Moira Shire councillors will vote tonight (Wednesday) on whether to adopt the draft 2017-18 budget and if it is passed unaltered, this could spell the end for MHA Care.
According to MHA Care board member Dale Brooks, from Brooks Hall Lawyers, the health and community services provider received notification by Moira Shire via a phone call that funding would be slashed by $50,000, from $232,000 to $182,000 and this sent alarm bells ringing.
So much so, Mr Brooks and Manager Corporate Services Hayley McGregor spoke at a special meeting of council to hear budget submissions last week, outlining their concerns the real and direct impact this proposed cut in funding would have on service delivery.
“The shire’s contribution when I joined the board of MHA Care several years ago was $500,000,” Mr Brooks told the Chronicle after the special meeting of council.
“We received significant funding cuts over the previous years – in 2011/12 funding was $301,200, in 2012/13 it dropped to $298,000, then in 2014/15 it dropped again to $232,000 – and the latest cut will largely affect the most vulnerable in the community.
“Already services have been slashed and the funding cut can only result in further reduction in the service delivery.
“The reduction in funding is likely to push MHA Care to a viability limit.”
Mr Brooks said the lack of consultation in the shire’s decision to cut funding was “really galling”.
“If Moira Shire had identified some points of concern it would give us some basis on what we could do to help, but when they just chop it like they have done, it will significantly impact on services,” he said.
“We have more than 500 home and community care (HACC) clients in Yarrawonga alone and last year, shire-wide, MHA Care provided through Foodshare 200,000 meal equivalents to people in need who included dairy farmers and employees from the JBS Cobram abattoirs.
“From the last reduction in Moira Shire funding we had to wind back our planned activity group (PAG) activities.
“In the past we used our bus to pick up people in St James, Tungamah and Katamatite and bring them into Yarrawonga to participate in the activities, but unfortunately due to the funding cuts we can no longer do this, that vital social connection has now been lost for those people.
“It is heart breaking because we are talking about people who just don’t have any other options.”
With more than 80 employed staff and 400 plus dedicated volunteers, “the backbone of our community”, Mr Brooks believed the impact on the shire would be tremendous both financially and socially if MHA Care could not continue.
“Our workers are highly skilled and if MHA Care falters that skill base would be lost to the local community,” he said.
“If we are unable to survive those health and community services would go outside Moira, with a loss of employment and skills, and that would be a great detriment to the shire.”
Mr Brooks said MHA Care’s aim was to give their clients the means to stay in their own home and hang onto their cherished independence for as long as possible.
“The services MHA Care provides include home care which is essentially cleaning, personal care including showering or grooming, respite care, home and property maintenance including installing hand rails, ramps and home modifications, planned activity groups plus the vital services of Meals on Wheels and Foodshare.
“We provide services to every area of the shire, particularly to many smaller communities like Barmah, Bearii, Waaii, Picola, St James, Katamatite and Tungamah.
“Our aim isn’t solely to be focussed on the four towns but to try and reach our remote communities because increasingly these towns represent some of our most disadvantaged communities – the poor, the disabled and the elderly.
“We are asking the shire to rethink the proposed funding cut which comes at a time when the demand for our services is growing at an alarming rate.
“The demographic trends reveal the number of elderly people in the shire will double in the next ten years.
“The shire will ultimately become responsible for these services should organisations like MHA Care fall.
“The health and quality of life of the aged in our community is vital and we don’t believe that the funding cut is fair or reasonable.”