A CARERS SA chief has pledged face-to-face interaction will continue as part of a sweeping restructure of services across the region.
Carers SA chief executive David Militz yesterday moved to dismiss speculation regional services would be decimated under the new service delivery model.
His comments follow a backlash across the region over the looming closure of the Carers SA office in Mount Gambier, which is earmarked to close on Christmas Eve, ending a 20-plus year presence in the region.
The closure is part of a statewide shake-up of the delivery of services to thousands of unpaid carers across the state.
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.
While Carers SA has linked the changes to budgetary restraints, Mr Militz said more federal funding was in the pipeline.
He said an additional $84m over four years was earmarked to be rolled out to the sector, which would likely flow to boost services to young carers and respite services.
Speaking to The Border Watch, Mr Militz said services would not be scrapped to more than 730 regional carers.
Conceding some decisions such as redundancies had been difficult, he said a staff member would continue to be based in Mount Gambier at a shared location with a not-for-profit organisation.
He said he understood people would feel disappointed over the closure of the “stand-alone office” that displayed the Carers SA badge.
Mr Militz revealed the employee would attend support group meetings across the region and be available to meet with people.
“Face-to-face services will not stop – we are not closing services,” he said.
While the imminent closure of the Mount Gambier office would disappoint people, he said wanted to reassure the community provider remained committed to carers.
“People will have the ability to come in and meet with that staff member,” Mr Militz said.
He said the employee would be a 0.8 full time equivalent and would service the whole region.
Despite the large distance to travel for one person, Mr Militz said it was “workable” given support group meetings would not clash.
He said this model was already working in other regions.
Mr Militz said the organisation planned to hold a community forum in Mount Gambier earlier next year to update carers on the changes.
“We really want carers to understand how to access services,” he said.
Additional online services will also be rolled out for carers not comfortable attending support groups.
Mr Militz said an official transition period would start in April or May 2020.
A spokesperson for Families and Social Services Minister Senator Anne Ruston said the new early intervention model will result in a five-fold increase in the occasions of support provided.
“It was designed by carers, for carers to help them get the support they need early, before reaching crisis point,” the spokesperson said.
“It features modern digital services such as self-guided coaching and online skills courses as well as providing additional funding for carers to access essential respite when they need it.
“Carers SA has been awarded $44.2m under the new model (about $10m each year until 2023-24) compared with about $17.2m awarded in total for the previous four years.
“Carers SA decided to move to a mobile workforce that will deliver face-to-face services to carers in the Mount Gambier region without requiring carers to travel long distances in regional Australia to access the services they need,” the spokesperson said.
Counselling, peer support and emergency respite will still be available.
South East Carers are urged to contact the organisation on 1800 242 636 if they have any questions or concerns.