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Vulnerable families need counselling support

Vulnerable families need counselling support

Vulnerable families and children are increasingly being denied access to much-needed counselling services, the New Zealand Association of Counsellors is warning.

Speaking at the NZAC's annual conference in Napier, president Jonathan Loan said it is unfortunate that government policies are decreasing access to counselling services for those most in need.

He cites as one example the fact that many of society's most vulnerable families now face reduced access to Family Court counselling because of government decisions to cut the number of counselling hours they can access.

Similarly, schools are under-resourced in terms of the ratio of school guidance counsellors to students. They are seeing increasing numbers of students who are dealing with issues ranging from bullying, drug , alcohol and sexual abuse, self-harm, family violence, depression, suicidal tendencies and sexuality.

"Changes to the Family Court mean families undergoing difficult parental separations have greatly reduced access to counselling, which is often vital in traumatic, conflict situations, and it's the children who really end up suffering," Mr Loan said.

"I would urge the government to continue the 30 year tradition of free access to this help for needy families."

Mr Loan also urged Paula Bennett to honour a previous assurance to explore raising the number of counsellors in schools.

"School guidance counsellors are the fence at the top of the cliff for a lot of students who need support, but too often we end up being the ambulance at the bottom because of resource constraints that prevent us doing the best job possible for these young adults.

"Investing in counselling as an early intervention initiative for families and children who need help can pay significant dividends in terms of reduced social, financial and health impacts down the track."

The NZAC conference is being held in Napier May 23-26. It addresses the theme of Family and Whanau.


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