70 Trauma counsellors set for redundancy under the Coalition’s changes to Sexual Assault Hotline

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2017 statistics from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria. Photo: DVRCV Factsheet

MARNIE CRUICKSHANK

Slashing of funding by the Queensland government will mean job cuts, a domestic violence helpline has said.

A heated debate in Federal parliament ensued on Monday, after the Member for Griffith, Labor’s Terri Butler, brought a motion on the contractual changes that have resulted in a restructuring of the hotlines service model.

Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA) has been the sole provider for the 1800RESPECT service since its inception in 2010. The service is provided  by Medibank Health Solutions (MHS), on behalf of the Federal Government.

When the contract came up for renewal, it was opened to a tender process, sharing the service across three additional non-profit organisations in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. This resulted in RDVSA’s funding being slashed by 75 per cent, and a redundancy of 50 specialised trauma counsellors.

Karen Willis, Executive Officer for RDVSA, says what the service needs is an increase in funding, however.

“We were always behind the eight ball, there was always a much greater demand than our funded capacity to supply,” Ms Willis said.

“In the six years that we offered the service… there was 158% increase in funding… but there was a 234% increase in demand, and when you think from day one we weren’t meeting demand, that gives an indication of what the problem was.”

RDVSA also rejected new terms which requested client files to be shared with Medibank, as well as the recording of client calls, resulting in over 70 RDVSA employees walking away from the contract altogether.

The requirement to hand over client information to a private health insurer was one which Ms Willis said was an unconscionable action, and one, she said, that would have resulted in her staff being deregistered from their professional bodies.

Dianne Mangen, the Executive Officer at DV Connect Queensland, one of the successful non-profits that tendered for the 1800RESPECT service, said it was important to assure women  they are safe to continue reaching out.

“Thousands of women ring DV Connect every year anyway and entrust their safety to us and we are certainly not going to compromise any aspect of their welfare, psychological or physical, and they can be assured that any calls that come to us via the 1800RESEPCT line will be treated in the most professional manner,” Ms Mangen said.

If you would like to talk to someone about issues raised in this article, please contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) OR DV Connect on 1800 811 811. 

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