Family harm programme budget at risk as part of health board cost cuts

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Staff involvement in a successful family harm reduction programme may be cut if approved as part of a Canterbury health board plan to slash costs by $57m.

The savings plan proposal was developed earlier this year by the board’s executive management team to reduce its deficit, which had ballooned to about $180m.

Details seen by Stuff included cutting $95,000 in staffing and staff attendance at Integrated Safety Response (ISR) meetings.

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Launched in 2016, ISR was established in Canterbury and Waikato as a joint agency initiative hosted by the police to provide an immediate safety response for family harm victims and children, and to work with perpetrators to prevent further violence.

Canterbury health board has floated cuts to staffing on a multi-agency family harm response programme.


Canterbury health board has floated cuts to staffing on a multi-agency family harm response programme.

In 2017-2018 the Christchurch programme reported 10,898 family violence events – 204 on average a week – and 6994 safety plans were made.

The most recent evaluation in 2019 found the programme was effective in providing an improved response to family harm and whānau “value greatly” the support they receive.

CDHB was a key partner in the programme, with seven full-time-equivalent staff involved in providing relevant health information, daily risk assessment meetings, triage, and family safety plans.

Acting chief executive Andrew Brant said the deficit reduction programme was “looking at all activity that could be reduced to cut costs” and “nothing is off the table”.

Proceeding with the proposed cuts to staff in the ISR would first require approval by the board and the Ministry of Health, and consultation with partners in the programme, the unions and staff, Brant said.

He would not confirm if management was actively seeking approval or pursuing consultation.

“It is too soon to provide further details of the individual components that may or may not be affected, as this may cause unnecessary concern to staff and the public – as no final decisions have been made regarding whether it will be necessary to make changes to these services.”

CDHB’s proposed cuts in staffing for the programme appeared to contradict a stated strength of the ISR in the evaluation – its “government mandate and ring-fenced funding”.

Brant said the CDHB committed additional funding towards the ISR “on top of the funding provided by the Ministry of Health, to ensure our organisation can contribute to the multi-agency response seven days a week”.

Christchurch Battered Women’s Trust was one of several non-government organisations that provided services for people referred through the ISR.

Chief executive Lois Herbert said CDHB staff were integral as they could provide vital information about a particular case, that enabled the group to make a safety plan with families.

“Between all of us, we provide the kind of information sharing that means we can offer families a really wrap around service and a well-informed service.”

Herbert said the inclusion of ISR staffing in CDHB’s savings plan was a concern, but she was unaware of any specific plan to make cuts.

“The CDHB has been hugely supportive of efforts towards breaking the cycle of family violence for a very long time and I would not want to see that slow down or stop, but I would be sure they would consult and talk widely before any decisions are made.”

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