Call for more Māori social services funding

By Mānia Clarke

Health Minister Johnathan Coleman has confirmed the budget will include new funding for mental health and addiction services as part of its Social Investment Package.

However, the NZ Drug Foundation says unless funding is doubled it won't scratch the surface in terms of the growing need for support, particularly among Māori.

The NZ Drug Foundation CEO Ross Bell says the current government spend of $150mil on drug and alcohol addiction services is not enough.

Bell says, "There is about 50,000 New Zealanders who need treatment who can't get it. We think in order to meet the needs of those people the government needs to double the amount of funding that it puts in to drug and alcohol treatment."

Bell believes more funding needs to be invested in services designed and delivered by Māori. 

"Part of that money needs to go into building up the addiction treatment workforce and having specialised services that meets the needs for Māori, for young people."

Auckland based Māori counsellor Brent Swann agrees and says there's not enough Māori counsellors and social worker professionals.  

"We're a rare breed. There are very few out there working with our people," says Swann.

The 2015 Tackling Methamphetamine Progress Report highlighted only 17% of users are receiving treatment, which means 83% of users aren't. Thirty four percent of users reported barriers to finding help.

"Either they can't access it or when they do access it, it almost becomes like a full time job cause they have to go from one session over here and a programme over there and get on the bus and go there with the kids. It becomes really quite a difficult thing to achieve," said Swann.  

Coleman will outline details of the new funding at next weeks Budget day. Bell predicts the allocated amount won't be enough.