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$52 a call for tax funded helpline

Judith Collins MP National Party Families Spokeswoman

23 May 2006

$52 a call for tax funded helpline

National Party Families spokeswoman Judith Collins is calling on Labour to reconcile its decision to hang up on PlunketLine while continuing to fund a tax-funded Helpline service to the tune of $52 a call.

"Hardly anyone is using it. Meanwhile Plunket's hugely popular service is being shut down because the Prime Minister says it is inefficient."

Ms Collins is referring to answers to parliamentary questions which show the 211 Community Helpline is answering 36 calls per day on average.

"There are 12 employees working shifts between 8am and 9pm, and on average they are answering only three calls a day.

"With a budget of $538,370 in the nine months to April, each call the helpline answers is costing the taxpayer $52. That is an extraordinary amount to be spending on a phone line that handles very few inquiries and duplicates other services."

The Community Helpline is being piloted in the Bay of Plenty. According to publicity material it aims to 'help families and communities access social services by providing a portal to a wide range of support. This includes areas of a personal nature such as parenting, family support, disabilities, child behaviour, counselling, relationships and family violence'.

"Why, on the basis of all the evidence, has Labour moved to extend the pilot programme three times?

"And how can Labour justify the existence of a service which effectively duplicates the work already being done by the Citizens Advice Bureau?

"If Labour was really serious about roping in extravagant waste, this pilot programme would have been among the first for the chop," says Ms Collins.

ENDS

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