THE decision to close foster care program Galilee was “not influenced” by the program’s previous bullying claims, says Communities@Work CEO Lynne Harwood.
Ms Harwood revealed this week the 25-year old foster care program, which is partly funded by the Government, would close on December 6 in a “strategic move to focus on other programs”.
She confirmed some of the 20 staff currently employed by the program would be made redundant, but “as few as possible”.
“The decision to close the program was not taken lightly, but we had started reviewing our programs and it was really down to making them all viable and strategically looking at how we are using our resources moving forward,” Ms Harwood says.
“At the end of the day we were putting in $100,000 to this program ourselves each year, and it was costing us much more to run. We’re just too small and foster care isn’t an area you grow in, especially when you’ve got two larger agencies [Barnardos and Marymead] in Canberra whose main focus is to do those jobs, whereas we have 100 different programs.”
Ms Harwood says the program’s 25 children and their carers would all be transferred to foster care agencies Barnardos and Marymead, while staff would either be re-deployed within Communities@Work, the Community Services Directorate, Barnardos or Marymead, with redundancies offered to any remaining staff.
She denies the program had a “culture of bullying”, as alleged by previous carers and reported by “CityNews” in August last year, saying the allegations are the “work of one disgruntled former employee” and are in no way related to the closure of the program.
“The truth is, we started reviewing the program’s viability before all the allegations started so it wasn’t at all to do with that, it would have happened either way,” Ms Harwood says.
“We were given access to the texts and emails this ex-employee had been sending people to get on her bandwagon, to ex-staff of Galilee and ex-carers, by those staff and carers themselves. I believe like-minded people attract each other and when you find a common enemy, someone gives you a script and says do this and do that.
“What happened last year could happen to anybody, if you have a disgruntled person who has the intentions and the skills to run amok, they will do it.”
Ms Harwood says the money left from the closure will be used to fund Communities@Work’s other programs, most of which are not Government-funded.