By Jessica Micallef
Access to financial assistance for people struggling to make ends meet is no longer being provided to Macedon Ranges residents.
Federal government funding for emergency relief provided by Cobaw Community Health was stopped on December 31.
Since 2004, Cobaw Community Health had previously been allocated $60,000 annually for distribution across the Macedon Ranges as part of the Department of Social Services Emergency Relief program.
Clients were provided with food and petrol vouchers and received assistance with the payment of utility bills.
The service assisted more than 20 clients each week from one of Cobaw Community Health’s sites in Kyneton, Woodend or Romsey.
The service also involved a health and wellbeing assessment for clients which often resulted in referrals to other services externally and within Cobaw Community Health including counselling, housing and family services, Centrelink, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and Legal Aid.
From January 1, funding had been allocated to 10 different organisations, none of which were located in the Macedon Ranges.
Cobaw staff have since been directing people enquiring about emergency relief to a number of alternative providers including local food banks and op shops.
Cobaw Community Health chief executive Margaret McDonald said it was disappointing Macedon Ranges locals could not receive financial assistance close to home.
“I acknowledge the two organisations that have responded to our request for clarity around how they intend to support people in the Macedon Ranges,” she said.
“However we have great concerns that allocating the funds to large Melbourne-based organisations will disadvantage those members of our community in need of urgent financial help.
“The re-allocation of funds has created confusion and frustration for clients and community members. Driving an hour to Bendigo or Melbourne for a $50 petrol or food voucher makes no sense.
“Rural health and wellbeing services need to be delivered locally or we will see poorer health outcomes for our community.
“We know there is a need as we see evidence of it every day from people visiting our service and we want to be able to reassure them that assistance is still available.”
Organisations funded to deliver Emergency Relief are Haven Home Safe, Catholic Care, Salvation Army, Uniting, Australian Multicultural Community Services, Sacred Heart Mission, Community Information and Support Victoria and Anglicare Victoria.