BELLINGEN residents will receive help from the Bellingen Neighbourhood Centre (BNC) despite changes by the Federal Government to alter the delivery model of Emergency Relief Funding.
It’s welcome news to the shire’s disadvantaged who’ve been on tenterhooks since last year’s announcement by the Department of Social Service that four providers would divvy out the funds, some via a call centre in a metropolitan area, where once it was provided by the BNC.
The four groups now responsible for distributing the funds are Anglicare North Coast, Community Care Options Inc, LifeHouse Care and a branch of the Salvation Army services.
While there’s no obligation to keep the funds within the Bellingen area, BNC’s manager Gordon Jacob has made breakthrough negotiations with Community Care Options who’ve given their financial support to BNC, allowing them to continue an ‘on the ground’ five days a week service.
It’s heartening for Gordon who described the ongoing bureaucratic process as a roller-coaster ride.
“A few weeks ago it appeared the amount of funding to the Bellingen 2454 postcode would be substantially less than in the past,” Gordon said.
“This meant the community would suffer and find it hard to receive any assistance … but apart from tidying up a few details, it looks like we can continue to support locals who are in real need of immediate frontline help.”
Gordon said the deal reached with Community Care Options was a lifeline given the other providers had given mixed feedback.
“We knew our funds had gone but we were always keen in assisting the facilitation of funds in the local area – it was important we talked to all the providers to see if we could help, or at the very least, understand the delivery methods so we could get the ball rolling for people who came to us as soon as possible,” Gordon said.
“Anglicare North Coast advised us their funding was cut and they can only provide a full service to Grafton. They said if they assist any other areas this would mean that services provided would be reduced.
“Salvos are using a 1300 number as far as I know but I cannot get a satisfactory answer how this will occur – how would those in need get proper on the ground help? LifeHouse Care is continuing to assess how they will assist the Bellingen area.
“So you can see how happy we are to have one provider jump on board with us,” he said.
The neighbourhood centre’s funding came to an end in March, however, the Courier-Sun understands since this time the BNC has continued to provide as best as possible emergency relief services such as vouchers for electricity and phone accounts.
Gordon said the centre “will continue to support the area … if you need assistance come to the Bellingen Neighbourhood Centre and we will help,” Gordon said.
The Courier-Sun understands while the Department of Social Service has allocated an extra $1.7 million in Emergency Relief grants, this funding will not be distributed by the BNC.