Federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt announces $46.1m funding plan to combat loneliness

Nola Marino, Renae Hartmann, Fiona Barley, Sue Cherry and Ken Wyatt, coming together at last week's seminar in Bunbury. Photo: Thomas Munday
Nola Marino, Renae Hartmann, Fiona Barley, Sue Cherry and Ken Wyatt, coming together at last week's seminar in Bunbury. Photo: Thomas Munday

The Federal Government has thrown its support behind volunteers lending a hand to aged care services.

Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt announced a $46.1 million pledge to combat loneliness in the elderly community on Thursday, May 3. 

The funding will go to the national Community Visitors Scheme, assisting volunteers with preventing social isolation. 

The program helps groups reach out to people with Commonwealth-subsidised aged care services. 

They also connect husbands and wives who may be separated due to limited resources in regional areas. 

Mr Wyatt and Federal Member for Forrest Nola Marino visited the South West Italian Club last week, addressing elderly citizens about the new initiative. 

Mr Wyatt said the funding would help organisations recruit new volunteers to reach further out into their communities.

“Loneliness is terrible. None of us ever stop wanting to be loved, be hugged, or have our hands held,” he said.​

“It [the funding] helps the aged care providers in focusing on what they need to do during the day. 

“An extra set of hands and eyes means that someone is going to be hugged and held. They will have a sense of still being cared for.”

Mr Wyatt said no funding restrictions would be placed on any given area. 

“What I don’t want to do is have a set amount for each region,” he said.

“What I want to do is figure out what programs are being provided, what is going to be best for the community, and how each program will do that.” 

Mr Wyatt and Mrs Marino also met with St John of God volunteer coordinator Renae Hartmann and program volunteers Fiona Barley and Sue Cherry. 

Ms Hartmann said the funding would greatly support the work of volunteers and organisations across Australia. 

“We’ve got 30 volunteers, they come and go and the residents change as well,” she said. 

“The feedback we get from the residents and the aged care facilities is invaluable.” 

Mrs Marino acknowledged the volunteers tasked with providing key services in the South West. 

“I know how much the older people they visit look forward to the social interaction,” she said. 

“That is why we would like as many local community groups as possible to consider applying for Community Visitors Scheme funding.” 

The funding will run from January 1, 2019 through to June 30, 2021. 

Applications for funding grants close on Tuesday June 12, 2018.