01 April 2016

Sexual violence services – the real story

A blog post by Jan Logie
What has really led to the Government’s changing stance on funding for sexual violence services?
People have been congratulating me on this news yesterday and I have to admit working with the sector through this process has given meaning to my time in Parliament and I am proud of the work we have done on this.  I am a bit embarrassed by the congratulations in the context of the thousands of submissions and years and years of work by incredible advocates which really got the result.
While I’ll need to see the dollars in the budget, and hear that the Government is working closely with the specialist providers, especially Nga Kaitiaki Mauri, to design the new model before I relax, I do want to reflect on the journey to this point.
The 70s and 80s saw women coming together to voluntarily support women who had experienced sexual violence. The Government provided some funding from the mid 80s. There was a period of new general services, the Pacific Island Women’s Project, and kaupapa Maori services being set up to respond to the growing need. These groups were advocating for the prevention of sexual violence – law reform and social change as well as supporting victim/survivors. It wasn’t until the mid 90s that we had the first ethnic women’s organisation, Shakti and in the late 90s the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust set up. There are still obvious gaps.
ACC alongside MSD were the major funders for sexual violence support services. The services were always under-valued and certainly not recognised for the amazing life-saving and at times world leading responses to sexual violence that they were and are. Sexual violence has been one of those very difficult topics to talk about in any context so that always made the services a bit of an easy target for funding cuts.
Despite Maori women being more likely to experience sexual violence in New Zealand and kaupapa Maori approaches being far more successful we have lost almost all of our specialist kaupapa Maori sexual violence services. There was a time when there were over twenty services but now there are fewer than five.
The Taskforce for Action was initiated by Labour in the wake of public horror about Louise Nicholas’s experiences. Louise did not have access to the right help, from our justice system or social services, when she needed it and that is one of the reasons she has been so actively advocating for increased funding for years.
The Taskforce for Action came out in 2009 calling for a national prevention plan and proper resourcing of the sexual violence sectors, basically all the same things that the select committee has recommended again 6 years later.
Maori and non-Maori specialists gave hundreds of hours of their time, voluntarily, in the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence. They spent hours and hours strategizing and organising and lobbying to try and ensure that victim/survivors had access to the services they needed. If this had been implemented there would have been no need for the select committee inquiry.
But even while the National party Minister for Justice called the Taskforce for Action the best road map the country had ever had for addressing sexual violence, the Government was in the process of gutting ACC support for victim/survivors. The Government told ACC that they had to make savings. In 2009 they saved $3.2billion dollars by going after, amongst other things, the “low hanging fruit” of sensitive claims. These changes resulted in a 36% decline the number of claims being lodged and even more shockingly the number of accepted claims going from 60% to 3.6% in just two years. Specialist agencies stopped using ACC because they thought it was unsafe for survivors and the number of ACC counsellors halved. During the inquiry into sexual violence funding we heard from a man whose partner had killed herself because she couldn’t get the support she needed over this time.
Many therapists and counsellors and volunteers just kept going, under increasing strain themselves, because they knew that people were depending on them. This was a truly awful time in New Zealand’s history.
Public concern over these changes forced Minister Nick Smith to initiate a review in 2010.The Disley report in 2010 made fourteen recommendations to fix the mess. Considerable effort has been made since then by ACC, the community and others to try and restore ACC. In the select committee report much has been made of the improvements to ACC. A new model is in place and it is much better but we are still not there yet.
Ahead of the budget and future work, I just want to celebrate the bloody minded tenacity of survivors and advocates who have kept going through this very dismal time. I genuinely and wholeheartedly hope the Government doesn’t let us all down again.
© 1996-2015 The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand


