EMBATTLED welfare agency Community Connections Victoria (CCV) has for the second day in a row been stripped of major social services by the state government.
The Warrnambool-based agency yesterday lost its residential care and foster care services after a Department of Human Services (DHS) investigation found a series of breaches of the service agreement.
On Wednesday, the agency was told by the Department of Justice (DoJ) that funding for its Gambler’s Help and financial counselling programs would stop from next Tuesday after an audit raised serious concerns about how the services were being administered.
Yesterday, staff and management at CCV were left reeling by the decisions which have cast a pall of uncertainty over the agency’s future.
A spokesman for the agency said the board was considering challenging the move and would explore all legal options, although it is uncertain what avenues of appeal exist in such circumstances.
“This decision will directly impact on approximately 130 children, 200 volunteers and 80 staff,” the spokesman said.
“Staff were informed of the department’s decision at 2pm today and they are absorbing the shock, then considering the future implications for the hundreds of people this will affect.
“They have the emotional task of then calling all the foster carers and informing them of this government decision, and supporting them to also understand the implications.”
Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said management of child protection and residential care services for the region would be transferred from CCV from December 6.
The DHS investigation came after concerns were raised about the quality of care provided to children and young people using three residential services managed by CCV.
“The review identified a series of breaches of the service agreement and these have not subsequently been satisfactorily remediated,” Ms Wooldridge said.
“Consequently, DHS is terminating the service agreement and transferring funding for residential and foster care services to alternative providers.” Management of these units, which cater for up to 12 young people, is expected to transfer to MacKillop Family Services, a large community service organisation with extensive residential care experience.
Brophy Family and Youth Services is expected to pick up the foster care area while Glastonbury Community Services will cover the Barwon area program.
“All three new service providers have committed to employing existing CCV staff where appropriate,” Ms Wooldridge said.
“Importantly, children and their families will not experience any disruption to care or services during the transfer period, with existing DHS oversight remaining in place until transfer is completed.”
She said CCV would continue providing other department-funded programs such as ChildFirst, integrated family services, disability and housing services until June 30 but a competitive expression-of-interest process would then take place for providers from July 1.
“DHS will continue to closely monitor all child protection services to ensure the best possible outcome for the vulnerable children and young people.”
The CCV spokesman said it was “unfortunate” the minister had not allowed the agency a “reasonable time frame” to respond to the decision.
“Despite CCV providing a 600-page response to the issues raised in the breach notice, the department has refused to elaborate on why this response did not constitute a satisfactory remediation.”
Brophy chief executive Francis Broekman said while it was a difficult time, the three new agencies were committed to making the transition as smooth as possible.
“Our job now is to support the carers and children to the best of our ability and assure them that their care will not be compromised during this time,” Mr Broekman said.
The Australian Services Union applauded the minister’s decision.
“This decision vindicates the hard work that ASU members have put in to raise the concerns they have about service provision to the young people in the care of CCV,” spokesman Leon Wiegard told The Standard yesterday.
“The ASU are proud of every ASU member who has fought to ensure that the vulnerable young people of Warrnambool receive a better quality of care.”
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