SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council will pay Home and Community Care workers an estimated $665,000 as it moves away from offering the service from March 31.
Twenty of the 35-strong HACC workforce have applied for redundancies. Another two are trailing other Council roles, while still another is applying for one. The remainder of the workforce is employed on a casual basis and, therefore, will not be offered redundancies.
A further 300 volunteers help keep the service afloat.
Councillors voted last year to get out of offering HACC services after mooted changes to government funding from July 2020, with a move to encourage a more competitive marketplace for those organisations offering aged and disability care. In short, there was no guarantee the funding to Council would continue.
Council receives $1.6 million per year to provide the service. The cost of operation is $2 million per year, with almost $200,000 cobbled together through grants and the remainder coming from Council coffers.
Aged and disability not-for-profit healthcare provider mecwacare has been announced as the preferred service provider to the 1000-client contract.
South Gippsland Shire Council Director Corporate and Community Services, Faith Page, said Council was “on track to exit from the service” and mecwacare was “gearing up to take on service provision”.
But the move away from delivering HACC services was “extremely difficult”, she said – particularly since some of the workers had been Council employees for more than 30 years. Clients have been dismayed too, with the fear held by many that they would lose favoured helpers.
“I don’t know how many people mecwacare will employ. They’re going through their own screening processes and they have their own hiring processes in place. What they have told us is that their preference is to use local staff,” Ms Page said.
“Although they’re Melbourne-based they will be setting up a coordination office in this region. From a redundancy point of view, we’ve been going through a number of things – as well as redeploying, as vacancies arise, HACC workers into suitable roles.
“We currently have two workers who are in redeployed positions. Those people are trialing those roles for two to three months. If they don’t want them, they’ll be given redundancies.”
Council’s Coordinator Aged and Disability Services, Monica Pound, said a lot of work had been done to support people through the exit strategy – especially by those in Council’s human resources team. Part of the process has been helping HACC staff get job ready for employment elsewhere.
“Now we’re getting to the pointy end of things, I can see that there’s other emotions and difficulties coming about, because the reality really hits home when we’re drawing up rosters that don’t go past the 31st of March,” she said.
“It’s absolutely clear that the team has maintained their professionalism and their commitment to providing great care. The community knows that what we do, we do really well.
“Everyone has worked really well together and while it’s been incredibly difficult for our team, I’ve got nothing but admiration for the way field staff and office staff are managing it.” Concerned volunteers are encouraged to attend one of two meetings to be held on Monday, March 4.