Mike King says Gumboot Friday charity denied more funding from Ministry of Health

Mike King says Gumboot Friday charity denied more funding from Ministry of Health
Photo credit: Instagram/Gumboot Friday (left) and Getty Images (right)

Mental health campaigner Mike King says the Ministry of Health (MoH) has turned down his charity Gumboot Friday's request for more funding.

"Last Tuesday I was encouraged by the Minister of Health David Clark to apply to MoH for a Gumboot Friday top-up. I didn't want to but hey it's for the kids and 100 percent of funds would go to kids counselling and not us," he wrote on Facebook.

"They politely declined the next day. I'm not angry or upset, I'm motivated!!!

"So on Friday April 3rd 2020 Let's try and raise $5,000,000 so our kids can get the free counselling they deserve."

However Health Minister David Clark has responded that while King claims he's been denied funding, "as far as I'm concerned the conversation was still open".

"My understanding is there's been something of a breakdown in communication. I've asked the Ministry to reach out again to the Key to Life Trust to carry on the conversation as ultimately we all want the same thing, which is that young people are supported by services when they need them," he said later on Wednesday.

"Obviously there are funding criteria, there are rounds of applications ongoing around those things. They would have to meet certain criteria. There are other ways of making sure we meet the needs of those young people. I think it's important that the conversation continues and I've asked the Ministry to reach out again to the Key to Life Trust."

And the Ministry of Health says it has not even received a funding request from the Key to Life Charitable Trust yet.

"Therefore [it] has not declined a funding request," a spokesperson told Newshub.

"The Ministry does run procurement processes to fund services benefitting New Zealanders. The Ministry continues to be open to meeting with the Trust to discuss these processes and will be following up with them on this.

'"As a Government department, the Ministry can't top up all charities who face financial hardship as there are rules around procurement and funding to ensure accountability for taxpayer funding."

King requested more money after the Gumboot Friday Fund exhausted its reserve in less than six months.

After Kiwis collectively raised $1.3 million in April this year for Gumboot Friday - an annual event held to raise money to provide free counselling to under 18s - the scheme operated at an average spend of $120,000 a month. 

In September, that figure climbed to $940,000 worth of counselling appointments, triggering criticism from staff working on the frontline who claimed the future funding was "suddenly ripped away" and an email ordered treatment programmes to be immediately put on hold.

The MoH told Newshub it had been working with them to ensure young people in need would continue to be supported, but hadn't agreed to any funding for the Key to Life Charitable Trust - the organisation housing King's initiatives.

King dismisses backlash


Last week, King dismissed backlash over the speed the money was spent and shamed counsellors who are saying his organisation has let people down.

"If you're relying on Gumboot Friday money, to keep your business afloat, I think it's your business model that needs looking at, not the Gumboot Friday account," he said. 

King admits it was a surprise to have a jump in demand of more than seven times but says this reflects the substantial urgency for immediate access to counselling that the Gumboot Fund allows.

"From my understanding, it seems GPs were referring people to our fund because we had a quicker response time than funded services," he told Newshub.

He says no one could have predicted that the steady average would skyrocket in that last month.

"When we first came out people said we were raising other people's expectations and we were going to let people down. Well, we provided over 24,000 sessions and if people think that we've done a bad job, well that's on them, that's not on us. 

"Rather than people sticking the boot into us, what I think we should be doing, is asking the more serious question, 'what's going on with funded services'?"