Update Monday 10am: Statement from Horsham Rural City Council
Horsham Rural City Council (HRCC), as a result of a resolution at its January 28 Meeting, is proposing to withdraw from delivering aged and disability services.
Council will now undertake an expression of interest process to find a suitable provider to deliver services including home care, respite, personal care, meals on wheels and social support.
Mayor Mark Radford said services available to the municipality would not be reduced.
"Services will continue to be provided, however it may not be delivered by Council," Cr Radford said.
"This has been a difficult decision for our Councillors and one we have not taken lightly.
"Our aged and disability services provide significant support to our community and we know the service is highly valued.
"There have, however, been a number of reforms in the aged and disability service sector. It is now understood Council will not be able into the future compete in the changing marketplace.
"It is understood that the new funding model is better suited to be operated by services independent from Local Government.
"A number of other Councils in Victoria are going through or have gone through a similar process," he said.
A further report will be provided to Council in relation to any proposed new Home Support Service provider following the Expression of Interest process. If a suitable provider can be found, Council may decide to exit the service.
"We will then make a recommendation to the Commonwealth Government and State Governments of our preferred provider," Cr Radford said.
"They are the final decision-makers, Council is only able to provide a recommendation. Council however has a genuine interest in ensuring that a high-quality and reliable provider is appointed.
"The service levels established by our long serving staff must continue," he said.
"Council understands this is a big change," Cr Radford said.
"We will work closely with staff and clients to ensure everyone is informed about the proposal and the process under way.
"To our community members who access our aged or disability services, I would like to assure you that our focus is to maintain the availability and quality of the services we provide."
Irrespective of the outcome in relation to provision Home Support Services in the future, HRCC will continue its strategic planning and advocacy roles in the aged and disability sector to ensure the community has access to quality services.
UP to 50 Horsham council aged care and disability workers' jobs and pay levels are at risk due to proposed service changes, the Australian Services Union says.
Union branch executive president Billy King told the Mail-Times that the Horsham Rural City Council proposed to withdraw from direct provision of aged care and disability services by the end of the year.
In a statement on Friday, a council spokesman said: "Council has prepared an explanation of the proposed changes for everyone to see. Out of respect, we intend to wait until our client base has been properly informed of the situation before sharing this information or commenting in the media."
The Council provides a range of services to support and assist the frail, aged people with moderate disabilities, and their carers, to remain living independently in their homes, as part of the Commonwealth Home Support Program.
The program, launched in July 2015, funds meals on wheels, respite care, nursing and help with hygiene and chores among other services. It is funded until June 2022.
To be eligible, people must be 65 years or older, 50 or older if an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or 50 years or older and on a low income, homeless, or at risk of being homeless.
There are several private providers of the CHSP in Horsham, including Wimmera Community Options.
Mr King said the Council had sent the union a letter on January 29, which the Mail-Times has seen, detailing its plans.
"The council talks about the withdrawal from direct provision, which are home care and personal care services," Mr King said.
"The letter goes on to (talk about) other associated funded home support programs could conclude if Council decides to withdraw.
"The Council says it intends to withdraw by the end of the year if it can find suitable replacements for service delivery. It would go to an expression of interest process and will communicate with the federal and state governments.
"We would be looking at at least 50 jobs affected if not more. It depends if they get out of a whole suite of services."
Mr King said the union's Wimmera representative David Walmsley met with affected workers in Horsham this week.
"They are pretty scared for their jobs, as they would be, and the problem they face is if they go and work for a new provider," Mr King said.
"These people are mostly women and mostly part-time, and they would be losing up to $12 an hour. Horsham council has an enterprise agreement if a new provider comes in they would be paid under the award rate."
He said the union had been in contact with other Wimmera councils.
"They aren't making decisions at this stage," he said.
Mr King said Wodonga and Benalla municipalities were also considering similar decisions.
"What we have found is the quality and continuity of care has diminished (in those councils), and they get a lot of complaints," he said.
"It works better where there is a large regional hospital service, but the problem we're facing and the issues raised in the Royal Commission is that councils deliver the service best because of the training.
"They are registered and have the proper checks on health and safety. Staff are well paid, and the continuity of services (is strong).
"It is usually the one carer who will have direct contact with the person using this service. What we have found with the other service providers is that can be anyone at any time that goes into their home.
"If you live outside the city of Horsham itself, it is tough to get other companies to deliver services where they have to travel to do a job. Sometimes for the person using the services... the only person they see all week is the council worker."
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety interim report was released in October. The final report is due on November 12.
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