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Safe to talk - FAQs for service providers

These FAQs have been developed by Homecare Medical to answer questions from sexual harm service providers about the new Safe to talk helpline.

What does the service provide?

Safe to talk is a new helpline providing support and information to anyone affected by sexual harm, in any way. It’s free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

How is sexual harm defined?

The term ‘harm’ incorporates acts of violence, but also acknowledges many experiences of sexual harm that may not be perceived as violent.

Sexual harm describes a number of sexual behaviours that are engaged in without consent and involve elements of force, coercion and/or power by one person over another for the purpose of sexual gratification and control. This can include both contact and non-contact behaviour, including ‘online’ computer-assisted sexual harm.

What channels does Safe to talk offer?

Safe to talk is available by:

  • Calling 0800 044 334
  • Texting 4334
  • Emailing
  • Live web chat on which also has a range of resources and information about sexual harm.

What can someone contact the service about?

People can get in touch anytime, free, if they:

  • Have been sexually harmed or are worried about something that’s happened
  • Want to help someone
  • Are concerned about their own thoughts or about harming someone
  • Have harmed someone else
  • Want information about sexual harm

What can Safe to talk help with?

The service offers free confidential contact with a trained specialist. They can help with:

  • Answers to questions about sexual harm
  • Information about medical, emotional, and behavioural issues related to harmful experiences
  • Explanations of what service users might expect if they report to the Police
  • Referral to specialists in the service user’s area
  • Information for family/whānau and friends wanting to help someone
  • Information and contact with a specialist for service users who are worried about their own sexually harmful thoughts or behaviour
  • Information on or connection/referral to health practitioners for medical care or forensic medical examination. This can happen without police involvement or while the service user is making up their mind about whether to contact Police.

Who’s providing this service?

Homecare Medical has been contracted by the Ministry of Social Development to run this service following an open competitive process.

Homecare Medical is a social enterprise funded by the Ministry of Health, ACC, Ministry of Social Development, Corrections, the Health Promotion Agency and district health boards to operate a number of digital health and social services.

What services do you provide?

Safe to talk provides support, counselling and de-escalation to our clients. Where appropriate we transfer, signpost or refer those clients to sector providers, including face-to-face service providers, Police, Ambulance or forensic specialists.

How long are your calls?

Contacts with clients are not time-limited, however clinical evidence suggests around 15-20 minutes is where most therapeutic value is achieved. We have had calls up to an hour long, and text message conversations that extend for eight hours or more.

What skills do your staff have?

Our staff are skilled in working with survivors of sexual harm, and people with harmful sexual behaviour. Our staff have relevant professional qualification as a counsellor, social worker, psychologist or similar, and/or have experience in working with sexual harm.

What is the service model for Safe to talk?

Safe to talk is designed on the principles of Trauma Informed Care, Client Centred and culturally safe practice as outlined in the Good Practice guidelines developed by Te Ohaakii a Hine-National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together (TOAH-NNEST). Our professionals value each service user’s perspective and cultural needs, focusing on the areas of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. We take the time people need to build rapport and then work alongside them providing them information, emotional support and guidance. A key focus is empowering people to make decisions about their own wellbeing.

Our team are mindful of the risks of re-traumatisation when working across all service channels including SMS and chat. We work with people to ensure their immediate safety and wellbeing and, where desired, link them with appropriate local services for support (e.g. police, medical, counselling etc).

Our staff receive external clinical supervision to ensure their wellbeing and the care we provide remains safe, effective and clinically relevant for our service users.

Do you notify Police of contacts?

Safe to talk staff work to ensure that the service user’s choices are followed. Safe to talk operates a service user-centric model, where we provide the available options to the service user, and support them in making their choice. This could include Safe to talk contacting the Police, if the service user wishes us to do this.

Where we are concerned about the immediate safety of a service user, or someone else, we may choose to ‘break glass’, contacting police/crisis team without the service user’s consent. Such occurrences are rare, and our team are well trained in assessing risk.

Can clients remain anonymous?

All clients have the option to remain anonymous, or can choose to use an alias when interacting with the service. In rare circumstances where there is an imminent risk of harm to self or others, Safe to talk may ‘break glass’ to request support from Police or other agencies without the client’s consent.

Do you record calls?

We do not record phone calls to the service.

What about other channels?

Where appropriate we will provide advice to clients contacting us that any electronic contact with the service leaves a footprint – for example with SMS a copy is held on the client’s phone, by their phone company, and by the Safe to talk service. With e-mail a copy is held in the client’s e-mail system and in the Safe to talk e-mail system. Where a client is concerned (either due to safety concerns for them – if someone else saw their phone – or due to privacy concerns with our record holding) we advise them to contact us via phone instead, which is not recorded.

Is any personal information about clients shared with MSD?

No, absolutely no personal information about clients is shared with MSD.

What is your approach to privacy?

Privacy, trust and confidence are vital to us. Our absolute priority is that service users feel comfortable and safe accessing our services. We comply with the Privacy Act 1993 and we have extensive audit processes and policies to ensure ongoing compliance.

How do you manage repeat callers?

We work with repeat callers across our services on a regular basis. Many service users are repeat callers because they frequently have need of our services, over time we aim to work with the service user to increase their autonomy and reduce dependence on the service. For some, frequent caller plans are developed to provide continuity of care, and to ensure that there is service coordination with other involved providers.

Co-existing problems

Many callers to Safe to talk present with co-existing problems. Our integrated workforce is able to work with a range of problems that are presented in a holistic way. Team members will access support for complex presentation through shift supervisors, peers, the clinical team manager, external supervision and the service’s clinical lead, Dr Siale Foliaki.


Where face to face services have wait times, or are unavailable, our counsellors can offer scheduled call-backs. Call-backs can be with a single counsellor, clinically reviewed by our team manager, focusing on strategies that can assist the service user to manage distress and maintain wellbeing. We also re-assure service users that they are welcome to call us back at any time.

Referral pathways

We are working closely with providers throughout New Zealand to better understand variation in approaches, including how referral pathways are managed, cultural needs in each region, and to ensure that our service is responsive to these variations. This began during the regional launch with Canterbury providers, and has continued with recent discussions with providers in Auckland and Wellington regions. We are planning to have follow-up meetings over the coming months with providers in other areas.

What cultural support can you provide?

Our staff are ethnically diverse, and all staff are trained in providing culturally relevant services. We are not a Kaupapa Māori service. Our aim is to provide a culturally competent service and to refer clients to a Kaupapa Māori service where appropriate.

Do you provide interpreter services?

We offer 24x7 interpreter services in 100 languages. However, we also recognise that for many people having an interpreter on the line for a sensitive topic can be uncomfortable. Our ethnically diverse staff can provide services in many of NZ’s commonly used languages.

Can a client choose who they talk to?

A client can request a staff member of their preferred gender or (where available) cultural background. Depending on time of day and roster patterns, this may require Safe to talk to call them back at a later time when that staff member is available.

How does Safe to talk know what local providers are out there?

We use the Healthpoint directory of services at, and have funded this directory to be updated to include sexual harm related services. If you are not in this directory and want to be, or need to update your listing, then you can contact Brenda via