Northern Grampians fights home, community care services funding cuts

Northern Grampians Shire councillor Wayne Rice.

Northern Grampians Shire councillor Wayne Rice.

NORTHERN Grampians Shire Council is lobbying the Federal Government to ensure there are no further cuts to home and community care services.

Council has made a submission to the government stressing the need for adequate funding and regional services.

Cr Wayne Rice said any cuts to the program would have a severe effect on residents who accessed its services.

“There are a lot of people who get meals-on-wheels and that’s the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

“There’s such things as building ramps into people’s houses and putting safety bars on people’s houses to allow them to get in and out of the bath and toilet.”

In the 2014-2015 financial year, the program has committed to provide 19,500 meals-on-wheels, 9304 hours of domestic assistance, 3390 hours of personal care, 338 hours of property maintenance, 711 hours of respite care and 1280 hours of individualised assessment.

Council’s submission was in response to the Key Directions for the Commonwealth Home Support Program discussion paper.

Mayor Kevin Erwin said council needed to be funded appropriately to provide the services.

“The shire’s demographics are getting older so there’s more reliance on these services,” he said. 

“That will only continue to grow and, particularly for the rural councils, the services are extremely important.”

Cr Rice encouraged residents to get in contact with their members of parliament to demonstrate how important the services were to them.

Council budgets were rocked in May by a Federal Budget proposal to freeze indexation of federal assistance grants to councils.

Cr Rice said the freeze, coupled with a State Opposition promise to freeze rate rises at 2.5 per cent a year if they won November’s election, could spell trouble for home and community care services. 

He said Shadow Minister for Local Government Richard Wynne had suggested councils that needed larger rate increases could apply to the Essential Services Commission.

“That is a ridiculous position to be in,” he said.

“It’s saying ‘you can go to a bunch of bureaucrats and they’ll make a decision in relation to your budget’.”

Cr Rice said councillors were elected representatives who should be responsible and accountable for their budgets.

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