Canterbury women who received the funding, eight opted for an intra-uterine device, four opted for an implant and one opted for the three-monthly Depo Provera injection.

Grants are also available for removing specific types of long-term contraceptives, but a Ministry of Social Development spokeswoman told The Press the ministry did not specifically collate information on women applying for that assistance.

Bennett said the cost of contraception was a barrier for some women and the Government was ''just making it available'' for those who wanted extra assistance.

Labour social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said the low number of women taking up the scheme showed it was about ''political posturing'' and not about helping women.

''Paula Bennett reasons the low uptake is due to Work and Income not actively promoting the scheme. I would suggest it's because women are being asked to stump up hundreds of dollars in some cases, then take the invoice to Work and Income to get a refund.''

She believed the scheme should not have involved Work and Income, but should have been based on the Community Services card.

The Press