Ministry of Health rejects Mike King’s Gumboot Friday funding plea

The Ministry of Health has rejected a plea for funding from Gumboot Friday, which provides free counselling for young people in New Zealand, according to Mike King.

King, the founder of Gumboot Friday, posted the news on social media this morning but the ministry said the request was made outside the required timeframe.

It comes two weeks after he returned his Order of Merit medal, saying the mental health system was “broken” and “no one is trying to fix it”.

In his post this morning, King quoted mental health and addiction primary and community wellbeing manager Jo Chiplin, who emailed him yesterday to say: “We are not in a position to fund Gumboot Friday.”

The post, directed at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, said: “The Ministry of Health sent Gumboot Friday a rejection email declining our plea for funding.”

“I know this decision is out of your control and that you are genuinely doing your best to bring change. Despite this rejection we vow to continue fighting to fund free counselling for the kids MOH doesn’t care about,” he said on Facebook and Instagram.

Yesterday we received news that despite its proven success and a guarantee that 100% of funding would go directly to…

King said the decision was a “truly sad day for all New Zealanders” and would have a “devastating” effect on Kiwi families who were already struggling to get help in an overrun mental health system.

Gumboot Friday had assured the ministry that 100 per cent of any funding received would go to counsellors with the organisation covering any administration costs, he said.

Ministry of Health’s deputy chief executive of sector support and infrastructure Robyn Shearer said the application from Gumboot Friday was sent outside the “planned procurement processes” which meant the ministry was unable to fund it – or any other charity or service – at this time.

“Procurement rules are designed to make sure there is a transparent, fair and equitable process, and to make sure there can be robust evaluation of applications,” she said.

Shearer said the email to the organisation thanked them for their passion and commitment to the cause and said they were “working hard to put in place the transformation that we all know is needed”.

She encouraged Gumboot Friday representatives to take part in the formal proposal submission process that would begin in the first quarter of the financial year.

The ministry had also met with and provided information to Gumboot Friday around funding opportunities several times, she said.

This follows Health Minister Andrew Little’s admission last month that he was “extraordinarily” frustrated at the slow pace of the roll out of the $1.9 billion mental health package the Government announced in 2019.

His comments came after revelations of acute mental health units running at capacity and reports only five extra acute mental health beds had been added as a result of the Government’s investment.

National’s mental health spokesman Matt Doocey revealed just $500,000 of $235m set aside for new mental health facilities in Budget 2019 had been spent, or 0.2 per cent.

“I am still trying to understand why. I am not expecting facilities to be completed or fully staffed but we seem to be a long way behind actually getting a shovel in the ground,” Little said.

“We made the decisions, commitments, the money is there but the design and execution is out of our hands.”

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