Funding shortfall leads board to make difficult decision on Pivot Support Services Community Hub closure

Stuart McGuckinAlbany Advertiser
Chief executive Ian Neil and board chair Marcelle Cannon have announced the Pivot Support Service Community Hub will close later this year if the orginisation cannot secure funding to support its operational costs.
Camera IconChief executive Ian Neil and board chair Marcelle Cannon have announced the Pivot Support Service Community Hub will close later this year if the orginisation cannot secure funding to support its operational costs. Credit: Albany Advertiser

Pivot Support Services will close the doors of its Albany Community Hub in September unless it can secure funding to cover operational costs in the next six months.

Pivot’s board recently decided to plan for the hub’s closure on September 30 “unless external funding is received to allow it to continue in a safe manner”.

In a statement on behalf of the board that was sent to Premier Roger Cook, Albany MLA Rebecca Stephens and relevant State Government ministers last week, Pivot chair Marcelle Cannon said the decision had “not been an easy one”.

“The Community Hub has been operating on a self-funded basis since 2018,” Ms Cannon said.

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“The operating cost of $130,000 per annum is not sustainable and if Pivot was to continue to fund operations it would be insolvent in a few years time.”

The closure would further reduce the services available to those in the Albany community who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and place an extra burden on other agencies.

The statement indicates a June closure date had been considered, but the board decided to keep the hub open for a further three months so it can “continue to service clients over the difficult winter period”.

Ms Cannon stressed the decision to cease operations was both financial and based on the “workload and its complexity” for staff, which could not be maintained without further investment.

Pivot was originally established in 2004 as a service supporting prisoners’ transition back into the community before expanding to address areas of disadvantage that may lead to incarcerations.

Since the hub opened, it has assisted more than 2200 clients, including more than 500 since initially reducing its hours in September last year.

It is now closed two days a week but will trial a booking system over the coming months so it only has to close its doors on Tuesdays.

Growing demand for the service has led to increasing individual workloads with Pivot unable to boost staffing due to the limits of its operational budget.

A proposal prepared by Pivot to establish a Great Southern community hub based on its model has failed to attract the required funding despite positive reactions from politicians on both sides.

Chief executive Ian Neil said Pivot was not resourced to carry out a comprehensive analysis of what the community hub had achieved and the proposal included the development of a measurement framework.

“Early intervention often prevents crises but, unfortunately, proving that you prevented a crisis is harder to demonstrate than showing that you have treated one,” he said.

He said the hub had made “significant differences in the lives of clients” by keeping them in accommodations and preventing “deterioration of their health and wellbeing”.

“As a result, people are choosing our service in growing numbers,” he said.

“That in itself is an indicator of success.”

Mr Neil said a revised version of the proposal had been included with the board statement sent to members of Government last week.

He said if a funding commitment was made before the hub’s planned closure Pivot’s board would look at ways to keep the service open until it could be delivered.

“I would suggest that if funding was promised we would only close if the issue was staff health and safety,” he said.

“By that I am referring to the emotional fatigue and vicarious trauma staff face when dealing with such complex presentations in the context of an ever-growing demand for the service.”

If a funding commitment does not eventuate Mr Neil said Pivot would continue “to promote the concept at a State and national level”.

“Good ideas never go away,” he said.

A Department of Communities spokesman said it had not received a formal funding application from Pivot for its community hub concept, nor had the organisation previously received funding from the department.

“Communities will continue to engage Pivot and the wider community services sector as part of the State Government’s ongoing commissioning process,” he said.

He said more than $1.6 million was being invested by the State Government into homeless services, providing crisis accommodation and wraparound support for those experiencing homelessness in the Great Southern this financial year.

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