Family service is a dead duck

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Department of Communities office in Margaret River was "closed" in 2018, officials say.
Camera IconThe Department of Communities office in Margaret River was "closed" in 2018, officials say. Credit: Picture:, Warren Hately

A local service for families and residents looks to be dead in the water after a lack of any further disclosure from WA’s Department of Communities.

The Times previously reported the one-stop shop to help residents navigate WA’s social services was shut at the end of last year when the solo officer took maternity leave. The decision by Communities not to replace the position as part of its Local Communities Co-ordinator trial augured bad news, not only for Margaret River, but five other regional communities where the Times understands existing workers are now facing redundancies.

The news comes as community-based mental health organisation Mindful Margaret River was recruiting a project officer to co-ordinate access to social and mental health services, effectively filling the void left by the State department.

While Communities said its trial LCC scheme was still under review, and no timetable for the outcome could be given, deputy director-general Rachael Green confirmed workers were offered redundancies.

“Local operations staff have an opportunity to express an interest in the Voluntary Targeted Separation Scheme in place for staff affected by the transition of services to the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” she said.

Initially, Communities’ general service design and support assistant director Helen Nys provided a one-line response to Times inquiries, spurred on by urgent calls from the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and MMR for the service to continue. “The evaluation is ongoing and will inform the future of Department of Communities services,” Ms Nys said.

Further efforts to force a deadline for the trial’s review out of Communities bureaucrats were rebuffed, with the service continuing in five other regional towns until the end of June. The one-person service — which operated out of 141 Bussell Highway — provided advice and guidance to residents seeking help from government agencies, including emergency support.

Shire president Ian Earl said he had received confirmation the program would not continue.

“The program was making a difference within the shire and we will continue to advocate to the State Government for the need to provide local support whilst at the same time working with the Department of Communities to seek ways to better provide for our community at a local level through existing programs and services,” he said.

MMR and the Shire received a $176,000 Lotterywest grant earlier this year for “the delivery of community-led initiatives that improve health and wellbeing”.

In December, Communities denied its site was technically an office, instead claiming it had “not been open to the general public since 2018”.

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