MEDIA RELEASE: NSW Government must fund frontline domestic violence workers

The Opposition has slammed the Baird Government for cutting funding to domestic violence caseworkers and counsellors working in early intervention.

Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Jenny Aitchison and her Labor colleagues today visited Penrith Women’s Health Centre, which was forced to let go of its only domestic violence caseworker when funding ran out on June 30.

Managers of Sydney Women’s Counselling Service and Cumberland Women’s Health Centre, which have also lost workers, were at Penrith to add their voices to the call for funding.

These centres lost funding in the wake of the NSW Government’s 2014 restructure of domestic violence services and the government’s reforms have not filled the gap provided by these services.

The services provided domestic violence counselling and case work services to women who were ineligible for assistance under the Government’s Staying Home Leaving Violence Program, which does not assist women who are still living with their partners.

Domestic violence is chronically under-reported, as many women do not have anywhere to go, and cannot access assistance. In many cases, the first point of contact for women experiencing violence is Women’s Health Services and Counselling Services.

Under the previous program, once violence was reported, these services provided crucial early intervention to victims and their families, with counselling, case management, and assistance with housing, health and accessing income support.

All three services have made repeated requests to the NSW government to extend their funding, with no response. Ms Aitchison has supported these representations, but has similarly had no response.

Last week Ms Aitchison slammed the government over its admission it did not know how many refuge beds were available for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

Ms Aitchison says the cuts to funding and the fact that the government doesn’t know how many beds are provided by refuges shows that they do not understand the full complexity of victims suffering domestic violence.

Ms Aitchison said the Government was “tinkering around the edges” with moves to make it easier for women who were experiencing domestic violence to break rental leases, while at the same time making fundamental cuts to the counsellors and case managers who could help them through the process.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minster for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Jenny Aitchison

“This government is touting reforms and says it’s committed to stamping out domestic violence, but it’s failing to put money where it is needed most, in frontline workers and beds in refuges. Other reforms will fail unless we get these foundations right.

“Women’s health centres are an important first point of contact for many women experiencing domestic violence. A case manager who can maintain support for them throughout this difficult process is vital to their escape from violence.

“The consistent message I am getting from workers in this sector is that accommodation, counselling and support services are what is needed most.”