Exclusive: Council outsources care

QUEANBEYAN City Council community workers and local elderly and disabled residents are facing an uncertain future after news that Council will offload its aged care, disability and respite services to private providers following an "unsustainable" State Government funding shortfall of $2 million a year.

Council will look to transition services over the coming months, including community transport, respite and disability and aged carers to local charities, community groups and State Government bodies, to be chosen by the NSW Department of Community Services.

A Community Living department insider who asked not to be named has told the Queanbeyan Age that the news has come as a shock to staff, who will lose their current jobs with Council when new service providers are found.

"It's come just after Christmas time, and there's one person who has just bought a house as well," the insider said.

The insider also expressed disappointment with the decision to offload care programs for local elderly and disabled residents.

"I don't think any agency would take them on, so all those people are just going to be left high and dry.

"I just think it's a real crap decision. They spent all that money on that bloody lifestyle precinct, and then they get rid of vital services.

"I mean, some of these people are 80-plus, and that's their only contact with other people [through Council care programs] ... they all own their own homes and they're all ratepayers. I just can't see that they should do that to them," the insider said.

However Council has said none of its 1400 aged care and disability clients will have their current services cut off outright, with Council to continue its current programs until such time as a new provider is found. Council sent letters to these clients on Tuesday to explain the transition.

A spokesperson said Council would also seek to gain re-employment for the affected 15 full-time staff, 17 casuals and 27 volunteers with new service providers.

"This is an unfortunate position for Council, however the current situation is unsustainable due to increasing pressure on local government to maintain core services and infrastructure," Queanbeyan mayor Tim Overall said on Thursday.

"The issue of financial sustainability is the urgent challenge facing councils across NSW with local government currently undergoing a comprehensive and independent review as called by the NSW Government."

Council is expected to announce further details on its negotiations with State Government officials later today, but Cr Overall said discussions had begun early last year. He also said that Council had offered to meet the state half way and continue to subsidise these programs but that "the funding wasn't available [from the state]."

"Council has been in discussion with the funding departments since early last year and representations have been made to respective Federal and State Ministers. Council offered to continue to auspice the services if additional funding was provided but Council has been advised that the funding bodies are not in a position to provide additional funding, which Council is very disappointed about," Cr Overall said.

"This is a sensitive issue, particularly for clients, carers and staff. Council will continue to provide services to clients and carers and will be working with the funding departments in close cooperation to ensure a smooth transition of clients, carers and those staff and in close cooperation with the new service providers."

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