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Funding Cuts Will Be A Major Step Backwards

Jigsaw Warns That Possible Funding Cuts Will Be A Major Step Backwards For Family Violence Prevention

Jigsaw Family Services says a major change being proposed to the way domestic violence services operate across New Zealand will be a huge set back for child abuse prevention.

Jigsaw understands that Associate Social Development Minister Tariana Turia is planning to withdraw funding from the Child Advocates for Child Witnesses of Family Violence Initiative and reallocate it to whanau ora initiatives.

Te Rito coordinators and the “It’s Not Okay” programme are also at risk of being scrapped. Family violence services have not being consulted on the proposal.

Jigsaw, which manages the Child Advocates initiative, says it fully supports the Minister’s existing Whanau ora initiatives but does not believe it should be at the expense of child advocates.

Jigsaw Chief Executive Strategic Operations, Liz Kinley says there are 45 advocates based in local communities who are delivering positive results for children and families, many of whom are Maori.

“Taking away this funding would lead to an escalation of serious risks to children and a diminished capacity within local communities to take action before serious abuse or neglect takes place,” she says.

“It would also mean the loss of expertise, experienced people and important networks,” Liz says. “These services are needed more than ever, especially in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake and the increase in domestic violence cases there.”

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It is a very different role from social workers in that child advocates work on prevention and by educating people on the impacts of family violence on children and how to respond.

“The advocates also help to link services and organisations with a clear focus on ensuring that children are kept safe and looked after,” she says.

“This is a vital role that is proactive and preventative,” Liz Kinley says. “Most front line workers don’t have the time, skills or capacity to focus on early intervention work.”

Additional information:

The annual cost of the Child Advocates for Child Witnesses of Family Violence Initiative is $4.1million.

There are 45 advocates throughout the country, hosted by local service providers. 22 advocates are Maori or Pacific.

The roles were created in 2005 after the 2001 murders of Masterton sisters Olympia Jetson and Saliel Aplin by their mother’s partner Bruce Howse. An inquiry into the murders showed there was a need to have a specific focus on the safety of children and for social services to communicate and share information more effectively, so that at-risk children wouldn’t slip through the cracks.

Advocates aim to make sure children are safe in any family where domestic violence is reported.

Part of their role is to connect a wide range of community organisations and services to protect children and provide education about what family violence is and how to prevent it.

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