ActionStation report explores gap in funding for sexual violence services

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ActionStation has published a report exploring whether government funding for sexual violence services is adequate.

In the lead up to the Government's May 2019 Budget announcement, the report, For the Wellbeing of New Zealanders: An Urgent Call for Full Funding for Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Services (2019), calls on the government to significantly increase funding for sexual violence prevention, education, and survivor support services.

The report notes:

  • "Successive governments have neglected sexual violence prevention and support services, and New Zealanders continue to suffer as a result;
  • Government underfunding of sexual violence prevention and support services is hurting all of our communities, especially Māori, LGBTIQ folk, and our migrant and refugee whānau;
  • Fully funding specialist sexual violence prevention and support agencies is crucial to supporting the mental health of young New Zealanders;
  • New Zealanders want the government to do more to end sexual and domestic violence and have demonstrated this desire over and over again;
  • Numerous government reports have acknowledged the damage of underfunding and called for urgent change;
  • Intimate partner violence and child abuse currently costs New Zealand between $1.4 billion and $7 billion over one year;
  • Limited and unstable government funding means services are stretched, stressed and overrun;
  • People who need help are being put on long waiting lists. Support agencies are left having to make hard choices about who to help first;
  • Prior to colonisation, sexual violence was rare within Māori communities. Now it is one of the leading causes of trauma among Māori women. Government underfunding of Kaupapa Māori services is creating further harm;
  • People from migrant and refugee backgrounds need support from people who understand their culture yet specialist cultural services struggle to get by;
  • Male survivors face challenges to accessing support, and need more support;
  • People from rainbow communities need specialist services. It saves lives;
  • Government underfunding is hindering healing and restoration;
  • The government needs to ensure best-practice education for sexuality, healthy relationships and consent in all schools."

The report is based on:

  • An analysis of recent government inquiries into the sexual violence sector;
  • A review of existing community research;
  • 11 in-depth interviews with a diverse range people who work in the sexual violence sector;
  • An analysis of annual financial reports of 38 sexual violence support and intervention agencies.

For the sample of 38 agencies, government contracts covered a total of $24 million. The total expenditure of agencies was $31 million, leaving a gap between contract levels and true cost of running services of $7 million. As result of the inadequate funding, people often wait months for services. 

The report notes that inquiries and reports from the Social Services Select Committee, Law Commission, Ministry of Social Development, Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence and Ministry for Women's Affairs between 2009 and 2015 have all identified insufficient funding as a significant issue for effective services and prevention. It also notes sexual violence has previously been estimated to cost New Zealanders $1.8 billion per year. Treasury estimated that it is the most expensive of all crimes, primarily reflecting the impact on victims.

ActionStation's primary recommendation is for the government to "significantly increase funding to sexual violence prevention, education, and survivor support in the forthcoming budget due for release in May." Its other four recommendations are:

  • "All secondary, primary and ECE schools to become champions of healthy relationships and consent.
  • Nationwide coverage of Kaupapa Māori specialist services.
  • Culturally appropriate, rainbow specialist and accessible services available to all who need them.
  • More funding for self-referral services for people at risk of causing sexual harm, and those who have already harmed and want to change their behaviour."

The report includes case studies and comments from providers working in the sexual violence sector. See additional commentary in the media links below.

Related news

Brenda Pilott, National Manager for Social Service Providers Aotearoa, has written a piece highlighting the "persistent and systemic under-funding of the [social services] sector.  And that is the responsibility of the government agencies that contract for services at low or partial rates and ministers when they make Budget decisions."

Brenda Pilott writes,

"A quick glance at some key statistics will show you the community sector is characterised by low wages, low levels of unionisation, few collective agreements, high rates of employment relationship difficulties, problems in recruitment. The work is often highly stressful, and access to support, supervision and training can be limited.

... It’s a difficult picture, but there is cause for optimism.  And the solutions aren’t actually that difficult:

  • Funding from government agencies that reflect the full cost of delivery – fair funding.
  • With fair funding, workers in the sector can get fair pay, that corresponds to the rates for similar jobs in the government sector. Industry agreements about wages would help.
  • Workforce planning to improve the supply of qualified workers and to help match the profile of sector workers with those using our services.
  • Better support for good governance and management.
  • A more strongly unionised workforce."

SSPA has commissioned a study which will, later this year, reveal the true extent of that underfunding.

Related media

Concern over lack of specialist support for sexual abuse survivors in LGBTQI community, One News, 01.05.2019

The Community Sector – a Worker’s Paradise? Brenda Pilott. Community Scoop, 01.05.2019

Funding shortfall in services that help sexual violence victims 'causing further harm' - report, One News, 30.04.2019

Underfunding crippling sexual violence help, Waatea News, 30.04.2019

Report criticises Govt underfunding of sexual violence support and prevention, Stuff, 30.04.2019