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Victims' Service Needs Immediate Govt Help

16 March 2004

Critical Victims' Service Needs Immediate Govt Help

The Green Party is calling on the government to live up to the intent of its recently released 'Action Plan for NZ Women' and immediately assist a threatened Auckland sexual abuse crisis centre.

The Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP foundation handed redundancy notices to 20 staff last Monday - International Women's Day. The notices will take effect within three weeks if more government funding is not quickly provided.

"HELP is not a luxury or an add-on, its an essential crisis service," said Ms Bradford, the Green Spokesperson on Social Services and the Community and Voluntary Sector, "It is demoralising that such an important organisation is struggling to stay open".

HELP was set up in 1982 at the instigation of the Police Surgeon to provide appropriate first-contact services to victims of sexual violence. The centre's co-ordinator said last week it had been carrying a deficit for some years and was now no longer financially viable without more substantive and coordinated government assistance. Ms Bradford has been a supporter of HELP since it first opened.

Ms Bradford is calling on Ruth Dyson, the Minister of Women's Affairs and ACC and Associate Minister of Health and Child Youth & Family, to provide HELP with a 'whole of government' response.

"Ms Dyson and her government should immediately save HELP from closure and then sit down with them to discuss a sustainable, simple and ongoing funding solution.

"This government has made a commitment to New Zealand women with its recently released Action Plan and through its efforts to update the law around rape and incest via the Crime Amendment Bill (No. 2). It has also said it wants to maintain better relations with the voluntary sector and to treat agencies doing critical work in a respectful and appropriate manner. These are all initiatives that the Green Party warmly welcomes.

"However, the situation with HELP is a good example of the government not working in a timely way to ensure the sustainability of an essential community service. HELP has worked hard to secure funding from many sources, but as a critical community service it should not have its volunteers constantly diverted by the search for money or the risk of closure.

The HELP service last year took 5000 crisis calls and helped 280 victims during police procedures, almost 200 of who were aged 14-25.

"As a society we cannot afford to abandon the young victims of rape and abuse," said Ms Bradford.

ENDS

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