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Waikato mothers and babies at risk of losing ‘invaluable’ support service

Waikato mothers and babies at risk of losing ‘invaluable’ support service

A renowned Waikato support service for mothers and their babies is in urgent need of funding to keep afloat.

Over the past 19 years, tens of thousands of Waikato mothers with children under 12 months old have benefited from the Hamilton-based Waikato Family Centre's health centred services.

Yet while the number of clients to receive the centre's help has tripled since its inception in 1996, the level of funding has remained relatively the same, risking potential closure.

"The centre is the only one of its kind in New Zealand. Our trained and experienced staff provide free professional help on parenting concerns from breast feeding, crying and colic, sleeping, reflux, and much more" nurse manager Maureen Speedy said.

"Due to the nature of our services, we have seen a steady rise in clients over the years. Client visits totalled 3660 last year, including father and family visits. Last year we saw a third of babies born in Hamilton.

"Yet unfortunately our funding hasn't increased with the growing demand for services. Sadly, at this rate, even with the help from current supporters, we will be running at a loss well-before the end of the year," she said.

The current cost of operating the centre totals about $300,000 per year, with 80 percent of the budget funding wages for seven staff. The remainder funds overhead expenses such as phone, power, utilities and professional development.

Clients are referred to the centre by health professionals, or call the centre for a consultation on their own accord. Most visits occur via word-of-mouth referral.

Local mother, Laura Monahan, is one of the clients to visit the centre last year for help with her child's sleeping concerns.

"On recommendation from my midwife and sister, I went to the Waikato Family Centre when my daughter was just three weeks old and having severe trouble sleeping.

"The centre not only identified tools to help my daughter, they recognised and helped me cope with post-natal distress. I attended a group with Mums on a similar journey to me, and it was the best thing I could have done.

"There is no service exactly like this in other parts of New Zealand. It changes families' lives, and is an invaluable asset to the Waikato region," she said.

The centre is well recognised in the healthcare sector, with referrals coming from a wide variety of sources including local doctors, midwives, Plunket, social workers and other health professionals.

Dr Trudi Zillkes from Fairfield Medical Centre said she often refers families to the centre – usually for feeding issues or if the mother is struggling to cope.

"The centre provides much needed support that other health professionals can't always give because of time and other restrictions.

"The staff are highly qualified and the service is free for mothers – many of whom are struggling financially. It's a very important service in this area," Dr Zillkes aid.

Maureen, who holds a Queens Service Medal (QSM) and is receiving an honorary medal from Wintec next month in recognition for her service to the community, has been instrumental in keeping the centre open over the years.

"The centre faced closure in 1996 because of funding issues. In 1999 the Centre secured a funding contract with the Waikato District Health Board and shortly after a contract with the Ministry of Social Development.

"The DHB and MSD has faithfully continued to fund us, however the funds only cover a third of our operational expenses. The rest of the funding comes mainly from corporate and individual donations, and grants from trusts. We're grateful for their support, but need more to survive," she said.

"Based on the most recent forecast prepared by KPMG there will be no funds in the bank account by 31 March 2016. This assumes the trust receives the same level of support of donations and grants it has previously received.

"We're at a point, once again, where corporate sponsorship and donations are imperative to the continued provision of support service. Unfortunately it's urgent, and only a matter of months before we can't cover our costs.

"We hope there are generous companies and individuals out there in a position to support us – and we are anxiously hoping for the best. In this case, the wellbeing of thousands of local families is at stake," she said.

In total, the centre would like to have $100,000 in its bank account by 31 March 2016 to cover future costs and maintain its financial viability.

A Givealittle page has been set up for companies and individuals to donate to the centre, and can be found at .

Companies willing to sponsor the centre are urged to contact 07 834 2036 or