Govt punc­tures MOW

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

BUREAU­CRACY has de­clared war on Dou­glas pen­sion­ers for the sec­ond week in a row.

Moss­man Meals on Wheels co-or­di­na­tor Steven Macrae fears “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and all things bu­reau­cratic” will force the cost of meals up by 50 per cent for lo­cal peo­ple in need.

At present peo­ple pay $6 a meal which are made fresh and de­liv­ered on Mon­days, Wed­nes­days and Fri­days.

But if the lat­est round of Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment red tape is forced through each meal will cost $9.

The Com­mon­wealth Health and Com­mu­nity Care Pro­gram (HACC) has threat­ened to pull its sub­sidy if MOW does not com­ply by get­ting their vol­un­teers to fill out a new 51-page work doc­u­ment.

“The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is now forc­ing us and our vol­un­teers to read and sign-off on a 51-page doc­u­ment put out by HACC and it is mak­ing our vol­un­teer work nearly im­pos­si­ble and for many it is and they will sim­ply leave and that would be hor­rific for us - the coun­try runs on vol­un­teers,” Mr Macrae said.

“Like all other Meals on Wheels ( MOW) agen­cies in the coun­try we are a vol­un­teer or­gan­i­sa­tion that ex­ists solely to pro­vide af­ford­able, nu­tri­tious food to vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

“If at the end of the day we are forced to com­ply we sim­ply will have no choice but to raise each meal to $9 each and that is the last thing we want to do be­cause peo­ple, many of them do not have an ex­tra $9 - they are on very strict and fixed in­comes.

“The only paid per­son on our staff is our ex­cel­lent cook but ev­ery­one else is a vol­un­teer who un­der­take to de­liver meals to th­ese needy peo­ple and the vol­un­teers do all of this at their own ex­pense such as pay­ing for their fuel and for the wear and tear on their ve­hi­cle and their time but they do it be­cause they want to help.

“We have noted, with dis­may and dis­be­lief, the ex­haus­tive and com­plex pro­vi­sions, as well as the oner­ous ’Qual­ity Re­port­ing Pro­gram’ com­pli­ance re­quire­ments, of the Com­mon­wealth HACC Pro­gram Man­ual and the 51-page Terms and Con­di­tions doc­u­ment ac­com­pa­ny­ing it. “This new ma­te­rial cer­tainly main­tains the HACC tra­di­tion of treat­ing MOW agen­cies as em­ploy­ees - one quite out­ra­geous ex­am­ple is the im­pe­ri­ous de­mand for work­ers to un­dergo re­peated po­lice checks.

“We are not prepared to en­ter­tain that con­cept at all and we pre­dict that, wher­ever it may be in­tro­duced, it will serve to drive vol­un­teers and other staff away and keep them away in droves.

“We know when some­one fronts up and wants to be a vol­un­teer with us we have a good feel for who will work out and who won’t and so as far as po­lice checks go they are pretty use­less and we use the time-hon­oured prin­ci­pal ’if in doubt - leave out’ and so we are spared let­ting the wrong type of peo­ple into the vol­un­teer team.”

Other “es­sen­tial” com­pli­ance re­quire­ments com­prise ad­her­ence to the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment Food Act 2006, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment Coun­cil’s rig­or­ous Food Safety Plan, the new Work Health and Safety Act 2011, as well as Build­ing Fire Safety rules.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment de­part­ment re­spon­si­ble for HACC yes­ter­day re­fused to com­ment on the de­mands.

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