10 March 2016

Sexual abuse drives hundreds of kids to ACC

An article from Newshub by Emily Cooper
Families are being told to ask more questions of their children following the release of disturbing new statistics. Newshub can reveal that in the last 12 months, the number of children under the age of 15 seeking ACC services for sexual abuse has reached more than 800.
Maggy Tai Rakena of sexual violence support group START says kids need to be questioned.
"We don't want to jump to conclusions when there's distress showing, because it could just be that the cat died, or grandma's sick or something," says Ms Rakena.
"But it's a prompt to ask more. Children do talk about this stuff."
Ms Rakena says 90 percent of offenders are known to the victim.
"Their loyalties are torn; there can be some nice sides about the relationship, but also if it's your mum or your grandma or your dad or your uncle, and people that your parents love and trust, it's really hard to speak up," she told Newshub.
"The story about 'stranger danger' and the one odd person that drags a kid away from the school gate is so rare, so unusual."
Seventy-two kids under four had sensitive claims through ACC.
Copyright © 2016 MediaWorks TV


03 March 2016

ACC sex abuse claims double in five years

An article from Newshub by Emily Cooper
More sexual abuse and sexual assault victims are reaching out for help under ACC's sensitive claims services.
Figures released to Newshub under the Official Information Act show claims have nearly doubled in the past six years. In 2010, 3674 people lodged a claim compared to 6946 people last year. Those seeking counselling services have also almost doubled.
ACC Minister Nikki Kaye says it's down to changes made around the handling of sensitive claims. "Previously it was hard, it was quite an insensitive process," she says.
Victim advocate Louise Nicholas says the rise is also likely down to more people speaking out against sexual violence and the stigma around people speaking out being lifted.
Over the past three years, ACC has had to re-think the sensitive claims process and worked with survivors of abuse, advocates and therapists to make the process easier. ACC also scrapped the top up fee that victims previously had to pay for counselling services and a new support package was also announced this time last year.
Ms Kaye says $100 million will be spent over the next six years to give people better access to counsellors.

Copyright © 2016 MediaWorks TV

31 December 2015

Dame Paula Rebstock has learnt to ignore the criticism that comes with the job

An article from Stuff by Jo Moir
Public servant Paula Rebstock has been recognised for her services to the state by being made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Jo Moir spoke to her about her most challenging roles, the sacrifices and how she deals with, often negative, public scrutiny. Money-hungry, a patchy performer, unqualified for your job: for most people, having those insults hurled your way would make 2015 an annus horribilis.
For Paula Rebstock, however, the barbs were nothing compared to some of the darkest days in her career.
When a lone gunman walked into a Work and Income office in Ashburton in September 2014, killing two staff and leaving a third seriously injured, Rebstock - chairwoman of the Work and Income board - stood alongside workers and the community as they struggled to make sense of the tragedy.
"The senseless loss of life of staff, those things are the things that are truly hard to deal with, and those things put life in perspective."
Now, her appointment as a Dame Companion of the NZ Order of Merit has provided a new perspective on her years of work. On New Year's Eve, Rebstock, her husband and two daughters will take up glasses of bubbles from their holiday home in the Bay of Islands, toasting a successful year rounded off with a "surprising" honour that brought her to tears.
Standing in the kitchen with her husband while opening the mail, Rebstock thought nothing of a letter from Government House, assuming it was her annual invite to Waitangi Day commemorations.
"I opened it and was really quite taken back. My husband said to me, 'What is wrong with you?' and I handed him the letter with tears running down my face. He looked at me and said, 'Oh God'."
Rebstock's two daughters, aged 20 and 24, have made "a lot of allowances for the certain work schedule their mother keeps" so she was straight on the phone to tell them the news.
"It was a special family moment, no question."
This isn't Rebstock's first award: after completely revamping the Commerce Commission, she was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009.
Rebstock, originally from Montana in the United States, moved to New Zealand in 1987 and says the honour helped her to feel at home.
"For me it was something about being accepted in this country and really being a New Zealander like everyone else."
First employed by Treasury as an economist, she then served in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet before moving to the Commerce Commission, where she became chair in 2003.
"When I left the Commerce Commission I always thought that would be the thing in my career I'd most feel proud of because we really did shift the work of the Commerce Commission to be far more productive."
On leaving the Commission in 2009, Rebstock was asked to lead an expert panel on probation services, which at the time was "really in a state of crisis".
"They were an agency under siege."
After cleaning up that mess, Rebstock moved onto ACC where her first experience on the board was a "terrible privacy breach". Details of thousands of ACC clients, some who fell under sensitive claims, were accidentally sent to ACC claimant Bronwyn Pullar.
"It really rocked the organisation...it involved a fairly large transformation in order to earn back the trust and confidence of our customers."
Most recently, Rebstock has been chairing a review of Child Youth and Family - a government department that has endured years of overhauls but no real change.
"If I'm honest I don't think I realised how big a challenge it was going to be...we've not done well by children who come into the care of the state."
Labour leader Andrew Little was scathing about her $2000-a-day salary for the review, saying she was "in it for herself" in what he described as a "pretty patchy career".
Rebstock is not new to criticism of her work, singling out "relentless" scrutiny while at the Commerce Commission, but says she does not let the political jibes get the best of her.
"These things are political processes and it's part of the game...it would be crazy if I allowed myself to get caught up in that - that's not to say at the time I didn't think, 'Gosh, why am I doing this again?'."
For now, it's Christmas at home, then a month at the beach and much excitement at the news her elderly parents and sister plan to travel to New Zealand in the New Year to celebrate her honour.
"People have to make a lot of allowances for you in their life when you get involved in a lot of these things and my family have always done that."

