THE looming closure of the Mount Gambier Carers SA office has sparked a backlash amid revelations it supports more than 1000 unpaid carers across the region.
Shutting its doors on Christmas Eve, the closure will see a number of redundancies and the end of the 20 year presence in the city.
The axing of the office is part of a statewide shake-up of the delivery of services to thousands of unpaid carers following a change in the delivery of Federal Government funding.
The service provides support to anyone who cares for family member or friend who has liability, medical condition, mental illness or is frail aged.
Carers SA services advocate Mary Arthurson – who is a former carer and SA Carer board member – called for the authorities to save the office and stop the centralisation of services to Adelaide.
Standing outside the Percy Street office yesterday, Ms Arthurson also raised concerns about “how they have gone about” the changes.
“This is going to decimate services and it is all going to be provided from Adelaide. Why has not there been a transition period, it has just been cut off,” she said.
Ms Arthurson said many carers were already upset over the looming changes and others would likely find out through the Carers SA newsletter.
“The newsletter announcing the changes was only released last Thursday – many people have not had time to absorb what is going on,” she added.
“The current office currently has a gathering once a month, holds pamper days for carers and support services – it is a community hub for carers and people can drop into the office for assistance,” Ms Arthurson said.
She said a central location was important given many carers were isolated.
“Why are they closing the office just before Christmas when the new service will not come into effect until April 2020,” Ms Arthurson questioned.
She also raised concerns the new service would potentially only have a 0.8 full time equivalent “roaming” worker across the entire Limestone Coast.
“You just have to consider how much travel that person would need to do – from Bordertown, Naracoorte, Mount Gambier and across the rest of the region.”
“They are also expecting carers to form their own support groups over the internet.”
Carers SA has been selected as the Carer Gateway Service provider for Adelaide and country South Australia.
According to Carers SA, the change is being driven by the Federal Government to provide a new way of support through the Integrated Carer Support Service.
The organisation said it needed to “restructure” to deliver the new service to “meet budget restraints” of the service delivery model.
In the Carers SA newsletter, chief executive David Militz said Carers SA had secured both the metropolitan and regional contracts to provide support to carers across the state.
He said this was part of a newly designed Integrated Carer Support Service.
“This new way of providing support, which is being implemented by the Federal Government and begins in April 2020, will have an impact on how services that are provided to carers will be assessed,” Mr Militz said.
“It is important to understand that we still provide face-to face support in each region, but we will not have a dedicated Carers SA office as we currently do.”
He said counselling, peer support and emergency respite would still be available.
“Many of our staff have chosen not to deliver ICSS and have chosen to take a redundancy,” Mr Militz said.
“This has been extremely difficult decision for all involved.”
It is understood a number of staff at the Mount Gambier office were forced to take a redundancy given there were no jobs available in the region.
Mr Militz was not available yesterday.