OZCHILD will run federally-funded family support and emergency relief services when Community Connections closes its doors at the end of the month.
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) confirmed that it had transferred funding for the programs delivered by Community Connections Victoria (CCV) to OzChild.
A department spokeswoman said the new arrangement would remain in place until June 30, 2014.
“In arriving at this decision, the department has followed established processes for approving mergers of this type,” she said.
“This transfer will ensure continuity of services to families and communities in the Western District. It will also ensure that experienced qualified staff are retained.”
FaHCSIA renewed its $1.3 million annual contract with CCV less than 12 months ago, allowing the Warrnambool-based social welfare agency to deliver family relationship and emergency relief services in Warrnambool, Portland, Heywood and Camperdown and indigenous parenting support services in Portland.
OzChild chief executive officer Tony Pitman said yesterday his agency’s priority was to preserve existing services for the local community and provide the region’s families with new services.
He expected OzChild would employ most of the CCV staff currently providing FaHCSIA-funded programs so that services could continue uninterrupted.
Mr Pitman said that OzChild had provided significant funding to CCV during the past two months to ensure it was able to continue to provide community services as well as meet its liabilities when it ceased delivering services on June 30.
“Despite some erroneous speculation, the wind-up of CCV is no windfall for OzChild,” Mr Pitman said.
“Our intention has always been to continue and grow services in the region and any small surplus that may remain once CCV has cleared its liabilities will be used for the benefit of providing western Victorian communities with additional services and choice of providers.”
Documents seen by The Standard show that OzChild has advanced funding to CCV, which has been secured by new mortgages taken out in April on several properties in Warrnambool’s Kepler Street and Grace Avenue and in Hamilton’s Thompson Street.
Mr Pitman said that OzChild would continue to operate existing services in Warrnambool and Portland from current facilities but was looking closely at having its services managed and planned from Hamilton where no other agencies are headquartered.
“We believe that people in rural Victoria deserve the same opportunity and access to assistance that people living in Melbourne take for granted,” Mr Pitman said.
“That means a greater choice of services as well as service providers.
“We bring extensive expertise in caring for children and families to the region, having provided children’s services in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria for more than 160 years,” Mr Pitman said.
“Where the need exists, we plan to bring our existing expertise to the region to offer a range of new services.
“Our commitment to western Victoria is high and has a significant alignment with OzChild’s constitutional purpose which includes providing support to children and youth living in rural Australia.”
Community Connections has been operating for more than 20 years. At its peak in 2010-11, it managed more than 40 programs and employed 130 staff across 13 sites with a budget of $11 million.
It lost the bulk of its state-funded programs late last year after a series of government investigations found breaches of service agreements and serious concerns about how services were being administered.