NORTHERN Grampians Shire Council will help lobby for more financial counselling services for Wimmera Uniting Care.
Council decided unanimously at its June meeting on Monday to write a letter of support following funding cuts.
Cr Tony Driscoll said Wimmera Uniting Care had been forced to drop from one full-time and two part-time financial counsellors to a sole full-time counsellor.
He said the staffing limitations meant the organisation could no longer offer an outreach service for the Wimmera.
“Wimmera Uniting Care believes there is enough demand to warrant three full-time counsellors in the region and the need is growing,” he said.
“We need to heed their warning and support them vigorously.”
Cr Wayne Rice said it would be hypocritical of council not to support the organisation’s appeal for further funding to increase staffing.
“Council uses Wimmera Uniting Care to assist people in financial hardship,” he said.
“It’s the minimum we can do.”
He said the organisation helped council identify cases of genuine hardship, and indicate paths for resolution.
Council corporate services director Vaughan Williams said a shortage of financial counsellors also impacted greatly on the ability of council staff to implement council’s personal financial hardship policy.
“Any decision in accordance with the policy is based on an assessment from an independent financial counsellor and the next nearest available counsellor is based in Bendigo,” he said.
“The ratepayer subjects of the assessment are already experiencing financial difficulties and should not be made to incur the costs associated with meeting with counsellors from so far away.”
Council chief executive Justine Linley said Wimmera Uniting Care’s financial counselling services were vital to helping Wimmera people experiencing hardship rise above the situation.
“It’s not about hand-outs,” she said.
Horsham Rural City chief executive Peter Brown was not aware of any request from Wimmera Uniting Care for his council’s assistance with a letter of support.
“But I think, given the major structural changes the Federal Government is bringing into our economy and society, there is going to be a need to support people experiencing difficulty as a consequence,” he said.