UnitingCare will create one of the largest community service organisations operating in Victoria and Tasmania under a new single governance structure aimed at strengthening its ability to support people in need throughout the two states.
It comes after a decision by the Uniting Church’s Synod Standing Committee (SSC) last year to establish a single skills-based Agency Board which will govern 18 UnitingCare agencies and Wesley Mission Victoria (WMV) supported by regional advisory committees, local support groups and clinical governance committees. Currently, the agencies and Wesley Mission Victoria are all governed by individual boards.
Alternative models of support are being considered for smaller agencies and further work will also be undertaken to develop a model of support for congregations and presbyteries currently providing local or regional community services.
At the weekend the SSC approved the appointment of former Victorian State Health Minister Bronwyn Pike to chair the single Agency Board. It also appointed a further four initial directors to the new Board.
``I am deeply honoured that the Uniting Church has asked me to chair this new organisation as I share their commitment to making Victoria and Tasmania fairer, compassionate and inclusive,’’ Ms Pike said.
UnitingCare Project Control Group (PCG) Chair Bob Hodges said the new governance structure would enhance UnitingCare’s reputation as leaders of the provision of high quality community services across both states.
“It will make the work of client facing staff more effective by creating a structure that helps them to share ideas and learn from the innovative work currently being undertaken throughout the organisation.” Mr Hodges said.
UnitingCare agencies and WMV operate in metropolitan, regional and remote parts of Victoria and Tasmania offering a broad range of services and advocacy to support thousands of vulnerable people.
With a combined annual budget of about $237 million, about 3,500 staff and 4000 volunteers, UnitingCare and WMV‘s services include emergency relief, financial counselling, housing and homelessness services, employment services, early childhood services, child, youth and family services, disability services, mental health services, non-residential aged care, alcohol and other drugs services and Lifeline.
Ms Pike said UnitingCare agencies have supported vulnerable Victorians and Tasmanians for decades and have been a voice for social justice in our community.
``As one unified agency of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania this vital work will now be expanded and strengthened as we address the new challenges in caring for people in great need,’’ she said.
The new single Agency Board will assume governance when all funders have formally agreed to service contracts continuing under the proposed new structure. This is expected to occur before the end of the year.
The new Board will have up to 11 members including the Chief Executive Officer as an executive director.
As part of a new executive structure reporting to the Agency Board, the CEO and senior executive positions relating to program delivery and financial management are expected to be in place at the date of handover. Following handover of governance, it will be business as usual in the first instance for all agencies, with existing CEOs reporting into the new executive structure.
Existing boards will be encouraged to remain in place to assist with the transition to the new governance structure.
“We would like to continue to work alongside our current boards who will play an invaluable role in providing input and advice to the new Agency Board,” Mr Hodges said.
“On the day of handover, there will be no change to the work that each agency is delivering in local communities. The same people will provide the same services to the same clients at the same locations are they are today,’’ Mr Hodges said.
Mr Hodges said major funders had been notified of the proposed changes.
``Our largest funder is the Victorian DHHS and we are working closely in partnership with them to provide the information they require.’
“UnitingCare agencies hold to the ethos and values of the Uniting Church, bringing God’s life and hope to communities and individuals. UnitingCare embodies the Church’s compassion and care for the vulnerable within our communities.”