A well-recognized dynamic in relationships where violence and abuse happens is that the person doing the abusing blames the victim. It’s a vicious cycle, to feel putdown dis-empowered humiliated and then further attacked when you show emotions and express distress about what is happening to you.
Yesterday the Minister for Social Development, Hon. Anne Tolley, expressed concern about the financial management of Relationships Aotearoa in a way that implied that the current financial difficulties were due to their own ineptitude.
This is an agency that since 2012 has had $4.8 million cut off by this National Government, and despite this has managed to continue providing low-cost high quality counselling services to New Zealander’s.
Relationships Aotearoa, previously known as Relationship Services, and prior to that Marriage Guidance, has a long history in our country. Initially set up almost 60 years ago to provide support and counselling to men returning from the Second World War to their wives and families, it has offered counselling and support to couples, families and children since that time.
In 2014 relationship services as it was then known, lost its largest funding stream. The Family Court provision for free couples counselling was cancelled by the National government under the watch of then Minister Judith Collins. Arguably this was the beginning of the end for Relationships Aotearoa. At the time this was protested by many in the health sector and has proved a huge loss to our country. This was a service that enabled any couple in New Zealand experiencing relationship problems to access six sessions of free counselling to assist them to resolve their relationship difficulties and hopefully avoid separation and further conflict.
So how do we understand the Minister coming out yesterday and stating that Relationships Aotearoa’s poor financial performance is due to being badly run, and furthermore that a mysterious “leak” of private information, critical of the board and the organizations management, be leaked to the press while top managers from Relationships Aotearoa are meeting in good faith with the Minister?
Well frankly it’s not only blaming the victim but stabbing them in the back.
And let’s be clear about how much money we’re talking about. Despite a $4.8 million cut in Government funding since 2012, Relationships Aotearoa’s budget deficit last year?
$271, 000 or roughly the annual salary of one Minister for the Crown.
P.S. If you want to express your opposition to the closure of Relationships Aotearoa you might like to sign this online petiton.
The survival of Relationships Aotearoa is critical to the health and well-being of all New Zealanders not just those seeking their help. When we help those in need in our community it helps the whole community. Minister Collins got it wrong when she cut the Family Courts Counselling Scheme. Now Minister Tolley with a track recorc of getting it wrong with Education is repeating history here.
Prior to the cuts to Family Court funded couples counselling, concerned colleagues in Dunedin met with various Members of Parliament to discuss the potential impact of the loss of this funding for those in our community. Michael Woodhouse made it perfectly clear that this government has no interest in attending to ‘private pain’. He denied that as a community, we have any investment in assisting couples in trouble to resolve their issues. He dismissed that the impact of that unhappiness has a significant impact on their children, their children’s schooling, the couple’s work place productivity and the wider community/ communities in which they live.
The six free sessions previously provided, that assisted many couples to turn their despair around, were replaced by one session – and that was only for those who were unable to agree around arrangements for their children. In a stunning example of ‘Orwellian’ speak, the ‘new’ strategy was billed at ‘giving families more choices’. Not surprisingly, there has not been a big uptake for what remained of a once effective provision – but the Minister can present this as evidence of the success of the policy.
Relationship Services has limped on, providing almost the only low cost service for couples in distress, other services having already been forced to retrench. This and other services deserve support, not criticism.
This cynical neglect of genuine need in our communities – the true cost of which will only be shown in generations to come – saves funds for where they are ‘truly needed’ – more motorways for Auckland perhaps?
( I am not and have never been an employee of RS or linked to the organisation in any way).
Well said Marianne. Political sociopathy in action.
Kyle, good to see you addressing these issues, and making your thoughts available to the public!
Excellent follow up of this debacle Kyle. Of course there are sources for funding to continue. One would be the Ministry of Social Development’s recent contract with a private consultancy organisation to address what is claimed to be a lack of understanding amongst staff regarding their corporate values. $540,000 has been set aside to achieve this through a behavioural change method that allocates colours to different value preferences. There are other examples. In light of a value review in MSD it is interesting that the codes of ethics for counsellors and psychotherapists employed by Relationships Aotearoa have been ignored in the transition plan. Completion of a counselling relationship must be managed with great care according to those codes. RA’s clients could lodge a complaint with the Health and Disability Commissoner on the grounds that their counselling relationship was terminated abruptly, not by RA counsellors but by MSD and the minister. I trained Marriage Guidance volunteer counsellors for ten years in the 1980s. I have continued as a supervisor of their employees on occasions. In all that time I remain convinced that no other state funded agency can possibly provide the specialist service required when two adults are in conflict and are affecting their children. It is a complex work and not one that can be farmed out just because the economics don’t stack up.
Why did anyone vote for these pieces of shit
The odd thing is, keeping relationships together accords with conservative principles. The very conservative, Christian, Australian Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews announced in 2014 that the Federal Government would give newlywed couples a $200 voucher to be used at their choice of a number of approved counselling organisations, including Relationships Australia (see http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/federal-government-offers-newlyweds-200-voucher-to-attend-marriage-counselling/story-fnihsrf2-1226808063646)
Alright so it’s not available when relationships are breaking down, it’s rather (or so they hope) a prophylactic measure. But it still illustrates that the Abbott government (arguably more conservative than Key’s) see value in relationship counselling. They’ve also kept funding available for counselling through the Family Court (albeit that the entire court is grossly underfunded).
Even the Jesuit Abbott and the staunchly Catholic Andrews would look askance at Tolley and Key’s brand of conservatism, if indeed that’s what it is. In fact as you say it’s more about shutting down NGOs that have been or might be critical… something the Abbott government is also doing in other areas.
This action in the Budget is very concerning, when taken alongside funding cuts to NGO’s such as Rape Crisis and Women’s Refuge/ Te Whare Rokiroki(Māori WR), who have also been struggling to continue to provide essential, needed services. It is not a case of falling need or lack of uptake, either.
The only conclusion that can be drawn from the withdrawal of funding from these services is that despite doing a big PR campaign for White Ribbon Day every year, our Government doesn’t actually value the lives of women and children, and is actively closing down resources and services that allow families to leave abusive situations, and get counselling to help with recovery from violence and abuse.
The patriarchy is real, and this National Government are its embodiment. Abuse of women and children is being institutionalised; Family Court cases are being settled without recourse to legal aid, further disempowering women seeking divorce and custody orders.
You don’t have to be a radical feminist to call this what it is, but I guess my academic training in feminist theory helps to inform my perspective.
Oh yeah, add to the list then disestablishment of courses in Gender & Women’s Studies around the country.
Because if you stop training feminist policy analysts, they can’t deconstruct the misogyny of the policies being delivered, can they?