Community Scoop

Responsiveness to Whānau

tim-metcalfeTim Metcalfe

Executive Officer | jigsaw whanganui

Last week I participated in a family hui convened by a colleague in our agency’s intensive social work team.  The household comprises 3 young children, their Mum and their Dad who has recently been released from prison. He identifies with a well-known local gang and describes himself as being heavily institutionalised having served several prison sentences over the past 15 years. Prior to his release he contacted our agency to support his intended transition to the home occupied by his partner and children. Considerable work was done alongside the family prior to his release.

Along with various family members and gang associates attending the meeting were the Probation Officer, a Prison Chaplain, Whanau ora Navigator, Social Worker in Schools, and a local Counsellor.

Some of my scattered reflections on this hui and the family’s experiences are :

  • The importance of whānaugatanga and the appropriate use of pepeha in creating safety and connection across organisational boundaries and roles
  • When someone is imprisoned, children and partners very much share the sentence
  • Services delivered to this man while in prison were highly individualised. There appeared no active engagement of his partner and family
  • Narrow, disjointed and inadequate responses to the family’s needs by various institutions of the state and how much they perpetuate patterns of male control and entitlement
  • The critical importance for everyone involved to take responsibility for family’s safety
  • Whānau and family, however it is constituted, are the most critical service and institution to anyone facing adversity
  • The critical importance of informal supports (family, chaplain, associates) in strengthening safety and wellbeing. They rather than the formal services are available 24/7
  • The massive challenges the family face meeting their basic needs – food, housing, adequate dry and warm housing – putting them under huge stress
  • The responsiveness of the family to sound cultural models of practice. For example they have been overwhelmed by the He Mana Ririki programme being delivered by our SWiS worker

For me this speaks to the massive value of our sector. We can be flexible and responsive to families’ needs, honouring their mana and dignity and challenging structures and institutions that diminish them.

Tim and his family have lived in Whanganui for the past 28 years. He has been very active in many local and national initiatives to address family harm.


This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network. The views presented here are not necessarily those of ComVoices.

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

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