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Volunteers at risk under present funding system

Media Release

Monday 22 August 2005

Volunteers at risk under present funding system

The plight of West Coast volunteer advocate Deano Parker who is currently denied any funding highlights the vulnerable situation of the huge number of New Zealanders who give freely of their time and expertise to support those less fortunate than themselves, according to Democrats for Social Credit health spokesman David Tranter. The number of volunteers in New Zealand is commonly reckoned to be around three quarters of a million showing the huge goodwill which exists, but sadly this is not matched by the piecemeal funding system presently existing to cover volunteers’ expenses.

For 4 1/2 years Mr. Parker has officially run an advocacy service in the West Coast’s Buller region. Before that he unofficially advocated on behalf of vulnerable people for a further four years. He covers beneficiary and health issues, youth and DHB patients’ problems. He also deals with employee problems in the workplace. His knowledge is remarkable and shows an infinitely greater understanding of the community's problems than most of the full-time public servants who are supposedly covering his areas of involvement, Mr. Tranter said. In the past Mr. Parker received grants from various sources which covered most of his costs although at times he has dipped deeply into his own pocket to cover shortfalls. However, despite widespread community recognition of his work he has recently been turned down for funding by both the Lottery Grants Board and New Zealand Community Trusts. He is now applying for funding elsewhere but with no guarantee of success and will not be able to sustain his services for long out of his own small income.

The sudden ending of funding raises the question as to whether Mr. Parker's success in advocating for vulnerable people, which has necessarily made him a thorn in the side of organisations such as the West Coast DHB, has caused such disquiet amongst the establishment that the word has gone out to end his funding, Mr. Tranter said. I have no doubt that his success in advocacy with only his expenses paid is an embarrassment to many of the lavishly-resourced, highly paid, so-called professionals who supposedly exist to help vulnerable people.

When government celebrated the International Year of the Volunteer they funded that event to the extent of a pitiful 40 cents per volunteer based on the figure of three quarters of a million volunteers. Now a similar penny-pinching attitude has put a vital social service on the West Coast at risk Mr. Tranter said. With gaping holes in the lavishly funded official help and support bureaucracies it is a crime that Mr. Parker may have to cease his invaluable work because the system has turned its collective back on him. Democrats for Social Credit call for a review of the present piecemeal volunteer funding system so that people running vital and proven services are not put at risk every time their current funding comes to an end.

ENDS

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