South Auckland initiative reduces rate of family violence reoffending by almost 60%

Figures from Massey University show over the past five years, 57.5 per cent of men who used the Gandhi Nivas interventionist programme did not re-offend or commit further acts of family harm.

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The programme provides temporary housing and round-the-clock support. Source: 1 NEWS

The programme offers men who have been issued with a police safety order a place to stay, and counselling that’s available 24/7.

It focuses on working with male perpetrators, removing them from the family home instead of their victims.

Its founder, Ranjna Patel, believes it’s important not to uproot those on the receiving end of the violence.

“The psychological problems that you get from removing them and the trauma children get from that is phenomenal.”

Police Minister Stuart Nash said the unique approach clearly has its benefits.

“The old way of doing things, of taking men and locking them up for six months and sending them back to the environment, does not work. This saves lives.”

He also said the study’s results show the programme works, and he’d like to see it rolled out around the country.

“Anything innovative like this that stops people going to jail and provides people with an alternative method for resolving these sorts of issues, I think, we’ve got to champion.”

New Zealand’s family violence statistics are confronting.

The 2018, New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey found 79,000 adult New Zealanders had experienced offences committed by family members over a 12-month period.

These included reported and non-reported incidents to police.

Statistics from the Ministry of Justice show just 14,720 people were formally charged with family violence-related offences for the same year.

Ms Patel said she created Gandhi Nivas after hearing too many stories of ongoing family violence within her local community, South Auckland.

“In three months, there were five callouts for one man, because he was not getting support and he was just going from one woman to the next.”

Launched in 2014, the programme now has three houses in the Auckland suburbs of Ōtāhuhu, Te Atatū and Papakura.

The Massey University research focussed on the house in Ōtāhuhu, between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2019.

During that time, 812 men stayed at the home.

Those aged in their 20s and 30s are the predominate age group using the service, with the youngest client aged 15 and the oldest 84.

Unemployment is one of the most significant issues facing those who come through the programme.

Just under half of intake cases were people not in employment at the time they stayed at the Ōtāhuhu facility.

From the cases, 32 per cent of the family incidents involved an intimate partner, 30 per cent were the parent, 20 per cent were the child of the victim, and seven per cent were siblings.

Across the three homes, Māori have the highest intake numbers.

Pākehā, Indian and Pacific Island men also make up significant proportions of those using the services.

The programme is partially funded, and has secured funding from ACC for its counselling services until December 2021.