Life Skills House stalled awaiting letter of consent from Victorian Education Minister James Merlino

HOUSE HOLDUP: Jimmy Rebuffo, Belvoir Special School principal Jamie Gay, Brandyn Larkins and Liam Knight, VCAL, in April 2017 when the Life Skills House was proposed.

HOUSE HOLDUP: Jimmy Rebuffo, Belvoir Special School principal Jamie Gay, Brandyn Larkins and Liam Knight, VCAL, in April 2017 when the Life Skills House was proposed.

A HOUSE designed to give special needs students in Wodonga skills for independent living is being held up by Victorian government red tape.

The Life Skills House is a joint venture between Belvoir Special School and the Rotary Clubs of Belvoir-Wodonga, Wodonga Central, Wodonga West and Albury-Wodonga Sunrise at no cost to the state government.

The Rotary clubs have pledges of about $256,000 for materials and labour from Border businesses and trades and have raised almost $150,000 in cash. 

Rotary Club of Belvoir-Wodonga president Trevor Pearce said the Belvoir Special School Life Skills House project had stalled since the Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino had failed to provide a letter of consent to build the house on school land.

Mr Pearce said they had verbal approval for the project from the Education Department more than 12 months ago.

“We have been liaising directly with the Education Department since October and we still haven’t got a letter of consent,” he said.

“It is unique to the Education Department because it is a fully-funded community project and they don’t have the processes to deal with it.”

The Life Skills House plans were submitted to Wodonga Council in October 2017 before a letter of consent was sought from the Education Department in line with the council approval process.

Mr Pearce said the Rotary clubs had reached out to Mr Merlino’s office to expedite the letter without success.

He said they had hoped to start building before Christmas last year.

”We are at a point where our donors are questioning the viability of the project, and the motivation of the project team has waned significantly,” he said.

“We’ve got suppliers wondering what’s going on; they’re frustrated.

“We’ve got volunteers who could have helped us out over Christmas, now it will be a squeeze to do so.”

​The Life Skills House will be built on the grounds of Belvoir Special School to allow more than 200 students to learn independent living skills such as cooking and cleaning in a home environment.

The Rotary clubs have engaged Premier Building and Construction to manage the project.

It is an approved builder on the Education Department’s Construction Supplier Register.

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