Government Kills Relationships Aotearoa

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and her Government has done everything in their power to kill off Relationships Aotearoa (RA). The organisation is the country's largest and most effective provider of professional counselling and relationship education at a time when domestic violence is one of the biggest social issues confronting our country. In 2012 alone there were 90,000 domestic violence incidents reported (240 a day) and these are horrifying statistics considering most incidents go unreported.

The economic costs of supporting the victims and families affected by domestic violence has been estimated at well over $1 billion a year. It would seem logical that any investment in counselling and education would reduce costs in the long term and be worth every cent.

The Government, in its wisdom, has changed the way RA operates and has broken its services into different contracts and tied specific budgets to each. It has also passed on services that were once provided by the Government and were new to the agency. In a 2014 submission to the Productivity Commission RA demonstrated an eagerness to help streamline the social service sector and provide a better service. It also expressed concern at the inefficiencies and costs incurred by the Government's new contracting regime:
  1. Fragmented contracting arrangements increase contract compliance costs, stifle innovation and may not meet the needs of those supported. 
  2. The current contracting environment works against collaboration and diversity – both of which are desirable.
  3. There is an opportunity for Government to invest further in the long term sustainability of the sector. 
Interestingly if we look at the $8 million in funding that RA receives each year, and divide that by the 25,000 people they annually support, it averages out at $320 per person (and probably multiple counselling sessions). If you also consider the costs of infrastructure and staffing and what is involved in the compliance to meet the terms of their contracts, I struggle to see evidence of wasteful spending. The worrying deficit this year that has caused the Government to consider discontinuing funding was $271,000. To put the deficit into perspective it is almost identical to the Minister Tolley's annual salary. The Government is willing to ditch a worthwhile service like RA for what seems to be a relatively small amount, yet plans to spend around $26 Million to explore the possibility of a new national flag. 

The Government has not looked at the social value and relationship outcomes produced by RA, nor provided any analysis of the real costs of delivering the services. It has arbitrarily funded contracts without any idea of what was really involved and has ignored the agency's reasonable concerns. While Solid Energy can get away with losing hundreds of millions, an agency providing a social need will be axed without a second thought. The same happened to Christchurch's Rape Crisis Centre when demand outstripped its funding.

The Government been duplicitous in the way it has presented RA's performance. While Anne Tolley obviously wouldn't say that any money was misused or squandered (it clearly hasn't) she gave the impression that there was unstable management and, despite Government support, poor performance. The truth is that RA has had a load of new responsibilities dumped on it under a problematic contract system and has not been funded appropriately. It has been set up to fail by a bullying autocratic Government and will be shut down for not being able to deliver the impossible.

There is no other provider that can fill the void so the Government has effectively pulled the rug from under the feet of all the struggling families and marginalised them further. Metiria Turei was right to call out Anne Tolley and the National Party for its lack of empathy and three words sum up their current actions: CALLOUS, CRUEL and CALCULATING!


robertguyton said…
bsprout said…
Actually Robert it sounds pretty much like what the Greens generally did and why we used Nation Builder to target our efforts. Considering the general thrust of the campaign generally sidelined us, to increase our vote by 10,000 and hold onto our MPs was probably (on reflection) a pretty reasonable result.

Jennifer Crew said…
This written piece gives fastidious understanding to fix a relationship

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