Volunteers fear meals clients will suffer

TWO volunteers with Wodonga’s Meals on Wheels fear for the welfare of clients when council’s home and community care program is taken over by a private contractor late this year.

And Bev Young and Marion Coughlan are disappointed with the lack of consultation there has been with volunteers and clients.

A letter the received in the in the mail yesterday was the first they knew of council’s plan to dump the program in a bid to save almost $1 million a year.

“The decision comes after a long review and council recognises there are now many other providers who will be able to deliver the services in a more flexible and cost-effective manner,” the letter said.

The pair believe it will be clients who suffer.

“We know these people can’t afford increased costs and a private contractor would be just looking after its bottom line,” Mrs Coughlan said.

“A lot of people are finding it hard to come up with the money as it is and a lot of them are living in department housing.”

Meals on Wheels delivers 1000 meals a month and the decision will affect 250 volunteers.

Mrs Young, who has been volunteering for 10 years, said she would not work for a private contractor and knew a lot of volunteers felt the same way.

“They are getting labour for nothing and making money on it,” she said.

Meals on Wheels was run by council with ratepayers’ money.

“They are using our money as ratepayers for things we don’t need like a new swimming pool and The Cube,” she said.

“But this is something we do need because these residents rely on the quality of food being provided by the Wodonga Hospital.

“There is also the matter of a loss of staff in the hospital kitchen.

“The council is basically saying let’s get rid of the program and the responsibility.”

Wodonga council’s director of community development Debra Mudra said the Health Department had a list of fee guidelines that informed service providers of acceptable fees in order to keep meals at an affordable cost to clients.

“These guidelines would apply to any new provider of HACC services,” she said.

Ms Mudra said volunteers and clients were informed as soon as possible after the decision was made to stop providing HACC services.

“The council would be hopeful volunteers could continue the fine work they do with meals on wheels in our community with the new service provider, or continue volunteering with council in a different area,” she said.

“The council wants to reassure clients they will continue to receive their service.”

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