22 July 2014

Teaching teens about right sort of love

An article from the Wanganui Chronicle by Lydia Anderson
Teenagers often look for love in all the wrong places, so a programme teaching them about healthy relationships has got to be good, a Wanganui counsellor says. ACC's new pilot, Mates & Dates, will teach secondary school students healthy relationship skills, as part of a three-year programme aimed at preventing sexual and dating violence.
And the West Auckland Roastbusters scandal, which involved teenage boys boasting online about having group sex with drunk, underage girls, had an effect on the programme being formulated "at pace". Wanganui counsellor Neil Pedley said if teenagers were not getting their emotional needs met at home they often turned to drastic measures, such as having inappropriate sexual encounters.
"You wouldn't believe what's out there in the way of incidents that occur among young people, it still amazes me.
"The common factor is they're looking for love in all the wrong places."
The programme could be beneficial if it created awareness that it was OK to have needs as long as teenagers tried to meet them in a healthy way, he said.
ACC sexual violence prevention programme manager Sandra Dickson said although the Roastbusters scandal was not the reason Mates & Dates was developed, it did prompt the organisation to "move at pace" and prioritise a school-based programme.
"We were already aware of the lack of a best practice, multi-year, nationally available school-based programme to help to prevent sexual and dating violence," she said.
"Roastbusters and other recent high profile incidents reinforced the urgent need for that gap to be filled."
Students involved in the pilot programme would be taught how to have relationships based on respect, negotiation and consent. It would also help them to identify inappropriate behaviour and show them how to get help.
Secondary Principals' Association president Tom Parsons said there was no "one size fits all" programme to suit all schools. However, if the programme was shown to work it could be worth rolling out nationally with adjustments made to suit each school's unique environment.
ACC Minister Judith Collins said the Mates & Dates pilot supported the Government's efforts to drive lasting change in young people's behaviours and attitudes by focusing on prevention.
"In 2012-13, ACC funded about $44 million for sensitive claims, all of which relate to sexual violence," she said.
Mates & Dates is based on research here and overseas that shows 15- to 24-year-olds are most at risk from violence by current and ex-partners. One in five female and one in 10 male secondary school students report unwanted sexual contact and, of these, 37 per cent describe the unwanted activity as severe, and 57 per cent tell no one. The nine secondary schools involving 2000 students in the pilot study are: Dargaville High School, Kelston Girls' College, Kelston Boys' High School, Papakura High School, Makoura College, Naenae College, Nelson College, Nelson College for Girls and Otago Boys' High School.
© 2014 APN New Zealand Limited


06 May 2014

Question to Minister

7. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement “we need to encourage these women and children to be comfortable coming forward to report domestic and sexual violence”; if so, what has she done to encourage women to report domestic violence?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice) :Yes; the Government has already achieved significant progress with improving the support for victims of domestic and sexual violence. As a result of the $50 offender levy, $12.6 million has been collected since July 2010. There are 15 new grants and services available to victims, including discretionary grants to support victims of sexual violence and funding for the national Sexual Violence Survivor Advocate, as well as specialist victim advisers to provide assistance for parents or caregivers who attend court to support child witnesses. As Minister of Justice I have initiated a major work stream, which is nearing completion and which will include a range of further initiatives to provide better support and access to justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Jan Logie: Will women feel encouraged to report domestic violence when they see her, the Minister of Justice, defending Maurice Williamson’s interference—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That question now has no connection with the primary question. I invite the member—I do not want to take supplementary questions away from her. I invite her to ask a question that is in relation to the primary question.
Hon Members: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I cannot take three at once. I will not take any; they have all sat down.
Jan Logie: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My initial question was relating to encouraging women to report. My second question was whether women will feel encouraged to report, based on the leadership provided by that Minister. It was directly relevant.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member simply asks that question, it will be in order, but when it is a reference to a resignation that has occurred, etc., that is not in order. So if the member wants to stand and ask the question that she has just raised in the point of order, it may well be acceptable.
Jan Logie: Will women feel encouraged to report domestic violence when they see her, the Minister of Justice, providing leadership in domestic violence, supporting a Minister’s interference in a police case?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I gave the member one more chance. She was on the right track until the last part. I will give her only one—[Interruption] Order! I will give her one more opportunity. Otherwise, we will move to the next question.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to reflect on that ruling you have just made. The question from Jan Logie was a broad statement around domestic and sexual violence. She has asked a question of the Minister. I cannot understand why her referencing a matter that is in the public arena rules the question out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Well, the member might not understand it, but I invite the member to look very carefully at the Standing Orders—
Grant Robertson: Which one?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, 384, if the member needs it, and I invite him to read it if he wants to. Supplementary questions are at the discretion of the Speaker. I have been very patient with the member. I will give the member her last opportunity. Otherwise, we are moving to the next question.
Jan Logie: Will women feel encouraged to report domestic violence when they see her, the Minister of Justice, providing public defence in relation to a high-profile case of domestic violence?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Of course I have not done that. What I have done is to say that the Prime Minister was quite right to receive the resignation of my colleague Mr Williamson in the circumstances. I have also, at the same time—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: On three occasions you found that the original question was erroneous or outside of the Standing Orders because of a reference to a certain case. Now you find that the Minister of Justice is quite within the borders of the Standing Orders, having referred to the case that you ruled out from being referred to in the first place. Can we have some consistency here, please.
Mr SPEAKER: I would have thought the Minister’s answer was helpful to the House, but if the member is objecting to the answer, then I will curtail the answer and we will move on. Are there further supplementary questions?
Jan Logie: If tackling domestic violence is a priority, why has the Ministry of Justice funding for family and domestic violence services dropped under her Government from $8.7 million in 2010 to $7.3 million in 2013, despite an increase in family violence arrests last year?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: These days we take much more of a cross-Government approach to the funding of domestic violence and sexual violence. In fact, I can tell the member that the Ministry of Social Development is also contributing to the funding. Also, in addition to that, another portfolio, accident compensation, has spent—I think it is, from memory—around $40 million a year on sensitive claims resulting from sexual violence.
Jan Logie: I seek leave to table a report compiled by the library showing a decrease in funding from the Government, from the Ministry of Social Development, as well as the Ministry of Justice, as well as the It’s Not OK campaign—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It has been well described. On the basis that it is not freely available to members, I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table this library report on a funding trend. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled.

    Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Jan Logie: How can women feel comfortable reporting domestic violence when Ministers have slashed funding for family violence and used their power to help a man charged with abuse simply—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, we are right back in the same position we were earlier. I will invite the member—[Interruption] Order! I will invite the member to re-ask her question. I suggest that if she just keeps it to the first part, it will be in order.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister of Justice herself introduced the Mr Williamson case. That is what the Minister did. It is now on the record. We now have a right to respond—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A member sitting not too far from the member took objection to the Minister raising that. On that basis, I curtailed the answer. [Interruption] Order! We can move on very quickly. I have been exceedingly patient with the member. I will ask her, if she wants to ask further supplementary questions, that she does it according to the Standing Orders.
Jan Logie: How can women feel comfortable reporting domestic violence when Ministers have slashed funding for support, prevention, and treatment services, and lost their way in terms of providing political leadership on the importance of a consistent response to domestic violence?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I reject the allegation in the second part of that member’s question. I can say to that member that this Government is deeply committed to bringing an end to domestic and sexual violence. In fact, that member well knows and many people in this House will well know that there are people in this House whose close family members have been killed as a result of domestic violence.


05 May 2014

Extra funding welcome

An editorial from the Otago Daily Times
Announcement of increased funding for sexual violence support services in next week's Budget, and full ACC funding of counselling for victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault, are welcome progress in this highly sensitive and increasingly pressured area.
Last Monday, the Accident Compensation Corporation announced it would fully fund sexual abuse victims' counselling as part of an overhaul of its sensitive claims systems next year. The changes would give claimants access to 48 therapy sessions over 12 months, more discretion to choose a counsellor, allow family members or support people to be included in treatment, and fund therapists to travel to isolated areas.
In a pre-Budget announcement on Wednesday, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the Government would allocate $10.4 million for sexual violence services during the next two years, saying that the sector required extra resourcing.
It clearly does. ACC is expecting an increase in sensitive claims of up to 10% each year until 2020 as a result of the reduced stigma around the reporting of sexual abuse. Police have already put the recent increase in sexual crime statistics (which are bucking the overall falling crime rate) down to increased reporting, rather than increased abuse.
It is pleasing the topic is coming out of the shadows. Worldwide, the message now is (thankfully) that survivors will be listened to when they speak out, that sexual abuse and assault is unacceptable and perpetrators can no longer hide. That reduces the stigma for victims and gives them confidence in speaking out.
But when they do, as well as justice, they often need considerable practical, financial and emotional support - in the form of counselling - to allow them to work through the abuse and hopefully enable them to live their lives as fully as possible.
Cuts to counselling have always been about "cost", but leaving survivors to deal with the repercussions of abuse by themselves is far more costly in the long term. Those who have had little or no support, and who may have endured childhood and/or long-term abuse, are plagued by issues of shame, blame, anger, loss, betrayal, trust, self-confidence and self-loathing, which may affect their daily lives and relationships, and can lead to alcohol and/or substance abuse and mental illness.
All of that costs the health system, and comes at a huge personal cost to individuals, families and communities. Frontline support services and longer-term counselling is essential.
The increased Government funding is therefore welcome, but the fanfare is not.
It must be remembered the Government's drastic and wide-ranging ACC cuts to ''sensitive claims'' funding, including counselling services, in 2009, caused consternation among service providers and survivors and led to drastically reduced numbers of claims being accepted. The corporation backed down a year later, after significant pressure, and reinstated 16 hours of counselling funding.
An independent panel reviewed ACC's sensitive claims clinical pathway in 2010 and made 14 recommendations, but a 2012 independent review by Dr Barbara Disley found there was still much progress to be made towards fully implementing all the recommendations.
The ACC, as a Crown entity, is charged with implementing the Accident Compensation Act 2001 and its role is ''to provide treatment, care and services for anyone who is injured in New Zealand'' with the view of enabling them to return to the workforce. There is undoubtedly huge pressure on the agency. ACC figures show in the 2012-13 year, it accepted 1.7 million new claims and spent more than $2 billion on claims and another $2 billion on hospital treatment and surgery, care and support, and compensation for people unable to work.
While the Government's tough stance on crime has paid off in some areas, it is important to remember there are still victims of crime in many areas who may face mental as well as physical injuries as a result of the trauma they have endured.
Survivors should not have to fight for support in such a sensitive area as sexual abuse, in which the smallest hurdle might put them off seeking life-changing help.
© Allied Press Ltd 2014


