Federal funding cuts hit needy

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MORNINGTON Community Information and Support Centre is reeling from massive funding cuts.

Manager Lisa Elliott said federal government support was last week cut from $102,000 to $50,000 – meaning a third of the money earmarked for food vouchers for the needy was now gone. Money to fund case managers to assist the needy had also been cut.

“We will have to shift the funding around to fill the void,” she said.

“Our focus is on helping the needy and the homeless to buy food and pay rent. We fill the gap between Centrelink payments and what low income earners need to keep their heads above water, but these cuts will make it that much harder for us to do that.”

Ms Elliott described the Newstart payments of $470 a fortnight as being barely enough to put food on the table. “The support service helps by providing top-up payments so that if a person has to buy, say, shoes for their children one week and cannot afford to buy food, our vouchers help them get by.

“The cuts announced this week were a real punch in the stomach. It’s a serious jolt for us.

“It’s important the community is aware of the defunding; to remember those in the community who need help.”

She said a practical way for people to assist the service was to donate food to the pantry, which costs the service $10,000 a year to run. Non-perishable food goes toward hampers for those in need. On average the pantry provides food to about 40 people each week.

Volunteers the support centre assist each Thursday morning at St Mark’s Uniting Church in Barkly St where up to 100 needy people gather to receive $40 food vouchers. The fresh food is donated by farmers, wholesalers, markets and supermarkets, and is distributed through the SecondBite program.

Certain people in the community are always facing poverty – temporary or not, Ms Elliott said.

“They may be separated or sick or facing a family crisis. We don’t provide them with a supplementary income, just emergency aid to get them through.”

Dunkley MP Bruce Billson agreed “frontline community services are critical to providing great relief to the needy”.

“The government is working hard to ensure that these services continue to be available without interruption, with areas of greatest need the priority,” he said.

“One of our election commitments was to reduce red tape, improve service delivery, and provide greater flexibility to organisations that deliver these frontline services.

“As a result, last year the government undertook a competitive tender for those seeking funding under an $800 million Department of Social Services “New Way of Working for Grants”.

“The priority was areas of greatest need, along with ensuring all areas had ongoing access to these types of services without gaps.

“In a tight budget environment, the funding round attracted unprecedented interest from service delivery organisations with more than 5500 applications seeking total funding of more than $3.9 billion.

“The Mornington Community Information and Support Centre was part of a consortium of centres under the umbrella of Community Information and Support Victoria that applied for, and received, this funding to provide emergency relief services, including food packages in the Mornington region.

“The government has also offered bridging funding to the centre so it can continue providing this service until the end of March to ensure continuity for our local citizens in need.”

Free community meals are also offered 5.30-6.30pm, Mondays and Fridays, at St Peter’s Church hall in Albert St.

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