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Helpline deserves assurances

Carmel Sepuloni
Spokesperson for Victims Rights

15 December 2011

Helpline deserves assurances

A sexual abuse helpline in Auckland could be forced to close next month despite Social Development Minister Paula Bennett being warned that funding was exhausted, says Labour’s spokesperson for Victims Rights Carmel Sepuloni.

“The lack of commitment to fund the service demonstrates a blatant disregard by National for victims of sexual abuse and of their safety and wellbeing,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“The 24/7 Auckland Sexual Abuse Helpline, which takes over 10,000 calls per year, was promised in 2009 by Simon Power, that sustainable funding would be allocated. Two years on, the helpline is still waiting for that funding so it can continue to offer a valuable service.

“Last year New Zealanders suffered a 12.4 per cent increase in sexual violence. This service is necessary and unique, but unfortunately it is being neglected by this government.

“The organisation’s management wrote to Paula Bennett in October this year outlining their concerns over the lack of funding and the absence of the government’s promised ‘long-term solution.

“Paula Bennett took more than a month to respond, initially passing the buck to the Ministry of Health, and then citing ‘diary pressures’ as an excuse to side-line the issue. Now, the Minister is reported to have asked an advisory panel to report back in June on all sexual abuse services.

“This is just another stalling mechanism. Paula Bennett is an MP based in Auckland. She is the spokesperson for Social Development,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“These are issues central to her position in Parliament, and for which she is directly responsible. While an advisory panel might resemble progress, we cannot mistake motion for movement in such a vital area as victims’ rights.

“Today I have called on Auckland-based MPs from across the political spectrum to work constructively to ensure this service remains operational and resourced,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

ENDS

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