Hepburn Shire pulls pin on aged services

March 28th, 2022Hepburn Shire pulls pin on aged services

Hepburn Shire Council will stop delivering aged care and disability services to more than 300 residents.

Hepburn Shire Council will stop delivering aged care and disability services to more than 300 residents.
The decision has been labelled appalling, abhorrent and out of touch by members of the community, especially as it follows an earlier in-principle decision made behind closed doors, against which the initial public response caused council to seek community feedback.
Despite the consultation process with residents, aged care groups and carers, the council pushed through with its initial intentions to scrap the services.
Creswick Ward councillor Don Henderson was the only councillor who opposed the recommendations at last week’s council meeting. Now the decision has been made, Cr Henderson has to be seen to support the decision to avoid being in breach of the Local Government Code of Conduct.
Prior to the meeting, Cr Henderson aired his concerns with pursuing a privatised model, citing local government as the closest form of government to the people and expressed his concerned for many vulnerable and elderly residents across the shire.
He recently attended the Lions Club of Creswick’s community working bee to help flood-affected residents and said many were the same residents affected by the severe floods 10 years ago. This time many were aged care service recipients, a service which has allowed them to stay in their homes with dignity.
Hepburn Shire Mayor Cr Tim Drylie said it was a long lead time reaching the decision. “It certainly wasn’t an easy decision and we all sought a lot of advice to make sure we were on the right track. Because of the Federal Government reforms coming in next year, we had no choice as it is (the delivery model) moving to an open market model. As a small council we were not in a position to fill the void in service delivery required.”
Cr Drylie said staff had been fully engaged with and would be offered redundancy packages, would be able to apply for other positions available with the council and also had the choice to work with the chosen provider. He said many staff members were nearing retirement age.
However, The Local was contacted by a number of service recipients and carers who said the consultation process was inadequate, with one resident saying she was not informed during that process.
Wheatsheaf resident Loris Duclos, an aged care nurse with more than 30 years’ experience, has cared for her mother and mother in-law, navigating privatised aged care models. She called the decision appalling.
“I think the councillors have sold out our most vulnerable residents. I had hoped the councillors would stand up and have a backbone,” she said.
“I have seen first-hand how inadequate a privatised model is. My mother has to go through accreditation processes every six months and only gets a few hours a fortnight in care. She still pays $100 a week in administration costs and now with staff shortages in her area, she doesn’t even have a case manager.
“Elected representatives are there to stand up, step outside their areas of interest and form their own views. Not simply do what they are told by council officers,” she said.
While a number of councils across the state have already outsourced aged and disability services, there are councils who will continue to deliver the services under the reforms.
The council has stated it will “act as an advocate for the needs of the community and will hold accountable Commonwealth and State Governments and the appointed home support providers for the delivery of quality services to the Hepburn community”.

Cornelia Kimstra, pictured, is 86. She lives independently in her own home in Daylesford with her beloved dog Daisy. She lost her husband 13 years ago and relies heavily on council services.
Cornelia is one of many elderly residents in the shire concerned about the decision to privatise the current services.
“My carer has been coming here for many years. She knows me, knows what I need and always asks me if I need anything else. She is more than a carer to me. When my late husband Klaas was alive, it was the services and the carers that we knew that helped us manage in our own home,” she said.
Cornelia was one of the founding members of the Daylesford U3A. She and Klaas helped start the Daylesford Men’s Shed, and she was a national advocate for euthanasia reforms at a parliamentary level. Cornelia has donated thousands of hours to volunteer work and says she deserves better after paying rates for 30 years.
Neighbour and community welfare advocate Michelle Clifford labelled the decision disgusting and abhorrent, and believes it will cost people’s quality of life.
“I think it’s abhorrent that the decision was made before the federal election and this decision will only alienate aged and disabled residents. A lot of people don’t like outsiders, (they) feel uncomfortable with a new carer every week,” she said.
“I really believe this decision will cost people’s quality of life. I get that fiscal management is part of council’s game but I don’t feel they even considered their options. There could have been ways to work within the budget and to fill the gap but I guess the money that could have been used was wasted on The Rex.”
Michelle, who ran the Community Op Shop, said groups and services including the Op Shop, Central Highlands Rural Health, Creswick Lions Club and the Good Grub Club will no doubt have increased workloads when a new provider takes over the running of the services.
Words & image: Narelle Groenhout

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