Up to a dozen Relationships Aotearoa staff in Tauranga face losing their jobs following the news that the national body have failed to remain solvent.
The not-for-profit organisation announced yesterday that branches nationwide will close by the end of the week with the loss of 183 jobs in a move that will directly affect 7000 clients.
Relationships Aotearoa’s Tauranga branch will close their doors this week. Photo: Tracy Hardy.
These measures were revealed after the country’s largest professional counselling and family therapy provider was unable to reach an agreement with Government agencies to help it remain solvent.
RA’s communications and marketing manager Sarah Turnbull told SunLive that 11 staff and one administrator are currently based in Tauranga, while there is a counsellor in both the Whakatane and Thames branches.
Each year an estimated 2500 cases, or 6000 clients, receive counselling in Tauranga. In Whakatane, there are 300 cases, or an estimated 570 clients annually, and 250 cases or 320 clients in Thames.
Comments on SunLive’s Facebook page following the announcement show an outpouring of disappointment at the news.
“Relationship Aotearoa has helped so many families in need,” says one reader. “I totally agree, this is devastating for so many people and whanau/families. Such a bad decision from our government.”
Another says: “How absolutely devastating. Relationships Aotearoa have been amazing to our family over the past seven years - this is just such a tragedy for New Zealand. I am so sad to hear this news.
“I’m am actually shocked that this has happened,” reads another comment. “Angry for those losing their jobs and sad for the people that will never get to experience the helpfulness that was Relationships Aotearoa. Their parenting courses, courses to build people’s confidence all down the drain.”
However, in a statement released late yesterday, RA say the Ministry of Social Development has advised that five agencies have been selected to undertake the work RA had been contracted to provide, which could come as a welcome relief for the non-government agency.
“Since May 15, RA has been working with funders to either renegotiate a contract, or failing that, negotiate a safe transition for clients,” says RA’s interim board member Cary Hayward.
“We were unable to sign their transition offer as that would have meant operating illegally, and when a proposal from us was put forward to remove those issues, the offer to support a transition in which we were involved was rescinded.
“We are pleased to hear that MSD has made such quick progress in identifying alternative providers.
“A safe and managed transition which did not re-traumatise clients, break client trust and rights to privacy had always been at the forefront of our transition negotiations.”
Cary says a significant number of RA clients are Maori and a significant number of clients are dealing with domestic violence issues – both as victims and perpetrators of violence.
As a consequence, the organisation has concerns about capacity and capability to work with domestic violence perpetrators within a family context, as well as working with Maori whanau in a culturally safe way.
“It’s our understanding that none of the named providers currently offer a Maori for Maori service as RA has,” adds Cary.
“Nor does there appear to be a lot experience working with violent perpetrators. We also hold the MSD contract to manage and deliver earthquake trauma and recovery counselling in Christchurch, which does not appear to be a focus of the providers selected.
“The focus of alternative providers tends to be social work-focused services rather than services providing intensive therapeutic interventions.
“So we were pleased to hear there is the possibility that some of our staff will be able to move across to other service providers. It would be a tragedy to lose their level of expertise from the sector.”
Relationships Aotearoa is yet to confirm whether any staff in Tauranga, Whakatane or Thames will be involved in the possible employment shift.