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Women’s refuge faces significant cuts

Tuesday, 23rd September, 2014

By Michael Murphy

The city's only women's refuge still has significant funding problems, despite the state government promising a review.

Reverend Fred Nile told a budget estimates committee inquiry last month that Catherine Haven would need another $180,000 per year so they could employ another case manager and support worker.

The leader of the Christian Democratic Party was chairman of the budget estimates committee, which holds inquiries to promote government transparency.

He asked the Minister for Women Pru Goward to review funding for Catherine Haven with the view to increasing it because he feared people's safety was being compromised.

She referred the question the head of the Family and Community Service department, Michael Coutts-Trotter, who said they were aware of the situation and would review it.

"A review of funding to this service provider occurred," a spokeswoman for the department said, though she would not elaborate on the details of the review nor acknowledge funding had been cut to Catherine Haven.

She said the Far West district would receive $1.2 million per year for the next three years for specialist homelessness services, an increase of more than 17 per cent.

"Four new homelessness services will be funded in Far West NSW to support over 400 people every year who are homeless or at risk of homelessness," she said.

In relation to funding for Catherine Haven, she said the department and "Salvation Army met and agreed that the funding will cover the delivery of services at Catherine Haven."

But Catherine Haven manager, The Salvation Army's Major Kelvin Stace, said while the department "painted a great picture", the reality was a significant cut in funding and service at Catherine Haven.

"There were and still are some gaping holes in the practical application of funding to homelessness services, especially in the far west," he said.

He acknowledged the department investigated and planned new services, but was disappointed with the outcome.

"There appears to have been little honest consultation with those on the ground of what was or is needed to work toward a reduction in real homelessness," he said.

He said when the government announced its Going Home Staying Home reform, he reviewed their service and ways to improve it.

"We submitted these plans, but they have been either ignored or side-stepped," Major Stace said.

"Our aim was, is and will remain to take people in crisis from that crisis to confidence - the crisis which sees them descend into homelessness to the confidence to emerge from that place."

The department said planning for the new reform "took into account a detailed analysis of community need".

"Under the new system services will be easier to access, and will better meet individuals' needs," the department spokeswoman said.

"This is part of a focused effort to prevent repeat homelessness," she said.

According to the latest crime statistics, there were 168 domestic violence incidents in Broken Hill in the last 12 months and 118 in the Central Darling.

Police have a policy of not reporting the details of these incidents to the media.

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