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Wellington sexual abuse counselling service at crisis point as client numbers swell

A Wellington sexual abuse support service says it's at crisis point, with a lack of funding and unprecedented client numbers.

Wellington HELP is contracted by the Ministry of Social Development and Oranga Tamariki to help 300 clients every year but this year, it's tracking towards 700.

Chief executive Conor Twyford said she believes one factor which has led to an increase in demand is the international #MeToo sexual abuse awareness movement.

"People are coming forward with a variety of issues as they feel more free and confident to speak out," Ms Twyford said.

The organisation needs to find an additional $240,000 through grants, donations and fundraising after government funding to stay afloat.

"Our core funding has remained static for more than seven years and this has led to our current situation."

In its 2017 financial year, the organisation's expenses of $1,034,398 were higher than its revenue by around $73,000.

This year's Budget included funding for the creation of a central agency and a further $7.5 million for ACC spending.

Ms Twyford welcomed the move but said it was not enough for the operational costs of national services and didn't include funding for a rising demand.

She expected this would increase further with the national historical abuse in state care inquiry.

Wellington HELP's data showed a 40 per cent increase in police referrals earlier this year, from the previous year, she said.

Police do not keep records of referral locations but a spokeswoman said it had no reason to doubt the accuracy of HELP's data.

Sexual abuse survivor calls for funding increase

A woman that endured sexual abuse for eleven years and was supported by HELP during the police interview process is joining the call for an increase in funding from central government.

The woman, who can't be named for legal reasons, said the service helped her overcome the stigma of feeling dirty and ashamed.

She was told she would have to wait several months for ACC counselling, so went to a private counsellor.

The woman said many people wouldn't have this option, and that's why more funding is needed urgently.

Justice undersecretary Jan Logie said the current situation is not acceptable, with waitlists for counselling remaining the same as when she launched a select committee into sexual abuse support services in 2013.

She said the Government is working to address the issue of underfunding but that there was no timeframe in place.

Increased demand a pressure on system nationally

ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said he acknowledged that in some parts of the country, demand for services is greater than supply.

An ACC spokesman said based on surveys from organisations earlier this year, the longest waitlists are in the North Shore, Wanganui, Porirua, Wellington, the Selwyn District and Dunedin.

As some organisations do not use waitlists, the spokesman stated, 'There may be regions with provider shortages that aren't being identified.'

ACC is contacting universities with specialised programmes to tell students about work opportunities in sexual abuse support this year.

It's also planning to allow psychology interns to provide counselling services under supervision, to ease the lack of supply.

Sexual abuse counselling services around the country have told 1 NEWS they are facing serious funding pressure.

Christchurch-based START's Maggy Tai Rakena said there's been a steady rise in demand over the last 12 years for counselling.

"I am running a six-month waitlist for kids who have been raped," she said in an email.

Like elsewhere, Ms Tai Rakena said she spends a lot of time fundraising.

Auckland HELP's Kathryn McPhillip said demand is always increasing, especially in recent years with more societal talk about sexual abuse.

She said #MeToo has been part of the increased awareness, but that literature and TV shows like 13 Reasons Why have also been factors.

Ms McPhillip said funding is a "constant battle".

A waitlist with around 100 adult clients seeking counselling through the organisation had to be closed down.

Survivors are feeling more confident to come forward due to greater awareness of the issues. Source: 1 NEWS