30 April 2014

Sexual violence counselling boost

A report from Radio New Zealand News
The Government has announced a $10 million funding boost in next month's budget for specialist sexual violence services.
Social development minister Paula Bennett says the increase will provide immediate stability for specialist services to help address current funding shortfalls. Ms Bennett says the sector requires extra resourcing, especially for making 24 hour, seven-days-a-week crisis call-out and emergency counselling services available. She says the money will be used to support frontline crisis-response and community-based treatment services, as well as male victims and those accessing medical and forensic services.
A Parliamentary inquiry is currently looking into the funding of specialist sexual violence services.
Ms Bennett says she couldn't wait for the outcome of the inquiry.
"The need is so great now, to be honest I'd done a lot of work on my cabinet and to get them to this point, there was no way I was going to delay them for another six months!
"I knew I had a shot of getting a bit of money in this year's budget so I was going to grab it with everything I had."
The Parliamentary inquiry has been told the sector is severely under-resourced and has lost about $6 million a year since changes to ACC in 2011 when it cut funding for sex abuse counselling.

Funding welcome
A rape prevention trust says the Government's funding boost will help stop the loss of trained staff from the sector.
Executive director of Rape Prevention Education, Kim McGregor says the sector has been underfunded for many decades. She says there's been a high level of burnout and it's been difficult to hold on to specialist trained staff.
Ms McGregor says the extra funding will help stabilise the sector in the short-term.
© Radio New Zealand 2014


29 April 2014

ACC fully funded counselling 'outside evidence'

A press release from 24-7 by Steve Taylor
ACC decision to fully fund counselling therapy “way outside the scope of the outcome evidence” says Counsellor and Social Services Outcomes Researcher.
The decision by the ACC to fully fund counselling for victims of sexual assault is a “good intentions decision absent of any cogent wisdom or evidence as to what works in therapy” says Steve Taylor, Director of 24-7 Ltd, and a Social Service Outcomes Researcher.
“While we know that 80% of people who seek therapy will make much better progress with their presenting issue than 80% of people who may need therapy but don’t seek it, we also know that the most significant period of clinically significant change for clients occurs within the first 5 – 7 sessions of therapy”.
ACC’s own reported uptake figures bear this out, with claimants session uptake averaging 7.8 sessions per person”.
Once again, just like with the NZ Family Court before it, the Government is going to throw money in the general direction of what it thinks might work, not ask for any outcomes measures of service provision from the therapists providing the service, and then cross it’s fingers that someone, somewhere, might be helped”.
Based on the international client outcome evidence, for ACC to adopt such a cavalier attitude with taxpayer-funded levies by stating “here’s 12 months of funding, help yourself”, would strongly indicate that the organisation has absolutely no idea of the importance of securing outcome data for funds disbursed, or service efficiency economies of scale".
Funding 48 therapy sessions over a 12 month period is gross and irresponsible waste of taxpayers’ money, when most of the time, clinically significant change can occur with many fewer sessions, provided that the results of the counselling intervention is being measured, and adjusted to suit specific client needs accordingly” said Mr Taylor.