© 2016 Fairfax New Zealand Ltd


17 June 2015

Offender victims given counselling for childhood sexual abuse

An article from Voxy
Offenders who have experienced childhood sexual abuse are now receiving targeted counselling services through an innovative collaborative partnership between Corrections and Nelson’s SVS - Living Safe.
"A large proportion of offenders have themselves been victims," says Polly Cunningham, Corrections District Manager for Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast. "Very few have sought, or been offered, help in the past or considered the links between the abuse against them and their own antisocial behaviours."
Research tells us there is a strong correlation between child sex offending of males and later relational difficulties, violence, mental illness and drug/alcohol abuse. This is certainly evident in the population of prisons and probation services (both with adults and juveniles).
For the first time, the men in counselling are starting to get some closure and find a way forward. This is summarised by John (not his real name).
"Pretty much everything that happened after it (the abuse) - happened because of it. Counselling has helped me realise what I have to do to get over it."
American research shows that child maltreatment roughly doubles the probability that an individual engages in many types of crime, with childhood sexual abuse having the largest effects on crime. A study which explored the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and later antisocial behaviour found that 59% of prisoners questioned reported some form of childhood sexual abuse. "The counselling is aimed to help these offenders to work through some of the harm caused to them in their past, support them make changes in their own lives and help break the cycle of abuse for their own families and whanau," says Polly.
Through the partnership, identified offenders will be offered professional support and counselling. "We hope that this will help these men and women to move forward without the adverse effects and risky behaviours that can be seen in some victims of abuse, ultimately helping them to maintain a crime free life. Sometimes just letting them know there is somewhere safe they can go when they are ready can plant the seed or broker a new connection."
The programme, which is run by SVS in conjunction with The Male Room in Nelson, has been running for two years. Through this time, six offenders have attended the programme. "This initiative is making a real difference for the people we are seeing," says Dee Cresswell, Manager SVS - Living Safe. "Through this collaboration with Corrections and the Male Room, we are able to help offenders to address some of the underlying issues that contribute to their antisocial behaviours and in particular, to family violence. Partnerships like this demonstrate the benefits to individuals and the public when organisations take a holistic approach and work collaboratively to reduce offending and re-offending.
"We have had the opportunity for the past two years through innovation funding. Referrals were slow to start, but with the support of Practice Leader Gary Basset the momentum grew."
"Childhood abuse is a hard topic for Probation staff to raise with the people they manage and it is very difficult for offenders who have been affected by childhood abuse and never dealt with this to ask for help," says Gary.
"This partnership can make a life changing difference for these men at a very personal level and for their families and future generations."
The ACC programme is now delivered by SVS - Living Safe’s approved Assessors and providers to ACC approved clients through the Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims.
© 2015 Digital Advance Ltd