Extra support serving not on the Govt menu

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Chairman David Bailey is concerned about the State Government’s apparent lack of funding and support to Bunbury Intown Centre.
Camera IconChairman David Bailey is concerned about the State Government’s apparent lack of funding and support to Bunbury Intown Centre. Credit: Yvonne Irwin / South Western Times

Bunbury’s Intown Centre has slammed the State Government’s apparent lack of support and funding on the back of the the not-for-profit service helping nearly 1000 new clients this year.

Chairman David Bailey said people and families were at risk this Christmas after the Department of Communities knocked back a request for extra support.

Mr Bailey said he was shocked when a representative from the department suggested the centre cut back its services if it could not operate on its existing budget.

“I was devastated – this is a true community supported organisation which has looked after its own under great pressure,” Mr Bailey said.

“It’s not like we were seeking a new building or an inflated salary for a CEO, we are trying to help those in need. This year is the worse we have seen.”

Department of Communities commissioning and sector engagement acting assistant director general Brad Jolly said the centre’s request for extra funding was not in line with the “requirements of the current service agreement and service model”.

“The department recognises the importance of a financially viable community services sector and is working with service providers to continue the delivery of services, in a sustainable manner,” Mr Jolly said.

“This includes flexibility to vary service requirements, within the contract price.”

The centre provides meals and a day centre and helps direct clients to agencies and social services in times of need and stress.

It receives a small grant from the State and Federal governments, but relies heavily on the help of volunteers and community funding and support.

Mr Bailey said he had asked the State Government more than a year ago for help in getting a part-time social worker to deal with the “flood of cases” coming into the centre.

“We were told point blank there is no money,” Mr Bailey said.

“We are continually being told of the value of prevention, we have been attempting to do that for many years, we are now pleading with the Government to assist us to make a difference and help those in the community who need our support.”

Mr Jolly said the centre was one of many important services the department supported in the South West and each played an important role within the homelessness system.

“The department is aware of the increasing demand for homelessness services and is developing a 10-year Homelessness Strategy,” he said.

“The strategy will provide an opportunity to review and develop service models to meet the needs of vulnerable Western Australians into the future.”

Bunbury MLA Don Punch said he had not been approached by the centre, but he would be happy to help identify any gaps it needed to fill to extend its service and attract extra resources.

“I don’t know any community service organisation that couldn’t do even more than they already do for our community if they had more resources at their disposal,” Mr Punch said.

“There is no doubt there are many people in our community who have experienced some pretty difficult times in recent years but with significant new projects coming on line, more jobs being created and new services becoming available in areas like mental health and rehabilitation I am hopeful Bunbury is turning the corner.

“I have no doubt the Federal Government’s increasingly punitive approach to eligibility for Centrelink payments – payments which in many instances have failed to even acknowledge cost of living increases let alone keep pace with them – is contributing to a rise in the people needing help and putting pressure on community services.

“We can’t properly address disadvantage until a thorough review that results in changes to the Centrelink payment system is undertaken.”

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