Hindmarsh RARE funding cut: Life-saving initiative no longer available

HINDMARSH Shire residents will be deprived of a program credited with saving lives and re-engaging struggling community members, because of a lack of funding.

Wimmera Uniting Care sought a $25,000 contribution from Hindmarsh Shire Council to keep its Rural and Remote Engagement, or RARE, initiative running in the shire.

The program supports people who are withdrawn or disengaged to seek help.

RELATED: Wimmera Uniting Care's 'life-saving' program struggles for funding

Council corporate and community services director Anne Champness said the program’s value was evident.

But council voted unanimously at its August meeting on Wednesday to refuse the request for money.

“It is not council’s responsibility to be financing that sort of thing,” Cr Ron Lowe said.

“It is the state or federal governments that should be financing it.”

Council will support Wimmera Uniting Care in its applications for government funding.

“While the program is a priority of Wimmera Uniting Care, the board felt it could not continue to fully fund the program on an ongoing basis,” Mrs Champness said.

In a letter to council, Wimmera Uniting Care acting executive manager of community programs Mick Clark said the agency had no option but to stop delivering RARE in Hindmarsh Shire.

“We will be instructing Mal Coutts to start a handover process to your community services with existing clients and not to take on any new ones,” he said.

“Wimmera Uniting Care will continue to submit requests for sustainable funding, and, if sufficient funding is accessed, we will roll the program out in your area again.”

Mr Clark said the agency would continue to offer all of its funded programs in Hindmarsh Shire.

West Wimmera Shire Council pledged $25,000 to keep RARE running in its municipality.

The program is also being trialled in Yarriambiack Shire, free for a year.

Wimmera Uniting Care community mental health and financial services manager Leigh Cooksley said the agency was in discussions with Federation University about studying the RARE program.

“We’re hoping that with some scientific research we’ll have more weight to push the program,” he said.

Mr Cooksley said the agency would draw on Hindmarsh Shire Council’s support in its funding applications.

“Hindmarsh Shire Council will still be as supportive as it possibly can, I have no doubt about that,” he said.

“We understand they don’t have the money available at this point in time.”

In a letter of recommendation, council chief executive Tony Doyle described the RARE program as vital.

“Without RARE, there would be a significant void in our community,” he said.

Mrs Champness said the program received 64 direct referrals from individuals and families across the West Wimmera and Hindmarsh shires in the last quarter, ending June 2014.

“The Rural and Remote Engagement worker also provided support and assistance at relief and recovery centres during the January bushfires,” she said.

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