Wyndham council has been accused of turning its back on the most vulnerable people in the community following its decision not to continue funding for a vital aid program.
UnitingCare Werribee Support and Housing chief executive Carol Muir says she received notice only days before Christmas that council funding for the Wyndham Wellness Program would not continue beyond 2015.
She said she had been led to believe by councillors the funding would be extended into 2016.
Ms Muir said the efficient and responsive program, with an annual cost of $100,000, had supported up to 400 residents a year.
The program had been used by residents experiencing financial difficulties, mental health issues, alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness and other crisis.
“This program provides crisis and early intervention support for any resident experiencing multiple and complex issues,” Ms Muir said. “We had been funded for one full-time position which could respond at time of presentation and support vulnerable residents until they could resume control of their issues. Without it, there is no other local service that can respond immediately to a resident in crisis with multiple and complex issues.
“A person presenting with financial issues could experience a four to six-week wait for financial counselling and potentially have their utilities disconnected in the meantime. If they present with mental health issues, we will have no worker to assess or manage the situation until police or a CAT team can arrive.”
Council acting chief executive Bill Forrest acknowledged the “important work” that Werribee Support and Housing did in the community, but he said a change in the grants scheme had brought the funding to an end.
“It is not council’s role to subsidise, over long periods of time, programs and services that are the responsibility of state and federal governments,” he said.
Ms Muir said that if the council did not come through with funding, UnitingCare Werribee Support and Housing would have to appeal to the local community and business sector.
UnitingCare Werribee Support and Housing, at 19 Duncans Road, Werribee, has launched a petition urging the council to fund the project.