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Liquidation looming

GRAPHIC/GETTY IMAGES

Funding cut threatens free budget advice service
MSD funding split between two budget providers

ELI HILL
[email protected]

Liquidation looms for Wairarapa’s Free Budget Advisory Service unless more funding can be found to keep it running.

The service which helps more than 300 people a year to manage their money has been providing help for far more people than it is funded for – and that has taken a toll on its own finances.

Members of the service will vote on its fate at a special general meeting being held on March 20.

The chairwoman of the committee that manages the service, Susan Brader, said the issue had come up at a meeting in December.

“It came to light that the free budget service was working on 145 clients that they were not getting funding for from the Ministry for Social Development,” she said.

“We’ve had to depend on other funding because the MSD hasn’t funded them . . . a lot of these people have got mental health problems or disabilities that desperately need help. They’re not ones that can budget themselves.”

Last year the service had expenses of $117,411 – nearly $30,000 more than its $90,090 revenue.

A large part of the fall in revenue comes from a cut to the amount the service received from the Ministry of Social Development.

In 2018 the service received $50,186 from the ministry, $29,909 less than the $80,095 it received in 2017.

MSD general manager of community partnerships Marama Edwards said the overall level of funding allocated for the Wairarapa region had not changed.

“The funding is now going to two providers and Wairarapa Free Budgeting Service is one of these.

“As with any contracts, we work closely with providers to ensure the best outcome for clients, families and whanau.”

The other organisation receiving fund is Connecting Communities Wairarapa.

Edwards said MSD wasn’t aware of the service’s intention to close, and encouraged the committee to talk to the ministry about its plight.

“If a contracted provider is no longer able to deliver services we work with them, and other organisations in the area, to ensure they continue to be offered to the community.”

Brader said the two fulltime staff members and one part-time worker, as well as around three volunteers, were devastated when they found out the committee was considering liquidation.

“Our clients depend on the organisation. We’re talking about people that if the place was closed down they would just stand still. They wouldn’t know where to go.”

Despite the looming vote Brader said the organisation needed to continue in some form.

“We’re inundated with phone calls – people crying on the phone ‘what will we do?’ The big point is that we must keep it operating – but it’s dependent on this funding.”

Brader said the special general meeting was for anyone to attend – but only members who had signed up at the annual general meeting would be able to vote.

Wairarapa-based Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty had planned a meeting with the service for later this week and said the news had come as “quite a surprise.”

“Part of the issue comes out of there being two budget advisory services in the town and funding is split between them.

“I want to bring them together and work across both organisations to prevent this from happening again.”

He said that funding for services was provided based on need – but at the moment there was more need than funding provided for.

“I know they need more volunteers so I’m hoping this news can bring some people forward so that staff can focus on delivering what they are currently funded for.”

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