Kealy: re­struc­ture fear

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

State par­lia­men­tar­ian Emma Kealy fears a ma­jor re­struc­ture of com­mu­nity-health or­gan­i­sa­tion Unit­ing Wim­mera is set to have far-reach­ing im­pact on the re­gional econ­omy.

The Mem­ber for Lowan said she was con­cerned job losses would have a sig­nif­i­cant flow-on ef­fect in the com­mu­nity and called on the Unit­ing hi­er­ar­chy re­moved from the re­gion to re­think its planning.

Ms Kealy said she was not con­vinced that ra­tio­nal­is­tic changes to cor­po­rate-sup­port po­si­tions in the Wim­mera, as part of a broad agency merger, would have min­i­mal im­pact on ser­vices.

“The loss of the jobs in the re­gion, which I be­lieve is higher than what we have been hear­ing, will be far-reach­ing,” she said.

“Hav­ing a lot of peo­ple out of work means los­ing peo­ple, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies and valu­able pro­fes­sion­als and their ex­per­tise, from the re­gion. This is some­thing we can’t af­ford.”

Ms Kealy said the only pos­i­tive ob­ser­va­tion she could take from de­vel­op­ments was that any down­grade in Unit­ing Wim­mera would open the door for other ma­jor ser­vice providers such as Grampians Com­mu­nity Health or Anglicare to have a greater role in the re­gion.

“It might present op­por­tu­ni­ties, but if ev­ery­thing goes ahead as we are see­ing, there will be con­sid­er­able short-term pain. It will rep­re­sent a void that will quickly need filling,” she said.

Unit­ing Wim­mera, for­merly Wim­mera Unit­ing Care, em­ploys about 300 staff and pro­vides more than 70 ser­vices for about 8000 peo­ple.

It cov­ers child and fam­ily, dis­abil­ity, men­tal-health, early-learn­ing, hous­ing, foster-care and al­co­hol and drug ser­vice pro­grams.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion came out strongly ear­lier this month in declar­ing that it was com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing min­i­mal dis­rup­tion to ser­vices and pro­gram de­liv­ery amid cor­po­rate changes – that were likely to af­fect ‘about a dozen’ staff mem­bers.

In July, Wim­mera Unit­ing Care joined 23 other Unit­ing Church com­mu­nity-ser­vice agen­cies in Vic­to­ria and Tas­ma­nia to be­come a sin­gle or­gan­i­sa­tion – Unit­ing.

Ms Kealy said she fully sup­ported Unit­ing Wim­mera staff mem­bers and peo­ple who had lit­tle con­trol over the changes.

“Unit­ing Wim­mera has al­ways done a great job. But we need the over­all hi­er­ar­chy that is pulling the strings from out­side the re­gion to fully un­der­stand the po­ten­tial im­pact of their ac­tions on our re­gion,” she said.

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