Safe family project ‘in disarray’

The Dominion Post 03 July 2008

A $15 MILLION government family violence project is in disarray, hit by staffing problems, agency patch protection and uncertainty over what it is supposed to be doing, a critical report says. The Government introduced the family safety teams in July 2005, placing them in four family violence hotspots: Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, Auckland and Hamilton. Reported domestic violence has increased 30 per cent in the past year. Police get 70,000 calls a year (about 190 a day) concerning domestic incidents. In the year ending June 2006, 25,356 men and 4135 women were arrested for family violence offences. In that period, 2281 women and 3148 children were put in Women’s Refuge safe houses.

A 2006 evaluation of the project has been issued after the National Party requested it under the Official Information Act. The party’s justice spokesman, Simon Power, had asked why it took so long to issue. The lack of collaboration revealed was “extremely concerning”, as collaboration was the linchpin for the project. “This is an extremely sensitive and important area and we’ve simply got to do better,” he said.

The teams, comprising police and social workers, were supposed to coordinate between domestic violence agencies, including police and Child, Youth and Family, to intervene with at-risk families. Instead, the report by academics and Justice Ministry officials found though the teams made some progress, they faced “mistrust and resistance” in some areas. They were blocked from essential information from CYF, courts, police and women’s refuges. And when they identified issues of concern, they could not deal with them as other agencies would not support them. They also struggled to keep staff, were uncertain about their role and found workloads so big they could not deal with the large geographical areas assigned to them.