Cautious optimism over DHS restructure

THE recent Department of Human Services overhaul has been met with caution by a local tenant advocate.

Victorian Public Tenants Association chairperson and Churchill resident Margaret Guthrie welcomed the systematic changes but believed “questions marks” surrounding the restructure would only be answered once fully implemented next year.

Ms Guthrie recently attended an information session which shed light on the organisational restructure and changes which included 500 jobs cut from the department as part of the State Government’s Sustainable Government Initiative.

“The claim made by DHS that this is going to break-down the ‘silo effect’ of the department, and to provide a more integrated service delivery, remains to be seen,” Ms Guthrie said.

The DHS reforms, which aim to provide a more “integrated response”, follows last year’s announcement of a new approach to case management and service delivery, which is currently being trialled in Dandenong and Geelong.

The current eight regions will change into four divisions North, South, East and West, and among them, 17 local area officers across the state.

The proposal for the areas to manage service delivery posed some questions according to Ms Guthrie.

“The theory for one person to manage all circumstance and provide whatever services and support DHS can give you, sounds like a good idea but we have concerns with the fact DHS is such a large organisation and offers such a wide range of services that one case manager is not necessarily going to have all the answers,” she said.

“There is always a concern when you tell your story to one person and they convey that information to one or several other people does something get lost with passing on of the information? That is one of the question marks we have.”

Ms Guthrie said the proposal, which various departments, including youth and family, justice, disability, public housing and crisis support, to integrate services would be beneficial to clients however, “how it works remains to be seen”.

“The idea and theory behind One DHS, the case management approach to clients, is good,” she said.

“You will actually have integrated offices because families may require different types of support so you want an integrated approach to providing those services.”

She said the changes, including no closures to regional offices, have been met with cautious optimism.

“What we have been told is currently there is no plans to close any offices, how long that remains the status quo we don’t know because they are still finalising changes,” Ms Guthrie said.

Total number of applicants on the public housing waiting list as of June for Latrobe Valley was 970.