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Benson-Pope: Tolley and Ryall make the wrong call

11 July 2006

Benson-Pope: Tolley and Ryall make the wrong call

National MPs Anne Tolley and Tony Ryall had "made the wrong call" in their criticism of the Government's 211 Family Helpline pilot, Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope said today.

"Mrs Tolley and Mr Ryall appear to have misunderstood what the 211 Family Helpline is actually doing", Mr Benson-Pope said. "They need to spend more time talking to their constituents, and not tilting at windmills".

The 211 Family Helpline, developed in consultation with social service NGOs, uses trained counsellors offering support to families, including referral to early intervention services. Early intervention is a key part of this year's Budget initiatives for families.

Mr Benson-Pope said, "The 211 Family Helpline received almost 17,500 calls in the period from March 05 to June 06. Ninetythree percent of people questioned in an independent market survey considered there was a need for a service. Clearly, there's a demonstrable need, and the 211 Family Helpline is meeting that need".

It was important to remember that the 211 Family Helpline was currently a pilot service, Mr Benson-Pope said. "It would not be prudent to launch this service nationally without a rigorous pilot. If and when the 211 Family Helpline is rolled out as a national service, the cost of each phone call will reduce to around $5.

"Mrs Tolley and Mr Ryall are trying to imply that the costs of a national service would be the same as the costs of the pilot. If they applied this strange logic to business start-ups, there would be no new business in New Zealand", he said.

Mr Benson-Pope also disputed the MPs' claims that the 211 Family Helpline and the CAB phoneline were 'rivals' and 'in competition'. "The two services are complementary," Mr Benson-Pope said. " Bay of Plenty constituents clearly see the different focus and complementary nature of each service".

Mr Benson-Pope said there was plenty of information available that would help clear up Mrs Tolley's and Mr Ryall's confusion. "I'm more than happy to clarify things for them – they just need to ask".

ENDS

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