Gibson outraged at Home Assist closure plans
GYMPIE'S State MP is on the warpath against the Maryborough-based organisation that has all but closed down its Home Assist office here and plans to completely close by the end of next month.
David Gibson said he was outraged that HOMESSA Inc, which receives the funding to provide Home Assist Services, had taken steps to close its Gympie office without notifying anyone, "apparently not even the Department" until Thursday.
The organisation relies on State and Federal Government funding, but may find itself out of pocket at the next round of funding, where Mr Gibson vows to lobby for a Gympie-based group to get the money.
It would not be the first time his lobbying has been successful.
"Unfortunately, HOMESSA has form when it comes to its poor treatment of Gympie residents," Mr Gibson said.
"Back in 2010 they tried to stop servicing Gympie under the Home and Community Care major home modification program despite being funded to do so.
"I raised the matter with the then minister and we got the service back in Gympie by transferring the funding to another organisation.
"Clearly HOMESSA is an organisation that does not value their Gympie clients and while their actions may not be in breach of their funding agreement I will be formally writing to the minister requesting that HAS services and local contractors will remain in place for Gympie and that this action by HOMESSA be taken into account at the next tender round.
"This is too valuable a service for our older people or people with a disability who wish to remain living in their own home."
Mr Gibson said HAS Gympie clients were most often elderly, frail and vulnerable, often with visual or hearing impairment, or mobility issues.
They were people with disabilities and carers, another vulnerable group with limited understanding or ability to arrange their own home maintenance and or modifications, the reason the HAS program was first commenced in Queensland.
"While residents in Gympie will still be able to access HAS I'm sick of organisations from outside of Gympie putting in tenders saying they can provide services to our region and then after they are successful changing the way in which the services to our region are delivered."
Mr Gibson said that after raising the matter directly with the minister's office he had received assurances from both the HAS provider HOMESSA and the Department of Housing and Public Works that there would be no reduction in service.
"Let me be blunt and say I am extremely sceptical of this assurance from HOMESSA based on their actions to date," he said.
"Anecdotal evidence given to me indicates that HOMESSA actions will have a major impact on client services as many elderly clients can't often exactly explain what their home maintenance issue is, other than knowing they have a problem.
"I'm also concerned that without a Gympie office some clients may have difficulty paying their accounts as payments plans are often used to assist clients get essential work done and this requires them to attend the office periodically to pay for the work.
"Many don't have cheque books and still use cash for all their transactions and obviously internet banking is not an option.
"The loss of a local office in Gympie could make many people unaware of this program, resulting in a ripple effect as some people may be forced to leave their own homes to go into institutional care or to families that might not be able to care for them because they are not aware of the service.
"While this action may not be in breach of their funding agreement the manner in which the community found out clearly shows a breach of trust and I am calling on the people of Gympie to assist me in keeping HOMESSA to their word that there will be no loss of service as a result of these changes."