Cash-strapped but undaunted

Service goes beyond budget worries

FLORENCE KERR
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2014
Ruahine Albert
SHANE MORTON/Fairfax NZ
RUAHINE ALBERT: Te Whakaruruhau Women's Refuge manager, pictured in 2011.

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Te Whakaruruhau Women's Refuge crisis team consistently runs a debt ensuring that women and children in abusive situations can be provided a refuge from their suffering.

However, it is a debt it has no regrets accumulating, as long as the women and children are safe.

Refuge manager Ruahine Albert recalls a time when she worked in the refuge crisis team. That night she was tasked with saving a woman and her children from a viciously abusive husband.

"We were ready to leave when we were met by him holding an axe."

Albert put the woman and her children behind her as she negotiated with the man.

"We got them out eventually. That's our main focus, getting the children and women living with abuse out of that situation, nothing more, nothing less."

Working in hazardous situations is part and parcel of the crisis service provided by the refuge, a job that pays little to nothing.

Albert said the members of the crisis team, eight women, are not paid what they are worth.

"The . . . current employee pay rates fail to capture the intensive and at times emotional work that is carried out by our advocates. Our workers see and experience the extreme manifestations of violence and oppression in the form of physical, psychological, sexual and emotional abuse throughout their daily lives," Albert said.

The service has a deep shortfall in the amount of funding provided by the Ministry of Social Development. "The cost to run the crisis team is $357,816 annually; we have a shortfall of $254,877, which means only 29 per cent of our service is funded."

Annually the service provides refuge for about 7000 women and children in the Hamilton area. Of that figure 3756 women were saved by the crisis team.

"We will manage - we have to, there are women and children who depend on us to.

"This is an issue that central Government need to look at.

"We can't blame the different agencies, they are only following policy put in place by those at the table."

Albert said the service would not be cut, even though funding at times is scarce. "We are supported by local groups in Hamilton that have helped ease the financial burden."

The service also uses volunteers who help maintain additional shifts and maintenance that the refuge would otherwise struggle to maintain.

Te Whakaruruhau has been providing essential crisis response services in Hamilton for families for 28 years.

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CRISIS SERVICE: WHAT THEY DO

The service maintains a 24/7 crisis service - in serious situations they retrieve women and children from their home alongside police.

They do the initial screening and safety assessment with the families.

They also provide information and advice to victims, whanau and external social service agencies.

The team attends police line ups and carries out safety checks to all safe houses and whanau homes.

- Waikato Times

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