Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has serious questions to answer following the forced closure of Relationships Aotearoa just days after her reassurances she was looking at ways to keep the service operating, Labour’s Acting Social Development spokesperson Annette King says.
“It was only this week that Anne Tolley was talking about the possibility of keeping Relationships Aotearoa – New Zealand’s biggest professional counselling group – on as the Government’s preferred nationwide provider. Contingency plans to transition clients were also discussed.
“Today it has been announced the government has abandoned negotiations and that other organisations have supposedly been found to take on all 7000 of Relationships Aotearoa's current clients.
“That not only raises the suspicion that the decision to stop funding the agency was made quite some time ago but raises major concerns for the hundreds of vulnerable people using the service in areas where there are no similar counselling providers.
“Relationships Aotearoa is not some Johnny-come-lately; it is a credible and reliable organisation that has helped many thousands of New Zealanders. Its annual report notes that in the last year its services were sought by 27,000 people.
“Its closure comes as the Government moves to re-target investment in social services, reprioritise budgets and slash thousands of dollars from other NGOs working in the sector.
“It doesn’t bode well for the many thousands of vulnerable people around the country who rely on these services to help, often during the most difficult times,” Annette King says.