PSO prepared to pick up RA clients

Presbyterian Support Otago says it will be able to offer a family violence service if required in the wake of the abrupt closure of Relationships Aotearoa.

Yesterday the Dunedin-based organisation was cautious when approached, saying nothing had been confirmed by its national body and it expected to know more in the coming days.

Government officials and social sector organisations are scrambling to find a solution for clients after the closure this week.

The New Zealand Nurses' Organisation warned yesterday vulnerable clients could be left in the lurch.

Acrimonious talks between Relationships Aotearoa (RA) and Government agencies broke down and on Tuesday the organisation said it had to close.

Four staff work in Dunedin, and another seven contractors provided RA counselling services in the South.

The doors shut on Tuesday, but staff were still busy contacting clients, with particular focus on those with high needs, an RA spokesman said yesterday.

The last day for staff would be June 9.

Presbyterian Support's Family Works division was named on Tuesday as one of five national providers pulled in at short notice to provide services for about 7000 clients.

Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) chief executive Gillian Bremner said the service was an existing counselling provider but did not provide a family violence programme.

It was possible the organisation might employ RA counsellors or contractors who provide the service.

RA interim board member Cary Hayward said the new providers were professional and effective, but there were gaps in their services.

''The focus of alternative providers tends to be social work-focused services rather than services providing intensive therapeutic interventions.

''As a consequence, we do have 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.''

RA hoped its staff could find work with new providers.

''It would be a tragedy to lose their level of expertise from the sector.''

A Ministry of Social Development spokeswoman said it was too early to provide detail of exactly which agencies would provide for RA clients.

''Clients will be contacted and suitable arrangements made with them as soon as possible.''

The nurses' union said it feared the transition process would not be smooth. NZNO associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith said overstretched health services could be left to deal with the effects of the closure.

''The Government wants these services provided but doesn't seem to understand that long-term consistency of service is key for clients.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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