We should all be disturbed by the decision from MSD Deputy CEO Murray Edridge to end discussions with Relationship Aotearoa in regards to the ongoing provision of counselling support to over 7,000 people across the country. Over 2,500 of those are Maori. There needs to be questions asked as to where the CEO Brendan Boyle has been throughout this whole debacle. We have been fed a diet of misinformation about the state of play in regards to Relationships Aotearoa. It is important to understand that officials have clearly been providing Minister Tolley with incorrect information as to both the financial viability of the organisation and processes to ensure the wellbeing of those 7,000 people, many of whom are in positions of high vulnerability. To give clearer information the following press release was provided last week by Acting Chair of Relationships Aotearoa, Dr Jane Allison:
“While Relationships Aotearoa continues talks with Ministry officials today (May 21), it is worth considering what the community might lose”, says Dr Jane Allison, Interim Chair of Relationships Aotearoa (RA).
“RA is into year 2 of a 3 year strategy which aligns to government goals focussed on vulnerable children, families and whanau and breaking the cycle of family violence.
“Other Non Government Organisations (NGOs) are trying to catch up, but all are struggling with old style contracts that don’t focus on client outcomes, and there is an expectation that clients or philanthropic donors will subsidise cost of service delivery.
“Performance information shared amongst officials and NGOs shows RA clinicians spend upwards of 60% of their time with clients compared to Child Youth and Family Services (CYFS) who achieve less than 30% of face to face time with clients.
“Other NGOs can’t match the investment in systems and clinical practice RA has achieved to date. In fact Minister Tolley acknowledged that RA is “ahead of the game””, says Dr Allison.
“Furthermore, we have also learnt that Ministry officials were working under the assumption that RA was closing, and no service continuity for clients was planned”, she says.
“We know RA staff continue to work hard and are maintaining their professionalism under highly stressful and uncertain conditions.
“We hope to have an answer for clients, staff and all those who have supported us soon”.
Dr Jane Allison
Relationships Aotearoa Chair
027 722 6966
So one has to ask why MSD have moved so ruthlessly today and denied the opportunity for a longer term smooth transition process where those people who are served by the organisation have their needs clearly met. Where there may well be areas of development that Relationships Aotearoa need to address there are significant contributions by the organisation that will be lost in this action, including the most effective and up to date Client Management system. Those developments and contributions need to be given the opportunity to be carefully managed in any change process. It is significant that MSD cut negotiations so abruptly and the question needs to be asked whether officials have done some form of back door deal with other groups that are deemed more palatable to them. This would not be surprising it would however been unethical.
MSD need to be held more accountable for their lack of insight in terms of enabling transition for those individuals and whānau whose needs are currently served by Relationships Aotearoa. Their wellbeing should be first and foremost in any process. For MSD to end negotiations and to abruptly put and end to those services is unacceptable and Minister Tolley should be intervening and calling to task both the absent CEO and the Deputy CEO for their inability to provide for the needs of our whānau and communities. Also today Waikato Social Services also had MSD move in and suspend funds for 2 months. So what happens to the people being served by that Provider? To not provide for the needs of those who are being served by these two organisations is not only unethical and immoral but it is an act of state violence upon many of our community who are already experiencing hardship. Irrespective of what is happening at an organisational level we must ensure that the needs of the individuals, whanau and communities who are receiving support from these services be the priority focus. Cutting off that support will have much longer term impacts on their wellbeing.