Barnardos Tairāwhiti takes over Children and Women’s Safety Programme

Atareta Kemp, Chris Semmens and Patricia Tamanui of Barnardos Tairāwhiti are helping whānau with the Children and Women's Safety Programme. Photo / Matai O'Connor

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Barnardos Tairāwhiti is the new provider of the Children and Women’s Safety Programme following concerns about its future after Family Works Tairāwhiti closed.

Family Works Tairāwhiti announced its closure of services in March due to the loss of the Oranga Tamariki Youth High Needs contract.

Following this, Barnardos secured the Children and Women’s Safety Programme, as well as the social worker who facilitates it.

Barnardos Tairāwhiti service manager Chris Semmens said it was great to have the programme after the uncertainty of what was going to happen following the Family Works closure.

“It was a shock for the staff as well, but we managed to employ one staff member who was facilitating the safety programme,” Semmens said.

The programme is not mandatory. It gets offered when a respondent of a protection order does a non-violence programme.

Semmens said other Barnardos offices across the country had the same contract so there was a foundation in place.

Barnardos Tairāwhiti signed the contract in mid-April and by the end of April had its first referral.

It is contracted to do 25 clients a quarter and has already exceeded that - an indication of the high number of family harm incidents in the region, Semmens said.

Most of the clients are still in the beginning stages of the programme. There are children and women doing the safety programme.

“Parents have shared how much their child has grown since starting, which is a testament to the work done by the facilitator.”

Semmens said because it was a voluntary programme, it could be daunting for people to take the steps into Barnardos to do this.

“It’s hard for us to sell it as well. It has a stigma attached to it, a stigma like ‘I’m not worthy’ or ‘there’s something wrong with me’.

“People just want to get on with their life, but it’s about how to keep themselves safe - their children and whānau.”

Those who do the programme are greeted by him and the team, who give a mihi, pepeha and ask if they want a cuppa or drink of water.

A plan is created after an assessment of how safe they are in their home.

“But we do pass the ball back to them to create their own safety plan. This is their plan, and they own it,” Semmens said.

The programme can be up to 16 weeks long and each week can be a different topic tailored to the whānau.

A lot of the programme is based around Māori concepts.

There is often waiata, karakia and kai.

“It’s pertinent to practice the things we talk about in each session and come to a realisation that ‘yes, I am in that space’.”

It could be quite intense to talk about their experiences, Semmens said.

“It’s about unpacking it all so you don’t have to carry it around with you and think you need to be the man of the house when you’re only 7.”

Barnardos Tairāwhiti services from Wairoa up to Potaka.

Each month a couple of social workers head up the Coast to access communities who have no or little idea of what Barnardos provides.

“Agencies up the Coast now know who we are and what we do,” Semmens said.

Barnardos nationwide celebrated its 55th birthday on Thursday.

The organisation was created in 1969 and has supported over 500,000 tamariki, rangatahi and caregivers through a wide range of services.

It has a long history in the region and was managed by Dianne Saunders for over 21 years.

Matai O’Connor, Ngāti Porou, has been a journalist for five years and Kaupapa Māori reporter at the Gisborne Herald for two years.

- NZ Herald

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