Kealy: restructure fear
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.