Care bare: Council conceals changes to home care as workers walk

Australian Services Union members walk and talk with local home care workers, carers and residents in Altona on Saturday.

Hobsons Bay City Council concealed a conversation about the future of its home care services at the recent council meeting, however the Australian Services Union has blown the lid off the Council’s plans to put its home care services out to tender in September.

At its recent council meeting in August, Hobsons Bay City Council listed the ‘Home and Community Care Program for Younger People’ agenda item under in-camera business, citing section 89(2)(d), (f) and (h) of the Local Government Act 1989.

“This matter is considered to be confidential as it relates to contractual matters, legal advice and any matter which Council considers prejudicial to Council or any person,” the Council meeting agenda read.

The contractual and legal matters might relate to the staff currently employed at Hobsons Bay City Council who have been charged with facilitating the delivery of the Council’s existing home care services to date.

Council staff joined forces with home carers and members of the Australian Services Union (ASU) on the streets of Altona recently, to walk and talk to locals about a campaign to keep home care services in Council hands.

More than a dozen union members, delegates and officials met to spend a couple of hours talking to residents about changes to the Federal funding system, and Council’s decision to put the services out to tender well before the cut-off date in 2020.

One union delegate who participated on the day said more than 350 people signed a petition to try and convince Hobsons Bay City Council to stand by its workers and keep its home care services in-house for as long as possible.

“I’ve been amazed at the response from the community; everyone I talked to felt really strongly that Council should keep providing this work. It’s also been surprising to hear how many people didn’t know this was happening and were shocked to find out,” they said.

ASU organiser Luke Cherry said the union has been working with local councils across Victoria, some of which have committed to provide services up until June 30, 2020, however noted the intentions of Hobsons Bay City Council now appears evidently known.

“A recent meeting reconfirmed their intentions to put the services out to tender in September, to take effect early 2019, and even to expand the scope of the tender to include PYP services for clients under 65,” Mr Cherry said.

“Given the lack of awareness, perhaps Hobsons Bay City Council should spend more time talking to the community about this decision and listening to how vehemently residents feel about this issue.”

Before spending more time talking to the community, Hobsons Bay City Council might be better off spending more time talking with affected staff. Though according to a letter that staff received on Thursday, it appears the communication cord has already been cut.

hbcc-dce-letter

In the letter, Hobsons Bay City Council indicates it is not going to meet with affected staff to talk through the tender process any further. The Council claims it has been told there have been too many meetings, however Willy and Hobby has been told otherwise.

Whether for the avoidance of too many meetings or the avoidance of facing internal criticisms and community concerns, the Council clearly states it won’t meet with staff again until “the end of the process”.

This means the next time they sit down to discuss this will be after the council meeting on December 11, so affected staff won’t find out until either just before Christmas, or into the new year, who they will be working for as of February 1 next year.

In a statement to Willy and Hobby, Hobsons Bay City Council acknowledged that it is in the process of ‘testing the market’ but would not comment on any specific changes to the delivery of its home care services.

“Our staff and clients have been made aware that we are having a good look and we will be working very closely with them right throughout the process, as we have so far,” a Council spokesperson said.

Council’s decision follows recent reforms which will see the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) cease on 30 June 2020. From 27 February 2017, subsidies for new home care consumers have been provided to individuals rather than allocated to providers.

The changes to home care services means consumers now have the ability to choose their provider and to direct the Government subsidy to that provider, with consumers also able to change their provider if they wish, including if they move to another area to live.

There is also greater oversight for the sector, with the Department of Health managing the provision of home care services nationally by conducting initial assessments and making decisions on which home care package (out of 4) an individual can access a subsidy for.

For legacy providers prior to the changes, many of which have been local councils, the changes have meant more competition in the market, with a lot of private providers now competing to deliver home support services in their respective communities.

It is understood ASU members, delegates and officials will meet again soon to plan further community activity in Hobsons Bay. For more information about the changes to home care call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or visit the My Aged Care website.

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