Funds cut hits city mentoring service

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A band of senior citizens which has taught life skills to about 500 Dunedin families faces an uncertain future.

SuperGrans Dunedin is vowing to fight on, after learning that its government funding has been cut.

The service, in which older people mentor young families one on one, has worked with families over the past 12 years.

SuperGrans Dunedin co-ordinators Marie Sutherland and Pip Weber told The Star the news was received in a letter from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) last month.

“Our 25 grans are not happy about this development. Some are very upset,” Ms Sutherland said. “But we are all determined to carry on.”

The organisation, and sister SuperGrans branches around New Zealand, have been funded for the past 12 years through the Sages programme implemented by the Labour government in 2005.

Last month’s letter informed SuperGrans Dunedin that its $79,000 in annual Sages funding would be “reprioritised towards elder abuse and neglect prevention services”. The Sages funding will cease on June 30.

“Our service does not fit under the elder abuse umbrella – our focus is on working with young families,” Mrs Weber said.

Despite extensive research, SuperGrans Dunedin so far had been unable to identify an alternative funding stream to which it could apply.

Ms Sutherland said she hoped there might be future funding opportunities through the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, or from local sources.

Careful fiscal management meant SuperGrans Dunedin had enough in its coffers to keep going for another year while searching for other funding.

“All is not lost. We are determined to fight on and to keep doing our vital work in the community,” Ms Sutherland said.

SuperGrans Aotearoa national co-ordinator Martha Kelly the funding cut was disappointing but branches would strive to continue by finding other funding sources.

“SuperGrans work in the area of prevention and early intervention . . . and teaching life skills can protect children from the scars of vulnerability,” she said.

ConnectSouth executive officer Alan Shanks changes had been signalled during the past three years, and that reality was starting to bite for many small to middle-sized organisations.

“They [organisations] are struggling to meet their contractual obligations, with the result that delivery of services is being compromised,” he said.

ConnectSouth had also noticed that many smaller organisations did not have the expertise to fully engage in negotiating contracts with government departments.

Changes in funding priorities would require greater accountability.

“So we need to make the best of every opportunity,” Mr Shanks said.

MSD community outcomes and services general manager Peter Galvin said the ministry funded $320 million in community-based social services each year.

To ensure these services aligned with the priorities of the community investment strategy, the ministry had conducted a line-by-line review of all social services it funded, including the Sages funding pool.

The review findings recommended the funding be reprioritised to support the Government’s policy of producing more effective outcomes for older people suffering from abuse and/or neglect, Mr Galvin said.