Tuakau Budgeting Centre faces possible closure
Tuakau’s Budgeting and Family Support Services is facing possible closure after their tender application for funding was awarded to Waahi Whaanui Services based in Huntly, by the Ministry of Social Development instead.
In the past, Tuakau’s application for funding formed part of the Mangere Budgeting Services Trust which did a collective funding proposal for Mangere, Otara and Tuakau.
With the new changes made by the Ministry of Social Development, Tuakau tendered for the services on their own and not part of the group.
Mangere Budgeting Services Trust were awarded the tender they applied for, however it left Tuakau out in the cold. After operating for three years and with over 310 families registered on their books, not been awarded the tender came as a huge shock for the dedicated team behind Tuakau’s Budgeting and Family Support Services.
The news was bitter sweet for CEO Darryl Evans, who says while he is thrilled that they can continue their services in Mangere and Otara, he is disappointed in the decision made for Tuakau.
“We have been running in Tuakau for over three years now, and we are more than just a budgeting advice centre. From financial education, to providing whanau with food parcels, and cooking classes, we cover not just Tuakau, but have families from Port Waikato, Onewhero and Mangatatwhiri who come to us for assistance. It is heartbreaking to think that we could face possible closure in less than two months time.” 
In the last year, the Ministry of Social Development has undertaken a major shift in how it funds and supports budgeting services that are delivered to the public. Maree Roberts, Ministry of Social Development Associate Deputy Chief Executive, stresses that the change ‘is not about cutting funding.’
“The Government will still be investing the same overall level of funding ($14.9 million) in financial capability once the new service is rolled out, but the money will be used in a more effective way. The changes come in response to concerns expressed by the budgeting services sector and clients that services were not always of sufficient quality. The sector has also told us that clients’ needs are more diverse and complex than simply requiring help with managing budgets.”
The reasons given for why the tender for Tuakau was declined as the ‘applicant needed to show a stronger understanding of their clients key characteristics, needs and how they respond to them,’ a statement that Darryl Evans says ‘is a slap in the face.’
“We have 310 families registered on our books for Tuakau. We have never failed an audit and have over delivered on every contract that we have ever had. To say that we do not know the needs of our clients is just ridiculous.”
Instead, the contract has been given to the Waahi Whaanui Budget Service based in Huntly.
“I ask the question, how will our clients be able to see the Waahi Whaanui services, which is 52.2km away? Most cannot make in into Pukekohe, and public transport is near on non existent for our area. It is just preposterous.”
However, Ministry of Social Development General Manager Community Outcomes and Services, Peter Galvin, states he is
‘confident that people in the Tuakau area will have adequate access to Building Financial Capability services.’
“It has been agreed with the CEO of  Waahi Whaanui that they will be expected to provide an outreach service to Tuakau, reassuring clients in the area that they will not be without a service provider.”
 Mr Galvin stated that ‘Waahi Whaanui has historically been one of the strongest service providers in the Waikato with many layers of services such as Social Workers in Schools and Family Start.’
“Historically, the Waahi Whaanui Budget Service has been held in high regard by locals and our staff.  The application from Waahi Whaanui was for wider coverage of the Waikato District where Tuakau was noted as an area with a gap in our funding spread. The opportunity of additional services to support the budgeting services for the community was a factor.”
Mr Galvin also stated that as an affiliate of Waikato Tainui, Waahi Whaanui has tribal coverage which reaches through to South Auckland.
“It is able to establish outreaches across their tribal boundaries including Tuakau. Based on this and their performance against other evaluation criteria outlined in the request for proposal, Waahi Whaanui was the successful candidate.”
Darryl however, believes that it is a waste of funds allocated, as it is replicating services that are already established in the area.
“We are here, we have been for three years and yet no one has come out to see what we have actually done for the community. The only funding we have received has been from donations from our local organisations, Tuakau Lions and Rotary. I just can’t understand the decisions that have been made. We are going to do our best to keep our services, but right now it is looking like we need a miracle.”