Vulnerable deserve privacy

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Imagine for a moment the long path back to wellness for someone who has experienced rape.

Or the pain of being made redundant and ending up on a job retraining course.

Imagine how hard it must be to be part of a family where members are receiving treatment for drug or alcohol addiction or where a child is under the watchful eye of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children (formerly CYF).

It’s not just the most vulnerable members of our community who reach out to or are contacted by social services for help in desperate situations; it could be you, your family/whanau, or your neighbours and friends.

Social services provide vital support networks in the community.

Many are underfunded but have a genuine commitment to provide help for people at vulnerable times in their lives.

They deserve privacy and anonymity and yet the Minister of Social Development has said that the names, addresses and dates of birth of clients are not sensitive information.

The requirement of contracted social services to provide private client information to the Government has been heavily criticised by Labour, social services, the people affected, law experts and now the Privacy Commissioner.

Yet the Government has continued to demand social services hand over sensitive private client data to continue to receive funding.

The community organisations which could be affected by this proposal if it continues are places such as Women’s Refuge, Rape Crisis and Mental Health Services.

Forty-two percent of community organisations surveyed last year reported that they were worried about their financial viability.

IDEA Services’ recent announcement of the closure of its only Dunedin respite home for children with intellectual disabilities has hurt and shocked families who used the service.

The hardworking staff in our NGOs and community organisations are also paying the price.

Staff at IDEA are preparing to strike in response to a separate pay equity dispute with employer IHC. Parents of IDEA Services clients are planning a public meeting on April 26.

We are facing a crisis in the social sector.

Figures from Com Voices State of the Sector survey http://www.volunteernelson.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/formidable/7/ComVoices-2016-State-of-the-Sector-Survey-Snapshot-Final-25-Oct-1.pdf.