A vital program that helps keep older people in their homes for longer and employs 80 people has been dumped by Knox Council in secret, leaving dozens out of work and the Federal Government scrambling to find a new provider.
A vital community service that helps keep older people in their homes for longer has been dumped by Knox Council in secret.
The decision to drop the Active Ageing and Social Inclusion program, which employed 80 people to provide a range of services to the elderly, was made by councillors on April 27 — but kept from the public eye as a confidential item.
This means from July 1, 2021, the Federal Government will appoint a new provider to take over the service from Knox Council.
Knox Leader previously reported a carer, who did not want to be named, said the staff received a letter in mid-March telling them the service would be wrapped up in 2021.
Victorian councils receive Federal Government money through the Commonwealth Home Support Program to run their in-home aged care services until June, but can apply to have an extension to 2022.
After this date each council will need to apply through a tender process to continue running these services.
The council provides a range of personal care and assistance services to help older residents continue to live independently and safely in their own homes.
Support includes house cleaning, personal care — help with showering and dressing — respite and social support, help with shopping and cooking.
However the council will still continue its Meals on Wheels, home maintenance and modifications, and transport services.
Eastern Metropolitan Region state Labor MP Sonja Terpstra said the decision was concerning especially during the pandemic.
Ms Terpstra said she and fellow Eastern Metropolitan state Labor MP Shaun Leane had both sent letters to the council asking they reverse the concerning decision.
“We’re also concerned about jobs and the impact to the community,” Ms Terpstra said.
She said the council had been really good at providing the trusted service and was a major job provider in the area.
“They provide a community service that the clients trust and get to know and look forward to these support workers coming over,” Ms Terpstra said.
She said the council had underestimated the importance of the service it provided, and it was more than just “someone turning up”.
“The secrecy aspect wasn’t great,” she said.
“We don’t know why they’ve done it. That’s why it’s important to have transparency.”
But Knox Mayor Nicole Seymour said the decision had not been taken lightly.
“Supporting our older residents to access high-quality care to allow them to stay safe and healthy is of the utmost importance to us as a council and a community,” Cr Seymour said.
Cr Seymour said the council would be closely managing the transition to ensure continuity of care for residents.
“(We) will reinvest the funds we’ve been contributing over and above federal funding levels to expand our own community support programs to complement those provided under the Commonwealth program,” she said.
Cr Seymour said affected clients and staff had been informed of the changes.