17 Dec 2016

Mental health trust criticised over proposed cuts

4:06 pm on 17 December 2016

A South Island trust that provides mental health care is being warned an imminent restructure will hurt the people who need their help.

Therapist comforting patient: stock image.

Photo: 123RF

The Gateway Housing Trust is proposing to reduce what it calls seven middle management positions down to three.

The trust provides in-house and outreach services for people with mental illness as well as support for at-risk youth in the upper South Island.

Nelson and Marlborough E Tū union organiser Andrew Irvine said if the job cuts went ahead they would not be able to offer as many services.

"The service users will be the losers because there's 70 years worth of experience, knowledge and expertise going to be pushed out the door at Gateway.

"They are going to be replaced by people who don't have knowledge about the particular requirements of the people that are already there and have been supported through Gateway," Mr irvine said.

He said the members of staff facing redundancy consisted of three team leaders, two advisers and two service co-ordinators.

Gateway had invited those workers to express interest in the three positions going, but Mr Irvine said the new jobs asked for people with degrees - something none of the seven had.

"The way the job descriptions are written effectively excludes seven redundant employees from applying," he said.

Gateway's chief executive Tracey Tuhi said there were too many managers at present and the company needed a cleaner operation.

"We have got four layers of management between frontline staff and myself that's created real confusion for people around leadership. We've got some staff who have two leaders," Ms Tuhi said.

She said recent forecasts proved Gateway needed to adapt and be able to do more with less.

"We're facing a massive sector review that's been ongoing for some time now. It's clear that over the next 10 years we're going to experience 100 percent increase in mental health presentations with only a corresponding 30-40 percent of resourcing," Ms Tuhi said.

She said the restructuring plans had been in place for four years.

But one employee told RNZ those plans have never yielded any real information for staff until last Thursday.

That employee said the team leaders were extremely valuable, often working with clients directly and filling in when frontline staff were away.

RNZ was told all seven members had worked their way up from frontline positions to their current roles, including one that actually set up the company's services for at risk youth.

There were major concerns the three new members would not be able to provide the same quality of service as before.

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