Friday, July 2, 2021

Kate Hawkesby: Ironic the government isn't funding Gumboot Friday


I feel bad for Mike King, not just him actually, but for every family he’s tried or is still trying to help and can’t get funding for.

Yesterday the government told him they’re not funding Gumboot Friday to provide free counselling for young people struggling with mental health. I find this ironic given the government’s talked a big game on mental health, handed out 1.9 billion for it, acknowledged it’s a problem, say their work is ongoing, yet they’re not supporting this.

It’s also ironic they can find the money to fund a cycle lane over the Harbour Bridge for a handful of Auckland cyclists, but they can’t find money for this. 

Likewise, they can throw 50 million at a slush fund to look for alternatives to cotton buds, but they can’t fund this. There are plenty of examples of money being printed and handed out from the Beehive and I’m just not sure how this one doesn’t make the cut.

Our mental health stats are woeful. The government’s well aware of it, has had solutions offered to them, people with practical tangible answers and it still says no.

Does the rejection of this funding go hand in hand with Mike King speaking out against the PM and returning his New Zealand Order of Merit?

I would hope not, but the timing’s not great is it. King says he’s devastated by this, mainly because of the devastation it’ll have on families already battling with mental health services, already struggling to pay, or get access, or get attention in this sector.

The services are over run, the system is broken, ask anyone whose had to deal with it, it’s just not catching all the people it needs to. It is failing people on a regular basis.

The Ministry, in rather a condescending tone, said of its rejection of Gumboot Friday funding that there is ‘more work to be done’ in this sector, and that they share Mike King’s passion and commitment. The PM made the same utterances. But that’s all it is, empty words. The rubber, literally, was hitting the road here with King’s work, and they’ve just shut the door on it.

We had Mike King on the show recently when he was returning his medal; he was aggrieved about the lack of transparency on where that mental health money the government had packaged up in 2019 had gone. Turns out only 5 extra beds had been added to facilities over two years. Minister Andrew Little said he was ‘frustrated’ and there was general acknowledgement it wasn’t good enough. 

But tut tutting the failures and making promises like ‘we’ll try to do better’, don’t really cut the mustard for a guy like King who’s been on the front line and has to face these families on a daily basis. What do you even say to families who are at absolute breaking point, when a government that pretends to care, clearly doesn’t care enough?

So when King says he’s devastated this week, I completely understand why.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

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