The New Zealand government is forcing the counselling service Relationships Aotearoa to close at the end of this week.
— Mr Sage (@nzsage) May 25, 2015
7,000 present clients of the not-for-profit organisation, many of them survivors of domestic violence, crime, or suffering from mental illnesses, will be forced to find alternative sources of support.
The news has come as a shock for many people, summed up by this tweet from Jolisa Gracewood.
— Jolisa Gracewood (@nzdodo) May 25, 2015
New Zealand already has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. A family law expert said the service, that treats over 20,000 people a year, was crucial to New Zealand’s wellbeing:
Dean of Law at the University of Otago Professor Mark Henaghan said it was “a very sad day” if Relationships Aotearoa had to close its doors.
The organisation, which had started as Marriage Guidance back in the early 1980s, had helped many families through “the most difficult time of their life when a family is in break-up crisis,” Henaghan said. “The service is highly professional and crucial to the country’s well being .”
The state had, for many years, funded six sessions of counselling for couples and families to get them through the stress of a relationship break-up. But the family law reforms in the last couple of years had taken away state-funded counselling and support, putting the cost back onto the families, which they often could not afford at the time of break-up, Henaghan said… read on
Here’s the press release from Relationships Aotearoaannouncing the shock closure
Negotiations between Relationships Aotearoa (RA) and government agencies failed late yesterday afternoon (25 May 2015) when the negotiation’s lead agency, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), broke good faith provisions.
“RA’s Board and senior management team have been working intensively and in good faith over the last 10 days to seek constructive pathways forward. The options we have explored included a safe and respectful transition for clients and staff if services were to close. Unfortunately, it now appears that funders had already committed to RA’s closure,” says Cary Hayward, Interim Board member, and Principal Strategic Adviser Practice and Quality for RA.
“Last Tuesday we met with Minister Tolley where she assured us that RA would continue to be contracted if we remained solvent. We assured funders that RA would be solvent once contracts for the 2015/16 year were finalised.
“On Friday, 22 May we received an offer of a 9 – 12 week transition from the agencies. Our legal advisers reviewed the offer and determined that the offer would expose RA to significant breaches of law. Our counter offer sent on Sunday, 24 May sought to remove the illegalities.
“Unfortunately, our financial position worsened by Government’s needless delay means we cannot afford to transition clients. We had hoped to transition clients over 9 – 12 weeks, however, the offer made on Friday was rescinded yesterday.“Government could have easily reached an agreement with us that was equitable for all concerned. It is fair to say that we feel betrayed, “ he says.
“RA has been a loyal partner to government for decades, and we acted in good faith over the past 10 days to reach a mutually agreeable position.
“The actions of Officials appear to have been misleading. “This will be of concern to the wider NGO sector.
“The outcome will result in an immediate closure of RA nationwide. The exact timing is still to be worked out, but it is likely that our doors will be closed to our 7000 current clients by the end of the week.
“Additionally, up-to 900 people will need to be referred back to Court, and 183 people will lose their jobs.
“RA will be focussed on storage of client files, contacting clients to cancel appointments and supporting transition where possible.”