Abuse outcry

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Queenstown family harm victims are returning to abusive exes due to a lack of financial support, a situation Jigsaw manager Fiona Young calls “heartbreaking”.

Young’s preparing to meet with Immigration NZ officials next month to push for more support for women in the country on partnership visas.

If you’re here on a partnership visa and your partner is a New Zealand citizen or resident, you can apply for assistance through Work and Income (WINZ) if you are a victim of family harm.

But if your ex is here on a different visa, such as a student or work visa, there’s no support available.

She says that’s putting pressure on social services, who, along with police, on average deal with one case of family violence a day in the resort.

It also means the victim often goes back to their abusive ex, because they can’t afford to live otherwise.

“It’s quite heartbreaking.”

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says, in a written statement, it’s a “sad fact that people – mostly women – who come to New Zealand with their status here solely dependent on their partner’s study or work visa, can face difficulties leaving those relationships.

“As leaving means they have no legal status in New Zealand, Work and Income are unable to assist them financially. I am assured however, that Work and Income work closely with Immigration to see whether that status can be changed.”

However, she points to the $76 million committed in this year’s Budget to support those working on the frontline against family violence. They can help all nationalities.

Young says Jigsaw, which provides support and help for both victims and offenders, receives about one family harm referral a day.

Across Central Otago, she believes it’ll finish the financial year on about 550.

“It’s always here, regardless of the perception in the community that it’s not.”

She’s concerned about the number of offenders who are being given police diversion.

And given the referrals Jigsaw is getting, she’s also shocked by the lack of people charged and convicted for assaulting children.

Ministry of Justice figures released to nine people were charged with assaulting a child in Queenstown between 2013 and 2017.

Of those, three were convicted.

“I think it’s horrific, when you look at the amount of referrals we get,” Young says.

Queenstown family harm co-ordinator sergeant Blair Duffy says police in the resort are called to about one incident a day.

They’re issuing about two Police Safety Orders (PSO) each week. A PSO is the alternative when police think an offence has happened, but don’t have enough evidence to press charges.

It means the person must stay away from someone for up to five days.

Police are called to all types of family harm incidents, from verbal abuse to serious assaults, Duffy says.

On Monday night alone, police were called to two family harm incidents. On Tuesday Duffy said one person had been arrested and he was expecting another arrest that day.

Regarding Young’s concerns around police diversion, Duffy says it’s not an easy process to get it.

There are several people who need to give the okay, including the victim and the arresting officer, he says. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway referred questions to Sepuloni’s office.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz