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Paula Bennett 'responsible' for any abuse from now on - Tamihere

Published: 7:38PM Monday February 11, 2013 Source: ONE News

A fight over a million dollar welfare contract in west Auckland has turned ugly, after a leading figure in the debate threw potshots at the minister in charge.

John Tamihere, who heads the trust which lost the contract, said Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett will be personally responsible for any cases of abuse which happen from now on.

It comes a week after Waipareria Trust lost a $1.5 million Government contract to care for more than 200 families at high-risk of abuse.

The funding was cut because of the trust's poor performance record, and it now has to forward the work to a new provider.

"The minister saw fit to sign off on a termination for us, that's how the cookie crumbles, then we've got to transition those 260 families somewhere," said Tamihere.

Tamihere has sent a strongly worded letter to the minister, saying these families are not "cattle but real people".

"Regretfully your officials saw otherswise," it adds.

It also tells Bennett if there is any "violence or abuse" following the removal of the trust "you will be personally responsible".

The Ministry of Social Development disputes it has handled the transition badly, and says it has met with the trust to arrange handing over the files.

The ministry declined to provide a spokeperson to comment on camera, and Bennett is overseas on a professional trip.

ONE News has a copy of Tamihere's letter, which has also been delivered to families today, telling them to contact Bennett's electorate office directly if they have any problems.

Battles between Tamihere and Bennett are nothing new, says ONE News Deputy Political Editor Jessica Mutch.

Tamihere, a former Labour MP, has hinted he wants to return to politics, possibly mounting a challenge in Bennett's constituency of Waitakere.

The Waipareira Trust took the Crown to court last year over being stripped of its welfare contract, but lost. Now it appears Tamihere is not ready to give up the fight.

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