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Tolley must assure safety of vulnerable clients

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley must guarantee the safety of Relationships Aotearoa’s thousands of Māori clients – some of whom are very vulnerable – following the closure of the nationwide counselling service, Labour’s Māori Development spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says.

Relationships Aotearoa have 12 qualified Māori counsellors who work with clients including those dealing with abuse and family violence issues.

“Closing the doors on Relationships Aotearoa will create anxiety and stress for clients who don’t know who will pick up their case and be there to help them.

“The range of services offered at Relationships Aotearoa Services means the organisation has counsellors with wide skill sets required to address the range of high-risk needs.

“Support and counselling services for people leaving a violent relationship, couples who have decided to separate or divorce, and families coping with the effects of mental illness require specific support and cannot be reliant on short-term voluntary assistance.

“Relationships Aotearoa’s approximately 2500 Māori clients may also need culturally responsive services. The Minister does not appear to have taken such needs into account in her decision to shut down the service.

“Anne Tolley should be seeking advice on where and how clients will be transitioned to a new service provider in a way that is appropriate to their needs.

“It is critical the Minister gets this right so the closure of Relationships Aotearoa doesn’t leave a gaping and dangerous hole in the lives of the whānau it helps,” Nanaia Mahuta says.