Vital services for people experiencing family and domestic violence are now being cut across the State as a result of contract ‘negotiations’ with the WA Department of Communities.
Relationships Australia WA is one of a large group of providers delivering Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) Counselling and Advocacy Support Services,faced with contract negotiations offering no extra funding and no choice but to cut services.
Relationships Australia WA CEO Terri Reilly said that in the shadow of coronavirus, historic economic turmoil and skyrocketing demands for help, contract extensions with no extra funding and in some cases funding cuts, were hard to comprehend.
“This situation flies in the face of the reality we all know, which is that for increasing numbers of people, COVID-19 restrictions plus mounting unemployment plus financial stress can exacerbateviolence and abuse,” Ms Reilly said
.“As a direct result of the Department of Communities contract negotiations, Relationships Australia WA will be forced to close two of our four men’s behaviour change groups - essential in helping perpetrators address their violence and in keeping women and children safe.
”Relationships Australia WA is a frontline service helping women, men and children to directly address FDV and its impacts, providing counselling and support before, during and after FDV marks lives.
“We are able to help people while they are still living at home, and before they need to flee to safety or wind up in prison because of unchallenged violent behaviour,” Ms Reilly said.
“Forcing cuts now ignores the fact that the sector has for years juggled to try and do more with less by constantly restructuring services, cutting costs to the bone, and having staff who work well beyond their paid work, simply to keep services running.
”Ms Reilly said Relationships Australia WA had chosen to speak out about the cuts because it had over many years made up funding shortfalls by subsidising its FDV program – currently at a rate of 37 per cent.
“When you extrapolate that across the sector and factor in the growing impact felt also by police, hospitals, drug and alcohol services and foster care organisations, the FDV surge throughout our community cannot be underestimated – and that was before the added COVID-19 impact,”she said.
Ms Reilly said it was difficult to gain a clear picture of how much of overall funding actually made it to direct, on the ground clinical services because funding was usually fragmented, insufficient and piecemeal. Contract extensions now being finalised with the Department of Communities were a prime example.
Ms Reilly said that Relationships Australia WA, and other providers of specialised FDV services had been pushed to this critical point over many years, with current cuts prompting her to speak out.
She pointed to the launch last year by WA’s first Minister for Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Simone McGurk, of the 16 Days to End Violence Against Women campaign, as another point of concern for service providers who collectively worried about their ability to provide the support needed.
“The sector’s roadmap - the 10 year strategy for reducing family and domestic violence in WA – missed last year’s release date and is yet to be seen,” she said.
“It is time for clarity on funding constraints and resulting service cuts.
“In the face of escalating demand and increasing costs, deciding which services must be cut, and which individual women, children and men will no longer be assisted is a tough one – and one which we believe the Government should take responsibility for."