LINKWEST has warned neighbourhood |centres could fold if proposed changes to a State Government program that funds them goes ahead.
The peak body is calling for the sector to be expanded and for accommodation certainty for operators amid fears funding to neighbourhood centres could be reduced in the proposed reforms.
A Department of Local Government and Communities spokeswoman said the new Supporting Communities Program combined the Community and Neighbourhood Development Services, Individual and Family Support and Youth Support programs.
She said funding for the new program was $9.4 million a year – the collective budget of the former programs.
“There has been no reduction in total funding,” she said.
“The services under the Supporting Communities Program will go to open tender for the first time in more than 20 years.
“An open tender process will provide fair and equitable access to government funding to ensure the best outcomes are achieved for the community.”
Local centres include the Midvale Community Centre.
It provides a range of low and no cost services and positive activities that enable people to connect, learn and grow.
Linkwest sent a letter to Premier Mark McGowan earlier this month following ongoing negotiations with the Government.
It requested neighbourhood centres’ current contracts be extended and shared its concerns of a 22 per cent cut to funds for neighbourhood centres in the program amalgamation.
“This process will take away local control, local governance and will rip the heart out of many communities,” the letter said.
“It is the firm belief of Linkwest and its members that this process needs to be stopped and reconsidered.”
Linkwest chief executive Jane Chilcott said while neighbourhood centres offered some intervention and crisis management services, they worked primarily on preventative space by giving local people a place to belong.
“Linkwest would argue that instead of cutting funding there should be a bigger investment in these local place-based services that build community,” Mrs Chilcott said.
“For the immediate future, however, we are requesting the State Government halts funding cuts and there is an extension of neighbourhood centres’ contracts until appropriate consultation with key stakeholders – including local communities – can be undertaken, and the centres can broker a lasting solution to their accommodation issues.”
The Local Government and Communities spokeswoman said the development of the new program was still progressing, with the department now engaging with the sector.
“More than 200 individuals and 100 services have already participated,” she said.
“Existing services remain eligible to apply for funding.”
She said the new services were expected to begin on July 1.