Bridging the gap

MITCHELL Shire, along with all other councils on Melbourne’s fringe, is seeing rapid population growth which is increasing the need for local support services, while placing significant pressure on existing services and providers according to a report released at the end of last year.

The Interface Councils Human Service Gap Analysis Report revealed that significant gaps in health and human service provision continue to affect 1.6 million residents in interface municipalities.

The report shows that mental health support, housing and homelessness support, family violence support, allied health services, alcohol and other drugs services, child protection and disability support all fall short in Melbourne’s interface region.

Mitchell Shire Mayor, Cr Rhonda Sanderson told the North Central Review that there are many people in the shire who are in critical need of access to these services, but are unable to due to long waiting lists or because there are very limited travel options to get to places like Epping, Shepparton, Bendigo or Melbourne to access them.

“According to our 2017 Health Profile, the need for people in Mitchell to access mental health and drug and alcohol support services was higher than the state average.”

“We also have soaring rates of family violence reports, which in 2015-16 were 57 per cent higher than the Victorian average, the number of drug offences detected in Mitchell is significantly higher than the state average, and the number of home and community care services available to those aged 0 to 64 years is 23 per cent lower than the state average,” Cr Sanderson added.

The report confirms that families in interface areas face a total estimated funding gap of $175 million per annum across various service areas that directly impact daily life.

“The report tells a tale of numbers. But in reality, it’s the quality of people’s lives that are being compromised by an inability to access health and wellbeing support where they need it,” an interface councils spokesperson said.

“Notably, the numbers in this report represent the many people – women in particular – experiencing the hardships of family violence and who don’t know where to go for safety and support in times of crisis,” he added.

Cr Sanderson said that access to early intervention and crisis support is important for the health and wellbeing of people in the community in the shorter and longer term.

“Our growing community deserves easy access to these vital support services, regardless of where they live,” Cr Sanderson said.

The report recommends that interface councils request an immediate injection of funding to bridge critical health and human service gaps in the impacted municipalities.

“Going forward, reform of the service delivery system is required to make sure it can respond to constant population growth and changing demographics as well as enable long-term and localised solutions to the service disparity that currently exists,” the report adds.

Interface Councils will be working with the Victorian Government to trial a new approach to service delivery to start moving towards a more positive reality where residents can access the health and human support they need, regardless of where they live.

The Human Service Gap Analysis Report was commissioned by Melbourne’s interface councils to understand the significant service provision gap in and to indicate reasons for geographical service distribution.