Rape Crisis Dunedin has secured its future for the next three years, agreeing to accept a contract offer from the Ministry of Social Development.
The 15 members of the Rape Crisis Dunedin collective met on Tuesday night to discuss MSD’s letter of offer.
Because of a delay in receiving the letter, which arrived on July 7, a week after the previous contract expired, the organisation had had to tighten its belt in the short term, Rape Crisis Dunedin community educator-media liaison Anna Hoek-Sims said.
The collective had been unable to renew the contracts of two staff, reducing office staffing levels from eight to six.
Rape Crisis Dunedin also had to shorten its hours, closing its upper Moray Pl office and phone support service from 9am to 5pm on Fridays, for the rest of July.
Clients would continue to be able to phone the support line 24/7, but any calls made during business hours on Fridays would be followed up that evening or over the weekend, Ms Hoek-Sims said.
To be fair to MSD, the organisation had had an indication that it would receive a new contract, but the delay had been concerning, she said.
MSD partnering for outcomes regional manager Moira Underdown said the ministry always tried to notify services about funding decisions before the end of the financial year, but sometimes the process took slightly longer than anticipated.
“We are sorry if that has created uncertainty.”
As part of Budget 2016, the Government had announced $46million in operating funding over four years to better support victims of sexual violence, Ms Underdown said.
National Rape Crisis spokeswoman Andrea Black said the change in funding had led to delays in receiving contracts for many services.
“While we appreciate the Government looking to improve funding for sexual violence services, it [the delay] has been difficult,” she said.
There still remained an issue of concern between the Government, MSD and service providers over the ongoing discussion around protecting the privacy of clients, Ms Black said.
A storm of protest greeted the Government’s announcement earlier this year that it would require social service providers to provide individual client data as part of contracts, resulting in a backdown on the policy for at least 12 months.
Ms Hoek-Sims said Rape Crisis Dunedin would negotiate with MSD over client data, but was determined to continue to protect the privacy of clients.
“People who come to us for support have gone through a traumatic experience, and they must be protected,” she said.