A BATHURST migrant support service has been thrown an $84,000 lifeline that will keep it running for at least the next 12 months.
Bathurst Regional Council expressed its concerns last week after funding for The Neighbourhood Centre’s support program was cut by the Department of Social Services.
The cut would have meant the loss of one employee from The Neighbourhood Centre with local support services to be included in an expanded Orange service.
Council had planned to write to Calare MP Andrew Gee to express its concerns but Mr Gee got in first, blaming the funding cut on “faraway bureaucrats” and vowing to fight to find a solution.
Just days later, Mr Gee has confirmed interim funding of $84,000 had been secured to keep The Neighbourhood Centre’s migrant support program going for the next year, at least.
And Mr Gee said a thorough investigation would be carried out by the Department of Social Services to determine how many migrants The Neighbourhood Centre had helped over the past three years.
“Having reviewed all of the data it’s clear that while the numbers did drop, they were well and truly on the way up just before the new contracts were re-written,” Mr Gee said.
“My question is whether enough consideration was given to the back-end increase and the reasons for it.
“Over the past week, I have made extensive submissions to [Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher] as to why the numbers dropped and the heights they reached at the end of 2018.
“Those submissions now need to be verified by the Department. That process will commence immediately and should be complete in the coming weeks. This announcement gives us breathing space to have the whole issue considered in more detail.
“If my submissions are verified I will be seeking another extension of migrant support funding for The Neighbourhood Centre for 2021 and 2022.”
Neighbourhood Centre executive officer Jean Fell worked with Mr Gee to build a case for retaining the funding.
“I’m absolutely delighted with this outcome as a result of Andrew Gee’s lobbying and there’s certainly been a sigh of relief at The Neighbourhood Centre,” Ms Fell said.
Bathurst mayor Graeme Hanger said the funding announcement was “a great example of our council working with our local member to achieve a great community result”.
Mr Fletcher thanked Mr Gee for putting together the data to save the funding.
“I know how important The Neighbourhood Centre is to the Bathurst community and Andrew’s strong advocacy on the issue has really been appreciated,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Gee said saving the Bathurst support program would also benefit Orange.
While Orange City Council’s migrant support funding had increased by $28,000 over the past three years to now total $365,000 a year but the area it had to cover had expanded “significantly”.
“In my discussions with Orange City Council, they have made it very clear that if the migrant support role can be retained at Bathurst, it will be able to handle the rest of its area effectively, so this announcement also ticks the key box for them,” Mr Gee said.