Plea not to cut counselling service

A Dunedin woman receiving couple counselling related to the family's two autistic sons has appealed to Presbyterian Support not to reduce the service and has criticised a lack of communication about proposed cuts.

Lynlee and Walter von Ballmoos have received counselling from Presbyterian Support Otago's Cameron Centre for the past two years.

"We see our counsellor because we have two autistic children, one severe who is non-verbal, a runner ... who has no concept of danger.

"This [the service] gives us an hour together to talk about things on a one-on-one basis with a third party to look at things in a different perspective to help us through these tough times."

Presbyterian Support is considering reducing its counselling service from 3.5 full-time equivalent counsellors to one.

The organisation plans to move resources to social work and focus what remains of the counselling on youth.

Mrs von Ballmoos was upset she heard about the possible cuts from her counsellor at the couple's fortnightly session, rather than from Presbyterian Support directly.

She had built a significant trust relationship with the counsellor and did not want to move to another service.

A Dunedin woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said that as a low-income single person in her early 60s, she valued her monthly session for which she was asked to pay only what she could afford.

She believed there were few services in Dunedin providing free or subsidised counselling for older people, with help increasingly focused on youth and families.

The counselling allowed her to examine the effect of her divorce, losing a child many years ago, and things she had never told anyone.

Dunedin psychotherapist Sue Griffiths agreed there were few services for older people in Dunedinand more available for youth.

"I have always referred those who are unable to pay a private fee to the Cameron Centre."

Presbyterian Support Otago chief executive Gillian Bremner said once a firm decision was made about the service, clients would be advised.

"There is a consultation process under way and when decisions are made there will be a transition and forward plan developed ... it's not going to happen overnight."

Other agencies offered counselling for older people, she said.



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