A number of the Anglican bishops held a special service on the steps of the Wellington Cathedral this morning to remember those who have died as victims of family violence.
The service was also a chance to affirm work that’s been done by government agencies and the not-for-profit social service sector to ensure children are brought up safely.
This follows reports that funding for some family violence initiatives, including the Advocates for Children who Witness Domestic Violence and Te Rito family violence coordinators, is being reviewed.
The Anglican Archbishops, on behalf of the House of Bishops, also issued a statement calling for these programmes to be left intact – at least until they have been fully evaluated.
The Archbishops’ statement follows:
This church is committed to pursuing and supporting an end to family violence.
We believe it is crucial to support both the social and spiritual state of the family in order to bring about whanau ora, or family wellbeing.
And for this reason, we are concerned to hear of the Government’s proposal to move funding away from programmes that stem family violence.
There is no doubt that since the Government's "It's Not Ok", Te Rito and Child Advocate programmes have been in place, the outlook on family violence in this country has become brighter.
While police statistics show that the rate of family violence actually increased by 8.5% last year, that is in fact a welcome improvement.
The year before that, for example, there was a 13.1 percent lift in reported abuse over the 2007/2008 stats. And in that year, there had been a 28.1% lift on the year before that.
Those stats may not be quite as horrifying as they appear, because the police also say there has also been an increase in the reporting of such crimes.
They have identified two reasons for the flattening of the family violence graph: there is now greater public focus on family violence, and that has led to greater community intolerance of family violence.
This evidence, therefore, points to the success of the Government's existing programmes for everyone in New Zealand.
It also points to the exceptional work of people in those agencies which are working with whanau to bring an end to violence.
We commend their work, and the way these agencies have worked together to ensure better outcomes for whanau.
Although no full evaluations of the effectiveness of Child Advocates and government programmes have yet been done, the evidence seems to point to the effectiveness of existing programmes for New Zealand whanau.
And that is one of our points: we fear that these programmes might be axed without any formal evaluation.
The prevention services that have been put in place have not only saved lives – they’ve saved money.
Estimates put the cost of domestic violence to the country at $5-8 billion. The return to the government for every dollar spent on prevention is therefore about $15.
We are particularly troubled by the prospect of the demise of Child Advocates. The Child Advocates bring together a wide range of people and skills in the community to enhance whanau wellbeing and to get the message out that violence is not acceptable.
They give support and they ensure children and parents both know how to get help. They galvanise people into taking action for children. They have worked widely and effectively to bring about whanau wellbeing. Recently, for example, Child Advocates played an important role in the aftermath of the Pike River tragedy.
Strong, healthy violence-free whanau are cornerstones to healthy communities. We support this kaupapa, and we recognise we need to work to make this happen.
We also want to see the best and most effective moves made to achieve this outcome.
We call on this government, therefore, to retain current funding of $11.5 million for Te Rito Coordinators and Child Advocates and supporting services, and undertake a full qualitative and quantitative review of their effectiveness across all sections of society.
Only then will the government be properly placed to make such an important and life-changing decision.
We acknowledge the work of the Social Justice Commission in preparing this statement with us.
Archbishop Brown Turei
Bishop of Aotearoa
Archbishop David Moxon
Senior Bishop of the New Zealand Dioceses
Archbishop Winston Halapua
Bishop of Polynesia