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Families in Need Face Further Blow

18 July 2011

Families in Need Face Further Blow

Families with a child on the Autism Spectrum will now face an even more difficult time as Autism New Zealand Chief Executive, Alison Molloy, announced over the weekend that cuts have been made to staffing numbers and the Waikato branch of the organisation has been closed.

The redundancies, which affect Field Workers and branch administrators as well as National Office staff, will leave many on the Autism Spectrum and their families, with even less support than they currently have. Ms Molloy said that the cuts came as a result of years of systemic underfunding for services supporting people with autism and their families. She added that every effort was being made to prevent further branch closures and subsequent front-line job losses but that this possibility could not be excluded unless additional funding can be found.

Autism New Zealand works with families, schools and professionals throughout New Zealand who are affected by Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. Ten of their 16 regional branches have staff, mostly part-time, working directly with families and community organisations to support those on the Autism Spectrum.

During the last two years demand for Autism NZ’s services has grown as the rates of diagnosis have increased but overall funding received from Government has been cut by a third. “To ensure that Autism New Zealand can continue to offer support and information to those who need it for years to come we are having to make some tough decisions and the reduction in funding has to be matched by a reduction in outgoings and unfortunately our biggest cost is staff”, said Ms Molloy. “It is the cost to our society that concerns me.”

Ms Molloy said, “Despite John Key’s statement on 8 February that he ‘wants New Zealand to be a country that does all it can to give children the opportunity to succeed’ his words are not being supported by actions. The loss of services in local areas is likely to lead to, amongst other things, increased family violence, children being excluded from the education system and extreme stress on the part of parents and community members. Ultimately this will cost the community much more in social and dollar terms than the funds we need to keep operating.”

“We have been working hard to secure other funding sources and have been well supported by our donors and non-government funders but these have not been able to make up for the reduction in funding from Government.” said Ms Molloy, “We are determined to get through this and to continue to support those most in need in our community.

We must ask why Government departments and policy makers do not accept a cross agency responsibility for the 40,000 people on the Autism Spectrum in New Zealand given it’s serious social, health, employment and justice implications on them and our society? The Government’s seemingly endless reviews of services are taking time and money and not providing a real answer for the families in need of help now.”

ENDS

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