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Families devastated about closure of support villages for kids with emotional trauma

Families are devastated about the closure of two support villages for children suffering from emotional trauma.

The camps in Otaki and Roxburgh are closing next month, their owners claiming a lack of funding has forced their hand.

"It's devastating to hear that they're closing,” said Bronwyn Ngatai, mother of a child who attends the camp. “There is no other service out there that's going to be able to help."

STAND Children’s Services provides support for thousands of at-risk youth around the country with various programs, from their wraparound family development services, to providing social workers in schools.

Their unique children's villages help children cope with trauma-related problems, such as exposure to domestic violence and bullying. 

I do fear that my son will go back into his isolated state that he was - Bronwyn Ngatai

"They’re triggered into this kind of fear reaction, which kind of gets in the way of everything else in their lives,” said Fiona Inkpen, chief executive of STAND Children's Services. “They're at school and they're frightened, they're at home and they're frightened."

However, the charity claims it hasn't had a funding increase from the government since 2009, and it has no other choice but to close two of its camps. They currently receive just over $20 million per year to fund all of their intensive programs nationwide. 

“We’ve worked with Oranga Tamariki and the minister to try and solve the problem and we have had a fair hearing in relation to that,” said Inkpen. "The sad thing is that the minister's been really clear that she can't find the money."

The closure of the children's villages in Otaki and Roxburgh will mean more than 60 staff will lose their jobs and close to 400 kids will no longer be able to access the village's trauma treatment programs.

For Ms Inkpen, what she'll miss the most is seeing the children’s transformations.

“Hearing the stories of children who look defeated, like life has given them a tough time,” said Inkpen. “Then seeing them and hearing them laugh and giggle and feel free again."

Bronwyn Ngatai's family has seen the change first-hand, with her two kids both attending the camp in Otaki.

“Without the STAND camp I do fear that my son will go back into his isolated state that he was,” said Ms Ngatai. 

Ms Ngatai’s 11-year-old son Shane struggles with serious mental health issues, aggravated by a family breakdown, but the camp changed his life.

"It's a really great place, you can really find yourself there, I found myself there too,” said Shane Ngatai.

STAND says it needs another $3 million a year, $1.5 million per camp to keep them both open. However the Minister of Children, Tracey Martin, said they already get enough funds.  

"If I had three million dollars in a bottom drawer somewhere then I suppose that's what I could have done but that's not actually how funding works,” said Ms Martin. “I don't have a slush fund in my bottom drawer."

For families who need the service, they’re worried about the future. The Ngatai family's started a petition to try and persuade the Government to prevent the closures.

"Without stand camp I probably wouldn't really be here,” said Shane Ngatai.

“If it takes for me to walk the streets of every town to go door-knocking on every door to get my petition signed so be it,” said Bronwyn Ngatai.

Both hoping the camp that's helped their family can help others too. 

The camps in Otaki and Roxburgh are closing next month, the charity running them says a lack of funding has forced their hand. Source: 1 NEWS