Who cares for our carers?

The Gippsland Carers Association is on the verge of having to operate at reduced capacity as funding for staff dries up at the end of the financial year.

Its Morwell shopfront ‘Carers Place’ will open two days a week instead of three, possibly less, if funding is not found, according to the group.

“That will mean devastation for myself as the person who has founded this organisation,” Gippsland Carers Association president Jean Tops said.

“Since 1997 we have provided this service free of charge to carers without any meaningful support from government.”

A State Government spokesperson said it would have “more to say about further funding for advocacy organisations in the future”, but stopped short of revealing any specific funding allocations.

The state budget will be revealed later this month.

Last July the Gippsland Carers Association revealed it would dip into its own cash reserves to continue funding a part-time clerical support worker for a year, who provided financial management and was the “face” of the association, allowing volunteers to focus on advocacy. Prior to that the position had been funded by the former State Government with $100,000 over four years and received an election promise of another $120,000 over four years if the Coalition won government.

The funding was not matched by the new Labor government.

In addition to this, philanthropic grants for other paid positions will run out at the end of the financial year.

One is a coordinator’s role and the other a carer mentor, who works on the ground.

The carers association has decided to continue the carer mentor role for the next 12 months using its own money from general fundraising.

But the future of the other two positions hangs in the balance.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Member for Morwell Russell Northe called for funding to be included in the budget for the carers, as well as local mental health advocacy group Barrier Breakers which was also funded $100,000 by the former government to help employ staff and had to dip into its own coffers once the funding ran out.

“We’ve got to try every option available to us because the reality is there’s going to be two less staff members (at the Gippsland Carers Association) who will be able to deliver services,” Mr Northe told The Express.

“The reliance falls back upon volunteers to try and support the organisation.”

Mr Northe has launched a petition calling for $120,000 in funding for the carers association.

Labor upper house Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said she had worked with a number of groups over the past year and welcomed input and feedback from any carers group.

“I’ve worked with people who are very heavily committed to the social and community services sector,” Ms Shing said.

“I know how badly funding and assistance is needed.”

A government spokesperson said the government valued the role the two advocacy groups played in supporting the community and understood the Department of Health and Human Services Gippsland office was working with the community to ensure services were set up in a way that worked best for people in the local area.

“We will have more to say about further support for advocacy organisations in the future and also look forward to bringing our NDIS roadshow to the region in the coming weeks,” the spokesperson said.