THERE were tears.
And fears too, especially about a downgrade in pay rates, even if future employment is available for the 43 affected staff members.
There could be no doubt, last Wednesday, that the decision taken by the South Gippsland Shire Council, to withdraw from providing Home and Community Care services from October 1 this year has hit HACC staff, and probably their clients, hard.
Immediately after the vote was taken, eight councillors for and only Cr Andrew McEwen against, about a dozen of the shire’s employees filed out of the council chambers, some in tears, most quizzing their ASU union representative, Matt Parkinson, about the implications.
There is the proviso that a suitable alternative service provider must be found to continue to provide services, but in reality, there’s no going back now.
The change is a result of the impact on funding models of State and Federal Government reforms. Client services will continue as normal at least until October 1.
When a new provider is identified Council will work with them in an effort to have a smooth transition.
South Gippsland Shire Mayor, Cr Lorraine Brunt said the decision was the best course of action to balance the needs of the community and the capacity of the organisation.
“This has been a hard decision for those involved and I hope everyone can understand that it has not been made lightly. This affects some of the most vulnerable people in the community and highly regarded staff members.
“Unfortunately under future funding models Council could not continue to provide the service adequately. If we continued it would risk the quality of care for clients and our financial stability,” said the Mayor.
South Gippsland Shire Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Tim Tamlin, acknowledged the exemplary service provided by Community and Home Care Services staff.
“We will do our utmost to help our affected staff during this change. They have provided a fantastic service to our community which has not gone unnoticed.
“It is our intention to recommend these staff to the alternate service provider. This will help ensure that the local knowledge and expertise in this area isn’t lost,” said Mr Tamlin.
Cr Hill expressed his regret that the change was necessary.
“Leading into the last election, I door-knocked a lot of people and asked what they liked about the shire. Without a doubt this (HACC services) was number one. But we’ve got a problem because the government is changing how the services are being delivered.”
Cr McEwen agreed, saying the change was a tragedy, not only for staff who would be losing 5%-15% in salaries, but also the community which would inevitably lose services.
Redundancy for all affected staff is estimated to be approximately $1,000,000.
In a statement from the shire this week, Council has urged those with further questions about the service and how these changes could affect them to contact Council on 5662 9200 to ask questions and provide any feedback.