NUPE members employed as Counsellors and Administrators with Relationships Aotearoa are affected by the proposed changes to the Family Court procedures announced 2 August. The proposals will go to Parliament towards the end of 2012. There are some positive aspects of the proposals from the Ministry of Justice, such as the new Family Dispute Resolution service to keep couples out of the Courts, mandatory Parenting Through Separation courses, and increased flexibility for Domestic Violence programmes.
However, a major concern for NUPE is the proposal to reduce the six free Section 9 sessions to only one interim session by the end of 2012. Couples in trouble have been eligible for six free Family Court counselling sessions. This has been a very successful service. Once established, the new service will mean they will only be eligible for a means tested service once they have separated and have made an application to the Court for care and contact issues. This drop to one session is supposed to occur before the new Family Dispute Resolution service is up and running.
This proposal could also have a significant impact on the viability of Relationships Aotearoa as an organisation providing counselling services across NZ.
Our members are asking the community to consider both the short and long term impact of the Family Court proposals.
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