Editorial: Why reinvent the wheel?

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 04/07/2014

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OPINION: Women's Refuge could read National's just-announced policies on domestic abuse as a slap in the face.

Good ideas they may be, but why bypass the very organisation that is at the heart of dealing with victims? Especially as it is the victims the policy is targeted at?

So, National proposes a home safety service to help those who want to leave violent relationships. But such a service already exists under the Women's Refuge umbrella.

Next, a chief victims adviser, with a suggestion sexual violence advocate Louise Nicholas could be a good option. Nothing against Nicholas, but what about someone from the organisation that has been advising women for 40 years?

Reviewing the 20-year old Domestic Violence Act makes sense, but as Women's Refuge says in a very reserved statement: "We had no warning or consultation around the shape of these, therefore from what little we have seen we have some concerns."

In particular, these concerns are that changes might address the 20-odd per cent of victims who report domestic violence, but what about the 80 per cent who don't? Again, some liaison, people.

The Government wants an intensive case management service to give support to victims. Heaven forbid it be a new branch of government, just give more resources to Women's Refuge.

Women's Refuge gets around $6.4 million from the Government a year. The organisation has long argued it needs more, and in fact complains government money has been cut in the past six years under National.

It raises about $1.5 million itself.

This policy, if implemented, will cost $10 million. Wouldn't it make sense to give a fair chunk of that to Women's Refuge, and just let it get on with doing what it does best?

Other ideas in the policy include mobile safety alarms with GPS for victims (good); a system to warn about a history of violence in partners (very good); increased monitoring of the worst offenders (very, very good); and allowing courts to draw a negative conclusion when an alleged sex offender doesn't give evidence in a trial (excellent).

But for the rest of it, what has Women's Refuge done wrong?

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- The Timaru Herald

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