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Centre Puzzles over Free phone Surge

19 November 2004

Centre Puzzles over Free phone Surge

Last Monday saw an inexplicable surge in the numbers of people calling the national free phone run by the Barnardos FAIR Centre in Wellington.

The free phone clocked 50 calls, almost double the daily average.

“There was no one issue that dominated,” says FAIR Centre Acting Manager, Darion Webber. “The calls ranged widely from people seeking information on issues such as benefits, family law, and local support services to those seeking advice about child support and custody issues.”

Over the rest of the week the calls returned to the average rate for this time of year and that rate has persisted to today.

“However, we expect the calls will pick up again from now,” says Darion, “as people try and sort issues out before the Christmas break.” The FAIR Centre was set up ten years ago to provide families, whânau, and those helping them with accessible, accurate, and reliable information on issues such as benefits, family law and local community services.

“We’re not a counselling line,” Darion stresses, “but the information we have at our fingertips can really make a huge difference to a caller seeking help. We have a vast computer database of community services around the country, which means we can help the caller from Kaitaia looking for parenting courses as easily as the caller from Greymouth seeking respite care.”

Darion is one of four paid staff and two volunteers who take turns answering the free phone, which operates from 9.00am to 5.00pm weekdays.

As well as the free phone, the FAIR Centre team produces up-to-date information sheets on a range of issues affecting families – everything from custody and access, help for teen mums and dads, options for early childhood education, tips on babysitting, to information on family income to how to challenge decisions and complain to organisations. The sheets are distributed to 750 subscribers around the country, including organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau, IHC and Plunket.

The FAIR Centre also produces occasional publications. The latest was “Children and young people in New Zealand: Key Statistical Indicators” - a comprehensive profile of the country’s children and young people featuring the statistics and trends in critical issues affecting them.

The FAIR Centre national free phone line is 0800 222 345, open Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm

Barnardos also runs Parent Help Line — a counselling free phone service for parents, covering the greater Auckland region. Its free phone number is 0800 4 PARENT (0800 4727 368)


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