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Bennett agrees to fund sexual abuse helpline after public pressure

Dec 12th, 2012 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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BAKE SALE: Auckland Sexual Abuse Help fundraiser.  PHOTO: Peter Meecham/Fairfax NZ

AUCKLAND Sexual Abuse Help (ASAH) has had a last-minute funding reprieve from the Government after 12,000 people signed a petition in support of the service.

The service, which runs a 24-hour helpline for victims of sexual assault, was facing cutbacks and staff redundancies.

A prior interim funding agreement with government had come to an end without any new funding being offered.

Announcing the new funding, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett  said: “I’ve heard their concerns and the Government is prepared to step in to keep the service running without interruption.

“I am pleased that we will be able to provide funding certainty for ASAH through a three- year contract.”

Labour’s Women’s Affairs spokeswoman Sue Moroney called the back down a triumph for community action.

“I am proud to have put my name to the 12,000-strong petition that forced the Government into action after several months of stalling and broken promises on this funding,” she said. “This really does demonstrate people-power in action.

“It was unnecessary for this funding crisis to have gone on this long, but the resolution will be welcome news for staff who actually got served redundancy notices last month,”  Ms Moroney said.

ASAH crisis services manager Aimee Stockenstroom said that staff were overjoyed that the community had rallied around.

If the funding cuts had gone through, thousands would have been stranded without specialist crisis support “at what is unfortunately one of the busiest times of year for rape crisis services”, Ms Stockenstroom said.

Part of the funding will come from the Health, Social Development and Justice ministries, Police and the Accident Compensation Corporation, totalling $286,000.

The arrangement will be finalised in April 2013, with emergency funding in place until then.

This is the second time in as many years that public outcry has forced the Government to act on funding for ASAH.

In December last year a 7000-strong petition presented to Prime Minister John Key convinced the Government to extend interim funding into 2012, helping the service temporarily avoid cutbacks.

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