PLEASE NOTE: The City of Greater Bendigo’s phone system is currently experiencing a high volume of calls, so members of the public may be experiencing some difficulty in getting through.
The City thanks people for their patience during this time.
If anyone is calling regarding the Home and Community Care provisional decision, people can also voice their comment/concern by emailing HACC@bendigo.vic.gov.au
UPDATE 6.30pm: The Minister for Ageing, Martin Foley, is starting the planning process into recruiting a new provider for the service.
A spokeswoman for Ageing Minister Martin Foley said the government was committed to providing a high quality service for elderly and disabled residents.
She said it was starting the planning process to ensure the transition to a new provider was smooth, if council voted to forgo the service.
The department currently has ultimate responsibility for the program but council delivers it on behalf of the government, contributing an additional $1.32 million.
Mr Foley did not say whether the state government would compensate for the loss of council funding.
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said she was "concerned" about the provisional decision.
11.30am: The City of Greater Bendigo has made a provisional decision to withdraw from providing the Home and Community Care program on behalf of the state government.
It has informed workers of its provisional decision and will consult with the community, union and carers about the reasons for withdrawing.
A final decision will be made at a council meeting on March 25 and if the council determines to withdraw it will do so by September 30.
In such case, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services would be responsible for the program, and will be able to choose a new provider to deliver it, most likely a not-for-profit organisation.
The department currently has ultimate responsibility for the program but council delivers it on behalf of the government, contributing $1.32 million in addition to state funding of $5.8 million.
The council employs 165 people through the program.
Mayor Peter Cox and chief executive Craig Niemann said sustainability regarding funding and state and federal changes to the disability sector had influenced the provisional move.
"We're looking at the program's sustainability," Cr Cox said, adding that with an ageing population demand for home care services would increase.
"Overall, cost is a factor but it's not the main factor. It's about giving people choice."
He said the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme would enable clients greater choice over their service providers, which council could not accommodate.
He said the decision was based on a recommendation from an independent review into council operations.
But Cr Cox stressed the decision was not final and council would listen to the public and workers' concerns.
He said clients would continue to receive services they needed, but possibly through a different provider.
Workers were shocked by the announcement, with some in tears after the meeting ended.
A group of women, who wanted to remain anonymous, said they were disappointed by council's decision.
"We all feel very let down," one said.
"There was a meeting last night and nothing had supposedly been decided ... yet we all have letters with our names on them.
"To me, the decision was already made."
Another said she worried her clients would not cope well with the change.
"Their whole world is disrupted if you have a new carer," she said.
Australian Services Union representative Billy King said workers were "gutted" by the announcement.
"They work in a sector that provides quality care to the elderly and people with disabilities - they treat them as part of their family," he said.
"We believe the information that was provided to council by management is incorrect. It's based on a consultant's report done months and months ago."
He said the union had contacted the state government to discuss the announcement and would continue to lobby the council to change its mind.
"(Council) would rather throw money at airports and swimming pools where only 10 per cent of the community are likely to use them at any time," he said.
The council has standby workers on call to provide services to clients if staff are too upset to work today.
The council has established a hotline for staff, clients and members of the community.
The number is 44086683.
People can also email HACC@bendigo.vic.gov.au
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