At the heart of many of our local communities are NGOs that provide support for those in need.
They provide help for survivors of sexual violence, of domestic abuse; they provide support with finances, offer mental health services and assistance with problem gambling, just to name a few.
People who use these services often do so in times of crisis and struggle.
Yet, these social services are being eroded by this government’s failure to value their contributions to our communities.
For months, the Social Development Minister has been pushing for social services to share private client information in return for funding because they do not think that they are getting their money’s worth.
The requirement of contracted social services to provide private client information to the government has been heavily criticised by Labour, alongside social services themselves, the people who seek out their support, law experts and now even the Privacy Commissioner.
We have also seen a spate of local organisations whose contracts have been cut from government funding, leaving significant gaps in support services. And on top of that, the overall funding for social services has flat-lined since National came into government.
One major repercussion of this government’s treatment of social services is the threat to the Wellington Shakti refuge.
Shakti is a specialist provider of culturally competent support services for women, children and families of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin, specialised in women’s development, empowerment and domestic or family violence intervention, prevention and awareness.
Yet this year, the government has turned down a funding application of about $60,000 per year for the Upper Hutt branch of the Shakti refuge.
We know that the burden of inequality and poverty that disproportionately falls on women and this is worsened when taking into account cultural differences.
For example, while the median wage for women overall is $22 compared with $25 for men, the median hourly pay rate for a Pacific woman is $18.90 per hour; Maori women have a median wage of $20 an hour, Asian women are at $20.14 and Middle Eastern/Latin American/African women’s median wage is $18.70.
In addition, female migrants and refugees often face double discrimination in New Zealand. For example, Rez Gardi, a former refugee from Pakistan living in New Zealand, said, “There already exists inequality against females in all aspects of social, economic and political aspects of society, and there is that added barrier to accessing full rights as a citizen when you are from an ethnic minority.”
New Zealand Census 2013 found that there were 87,534 people in New Zealand who did not feel they could yet hold a conversation in English.
This should not stop these people from being able to access social support they need.
Barriers to migration
There are many barriers that come with migration and the intergenerational bonds of cultural oppression, particularly for women.
Shakti sets out to challenge the cultural acceptance of domestic violence within the ethnic communities. This is a vital organisation that allows migrant and refuge women to access life-saving culturally appropriate support services, and we should value organisations like this to ensure prosperity in our communities.
Carmel Sepuloni is elected Member of Parliament from the Kelston Constituency and Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Social Development.