Disability and respite services saved in Moreland

Issue 
Socialist councillor Sue Bolton convinced Moreland Council to reinstate the after-hours Aged and Disability Home Support Service

Socialist councillor Sue Bolton convinced Moreland Council on July 13 to reinstate the after-hours Aged and Disability Home Support Services for existing clients as well as new ones.

Bolton said she was enormously grateful to the parents of children with disabilities who spoke up on behalf of all the parents who were unable to come to the meeting or who didn't think it was possible to fight the cut.

“Those parents put a human face on the implications of a very bureaucratic cut: their stories had an impact on the other councillors”, Bolton told Green Left Weekly.

Socialist councillor Sue Bolton convinced Moreland Council on July 13 to reinstate the after-hours Aged and Disability Home Support Services for existing clients as well as new ones.

Bolton said she was enormously grateful to the parents of children with disabilities who spoke up on behalf of all the parents who were unable to come to the meeting or who didn't think it was possible to fight the cut.

“Those parents put a human face on the implications of a very bureaucratic cut: their stories had an impact on the other councillors”, Bolton told Green Left Weekly.

“Council voted to axe the service last December without even asking the council bureaucrats about the likely impact on people. I was the only one to vote against it.

“I've also been campaigning for council to oppose plans by the federal government to take over and fully outsource the Home and Community Care program, which includes respite care.

“Two parent residents who have children with a disability were very active and helped change councillor's minds.

“We have also been working with the Australian Services Union. The Moreland Leader ran a front page story after the parents developed an online petition.

“Their letters and agitation appear to have impacted on the other councillors.

“The council had already started moving people off the after-hours service, despite their objections.”

If the motion had not got up, seniors, disabled people and their carers would have only had access to the council services, 7am-7pm, Monday to Friday.

This is dangerous, as vulnerable people need to be able to access the services 24/7.

Many of the parents work full-time, so the axing of the after-hours respite service effectively denied them any access.

The petition with a sample letter, started by parents Iain McIntyre and Tomohiro Matsuoka, stated in part: “Restricting their hours of access will have a negative effect on the quality of life of some of Moreland's most vulnerable residents and reduce the ability of their carers to cope, complete household chores and spend time with other children, partners and family members.

“It will particularly impact on migrants and others who do not have extended family networks to support them.”

Further, it said that these services are only a tiny part of overall council expenditure and yet are addressing a real need in the community “particularly since private providers are generally focused on delivering services at lowest cost in order to maximise profits”.

Bolton has had a lot of positive feedback since the council decision.

“Someone told me that the win had 'reinstated my faith in people power'. That's the best feedback”, she said, “because it means that they are more likely to stand up and fight next time a service is threatened.

“This is a small, but immensely important victory against neoliberalism”, Bolton said. “However, we have to remain vigilant about further attacks.”

“The axing of the after-hours respite service happened in the context of the National Disability Insurance Scheme coming in and the federal government's plans to take over the Home and Community Care program (HACC), convert it into an aged-care program in 2019 and fully outsource it.

“The fully-outsourced NDIS and plans for an outsourced HACC program are being used as an excuse by state and federal governments, and local councils, to cut and/or outsource public disability/aged services. This is what we are up against.”

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