Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Funding cuts no HELP

The potential loss of the 24 hour crisis line for sexual violence survivors run by Auckland Sexual Abuse Help has been all over the media this week, and the petition asking government to step in and save the service is steadily climbing - and you can still sign it.

I want to look at context here, specifically the context of the last few years and specialist funding for counselling for survivors of sexual violence from ACC.

In October 2009, ACC changed the way it funded counselling for survivors of sexual violence, introducing a number of constraints and barriers they called the "Clinical Pathway." This Pathway was essentially ripped up after a six month review by an independent review team, because it was causing harm without any "legislative or clinical reason." The review came back in September 2010.

This bolt-from-nowhere was introduced without consultation to a sector which we know from the "comprehensive road-map" was already struggling to meet community need. It led to survivors deciding not to even try to go through what ASAH called at the time an "outrageously inhumane" process to access help. It also meant the sexual violence intervention sector, including ASAH, had to mobilise to prove what we already knew - that appropriate, skilled, specialist support and counselling is critical to recovery after sexual violence for many survivors.

Recent information released from ACC under the Official Information Act demonstrates just how disastrous the Clinical Pathway has been - for both survivors and the dangerously underfunded specialist sector which tries to supports them on their way past surviving to thriving.

Numbers of clients dropping from the moment the new Pathway was introduced, continuing after ACC recognised the Pathway was inappropriate and were instructed to make changes to address the problems.

Maybe more relevant to what is happening now for ASAH - and for every agency working in the specialist sexual violence intervention sector - let's look at ACC funding for specialist counselling over the last few years:

Does this bear repeating? In 2009, the Report for the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence said the sexual violence intervention sector needed "urgent and immediate" funding. In 2009, one of the most major funders of this specialist work began slashing funding to that very same sector, and the slashing hasn't stopped even after an independent review order.

So what will our new government do about it? Time to step up and use your mandate for good, Mr Key.

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