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Costly helpline should go

Judith Collins MP National Party Families Spokeswoman

25 May 2006

Costly helpline should go

A costly community helpline being piloted in the Bay of Plenty is a waste of money and should go, says National's Families spokeswoman, Judith Collins.

In Parliament today, Ms Collins questioned the Social Development Minister on the pilot 211 Community Helpline, which is answering an average of just 36 calls a day, at a staggering cost of $52 a call.

Ms Collins says the helpline clearly duplicates the service provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau.

"In fact, according to Labour Minister Mahara Okeroa on behalf of the Social Development Minister, the people running the helpline have forwarded a large number of calls to Bay of Plenty Citizens Advice offices because they can't answer the queries themselves.

"Taxpayers are paying $52 a call for the helpline to simply forward its calls to Citizens Advice to answer!

"How can Mr Okeroa possibly describe this as an efficient use of taxpayers' money?

"Citizens Advice already handles 600,000 inquiries a year and receives $805,000 a year in government funding - that's $1.34 per inquiry.

"Labour should stop trying to twist the facts and face up to reality - the 211 Community Helpline is not extensively used, it is incredibly expensive and it duplicates a very good service already being offered by Citizens Advice," says Ms Collins.

ENDS

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