Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The rebellion begins

Last year the Ministry of Social Development started imposing new contracts on community agencies requiring them to hand over highly personal information on their clients in exchange for funding. Now, Rape Crisis has said "no":

Rape Crisis will not accept funding contracts from the Ministry of Social Development if it is required to hand over clients' private details, the service says.

More than 800 social services will have to provide client names, birthdates, ethnicities and the personal details of any dependents under contracts taking effect from July.

Rape Crisis spokesperson Andrea Black said victims were telling the service they would no longer come to it for support if they knew their private information was being handed over to the government.

Ms Black told Nine to Noon her organisation was concerned the new policy would compromise people who already struggled to seek help, and so it would not accept ministry contracts if clients' private details were required in return.

Good. Rape Crisis is on solid ground here about the effects of the policy, and they're standing up for their clients. And its not as if the government can refuse to fund them - just think of the optics. More generally, the government depends on these agencies to deliver vital social services. If they all refuse to do so - go on strike, if you will - unless they can protect the privacy of their clients, then the government will have to either see those services go undelivered, or back down. Because having gutted their own capabilities, they're hardly in a position to do it all in-house.

If the social services sector wants to stand up for itself and force a better deal for their clients, an election year when the government is hyper-sensitive to bad news is the perfect time to do it.