Campaspe Shire Council confirms it will withdraw from aged care services

By Lachlan Durling

DESPITE more than 2500 signatures delivered in protest, Campaspe Shire council has confirmed it will withdraw from delivering aged and disability services.

However, chief petitioner and proponent Marlene Orange is adamant her fight is just beginning.

At the Tuesday meeting, council resolved to cease providing the services after an expression of interest program which is now in the hands of the Federal Government.

Ms Orange has expressed frustration on behalf of the community and said existing clients felt they were approaching a disaster of Titanic proportions.

“The response I’ve seen from clients has been fear. One told me they feel as though they’re on the Titanic, it’s dawning on people that they may no longer have the same carer or be cared for to the same standard,” she said.

“You see people visibly shaking from the fear and stress when they talk about it. Our older members of the community want to feel safe and that council has their best interests at heart, and they currently don’t feel that way.”

The confirmation follows an in-principle decision made in May where council agreed to undertake an expression of interest process to identify a suitable provider to deliver services currently provided through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP).

The decision will see current care staff employed by council made redundant and supported to apply for roles in existing services in the area.

Ms Orange said while council had guiding principals to align with the choice of its preferred provider, council could not guarantee the same standard of care once it was in the hands of another provider.

“If you don’t have the checks and balances of local council what is to say, it won’t go the way of some of the aged care services that have fallen into disrepute,” she questioned.

“Council carers feel they’re looked after and they look after the people they care for. If you get a provider that pays people peanuts, where is the incentive to continue that same level of care?”

Mayor Adrian Weston said the process had been completed and council was confident the preferred provider met the four guiding principles set.

“The principles were set to ensure any change to a new provider was managed to protect the interests of our clients, families and carers, staff and the community,” Cr Weston said.

The four principles were:

● ensuring equity of access to services based on need and regardless of geographic location;

● providers demonstrating a strong safety system to protect both staff and clients;

● providers holding a similar ethos or values as council, eg. a commitment to the health and wellbeing of our community and a commitment to reinvesting back into the community, and;

● providers demonstrating a commitment to quality care with proven results through Commonwealth Aged Care quality processes.

Since making the in-principle decision, council has held three information sessions for clients, their family and carers, a volunteer information session, ongoing meetings with staff, as well as a number of mail-outs to provide updates.

However, Ms Orange said community awareness of those meetings was low and, as such, turnout was lower than it should have been.

“I was at the Echuca meeting and there wasn’t even a microphone. Half of the people couldn’t hear and the other half were left hoping council had their best interests at heart,” she said.

“We have some old people talking about finding a way to protest this, elderly people taking a stand in some way. There is a lot of fear and anger in the community as a result.”

Council said the decision to move away from providing aged and disability services follows a number of reforms in the sector.

The reforms highlight local government will not be able to compete effectively or viably in the changing marketplace, and a growing number of Victorian municipalities have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning, out of aged care service delivery.

“A recommendation will now be made to the Federal Government of our preferred candidate and we will now await their final decision,” Cr Weston said.

“The Federal Government will now undertake their own review and it is hoped an announcement of the new provider will be made before the end of the year.”

The decision also affects services provided through the Home and Community Care Program for Young People, funded by the Victorian Government.

“This is a relatively small program and the Victorian Government has indicated that it will follow the lead of the Commonwealth in appointing an alternative provider,” Cr Weston said.

Once approved, council will support its clients and staff through the exit process and will offer its full support to the new provider in planning for, and starting delivery of both funded programs.

It is likely council will cease delivering all funded and brokerage aged and disability services by the end of May 2020.

“I’m very much against this and I’m looking to put an action group together. People should feel safe, secure and be able to live in their homes for as long as possible,” Ms Orange said.

If you would like to be part of the action group, call Ms Orange on 0409 445 287.