‘Minimal disruption’ from changes
Community support organisation Uniting Wimmera has reassured the region changes to its corporate structure will have minimal disruption to its services and programs.
Chief executive Wendy Sturgess said a July decision of 23 Uniting Church community service agencies in Victoria and Tasmania to merge and create ‘Uniting’ had provided the best opportunity for the organisation to continue its community work.
She said the move, while directly affecting about a dozen staff members, would lead to deeper and more sustainable community support.
“As Uniting, the positive impact we can have on vulnerable communities is so much greater. Our combined services reach from here in the Wimmera to Albury-wodonga in the north, Mallacoota in East Gippsland and across Tasmania,” she said.
“We now have 3500 employees, an equal number of volunteers and more than 200,000 clients behind us to advocate for services including our current campaign for a Support and Safety Hub to be in Horsham – not just Warrnambool.”
Formerly Wimmera Uniting Care, Uniting Wimmera employs a staff of about 300 and provides more than 70 services to about 8000 people each year in the region; covering child and family, disability, mental health, early learning, alcohol and other drugs, housing and foster care programs.
The merger was in response to reforms in the community services sector and designed to give people more choice, more control and easier access to community services.
This included rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and consumer-directed care in aged care.
“There are significant benefits that come with being part of a bigger organisation, including looking at the best practice models from across Victoria and Tasmania and bringing them to the Wimmera,” Ms Sturgess said.
She said an integration program including changes to corporate support functions such as finance would continue through 2017-18.
“We are still part-way through the process. At this stage, we envisage about a dozen of our 300 staff members will be impacted,” she said.
“We have been working with the staff affected by these changes and will continue to do so. It is important they are consulted, supported and have the opportunity to consider redeployment opportunities within Uniting.
“In line with the efficiencies required by the many community-sector reforms confronting all service providers, we do expect a reduction in the total number of staff in corporate support roles across Uniting.
“But we are encouraging those impacted to apply for roles within the new structure, which might have the flexibility to be performed remotely.
“We have already seen some staff in Horsham appointed to new roles.”
Ms Sturgess stressed the period of change was internal and that on the ground, Uniting Wimmera offered the same extent and quality of services in the same locations.
“Uniting Wimmera’s priority is to continue to deliver the important services that inspire people, enliven our communities and confront injustice,” she said.