My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health. It is in relation to the recent funding cuts by the Napthine government that have resulted in Colac Area Health being forced to halve its financial counselling services. It is known that the Colac community experiences a higher rate of financial disadvantage than the average community across the state of Victoria. It has lower levels of education completion and higher levels of unemployment.
A recent editorial in the Colac Herald stated that funding changes at the state government level, which included different allocations of money across the state, have resulted in funding cuts that have reduced the financial counselling service in Colac from 1.5 full-time equivalent positions to 0.7 full-time equivalent positions, essentially halving the service. The editorial said:
- … Colac cannot afford to lose the services — financial disadvantage is rife here and cutting the service that tackles disadvantage is nonsensical.
The Colac Otway shire mayor, Lyn Russell, who is also a qualified community health nurse, says that in her work she has frequently referred people to that service. I understand the government has indicated that it will add more phone counselling positions, but this is simply not an acceptable solution and will not cover the gaping hole in services caused by the cuts.
Financial problems are extremely serious and have devastating effects if they are not resolved. These problems can cause generational disadvantage for families, leading to all sorts of other significant life problems. Cutting funding for such a valuable service is extremely dangerous and irresponsible in a community that has population pockets that are on a knife’s edge.
It is a decision that risks all sorts of negative outcomes for a relatively small amount of savings.
As I stated earlier, this cut to Colac Area Health has come about from a restructure instigated by the Napthine government, and I can only hope that the cut to this valuable service is an unintended consequence of that funding restructure. With this in mind I request that the minister immediately restore funding to Colac Area Health’s financial counselling service so that this important service can continue to assist disadvantaged families not just in Colac but in surrounding communities.