Family department defends $580,000 contract cut

John Lee from You Have a Friend has spoken out in support of Tweed Valley Women's Service
John Lee from You Have a Friend has spoken out in support of Tweed Valley Women's Service Blainey Woodham / Tweed Daily Ne

UPDATE: Tuesday, 10.55am: THE Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) has backed the decision to cut Tweed Valley Women's Service's $580,000 contract to provide support to local domestic violence victims.

"On Track Community Programs (OTCP) has a proven record providing homelessness services across NSW and will continue to effectively deliver services in the region," a FACS spokesperson said. 

"All of the same services are available under OTCP and are accessible in exactly the same way.

"The Department of Family and Community Services is confident that the handover of specialist homeless services for women in the Tweed Valley will not have an impact on those in need of assistance.

"Since taking over responsibility for services in Tweed Valley, OTCP has increased the capacity to provide crisis accommodation in order to help with demand in the region.

"The NSW government is committed to best assisting people who are homeless or facing homelessness and is spending $8.1 million on homelessness services in the area this year.

"In addition to this, an extra $1 million will be invested in enhancing domestic violence responses in the area over a two year period."

ORIGINAL STORY: A NORTHERN RIVERS MP has defended the cancellation of the Tweed Valley Women's Service's $580,000 contract to provide domestic violence support services despite a community backlash.

The contract termination has resulted in the closure of the 30-year old Murwillumbah-based organisation and the loss of 13 jobs.

The action has also been slammed by many of the agencies who refer clients to the service.

The service's managing agency, On Track Community Programs, who cancelled the contract have now taken it over promising a more comprehensive service.

On Track is taking legal action against the service accusing it of 26 breaches of State Government grant conditions.

But it is understood that the service believed it had refuted all the allegations.

Emotional service staff, who have been ordered not to speak to the media, were this week cleaning out their Nullum St premises.

More than 370 people have so far signed a petition calling for the funding to be reinstated.

The petition was set up by Theresa Mitchell who runs the homeless organisation, Agape Outreach.

Ms Mitchell said unlike On Track, the service had a proven track record helping the homeless and domestic violence victims.

"I'm appalled. I think the funding is in the wrong hands," she said.

John Lee, the founder and president of Tweed-based homeless support service You Have a Friend, has also spoken in support of the organisation labelling it a "wonderful service".

But Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack, who was advised of the dispute between the two agencies in November, said she believed On Track had legitimate grounds for taking over the contract.

Ms Cusack said she believed On Track's actions were supported by the Department of Family and Community Services.

Ms Cusack said the State Government had not cut funding or axed any services and all of its emphasis was on boosting domestic violence services.

She said the timing just before Christmas was unintentional and unfortunate for staff who had lost their jobs "but I'm not sure there's been any adverse consequences for the clients".

Federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot has called for the service's funding to be reinstated

Topics:  catherine cusack funding on track community programs

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