Counselling cutbacks will affect Maitland's most vulnerable

As a church leader Roger Burgess is regularly called upon to provide counsel.

MARGINALISED:  Reverend Roger Burgess says  ­people need to make their concerns heard

MARGINALISED: Reverend Roger Burgess says ­people need to make their concerns heard

It is his responsibility, he believes, to help those who need it. 

But as pastor of the Maitland Evangelical Church, Reverend Burgess also knows he cannot do it all.

“As a church we recognise our responsibility in looking out for the poor and the marginalised, but in the end we know we can’t do it all,” he said.

“I’ve actually referred people to community health services quite regularly. 

“I’m not equipped to deal with some of the community’s needs, but these guys are.  

“They provide an element that I can’t.”

Reverend Burgess has joined the call for a range of health counselling ­services to be reinstated across the Lower Hunter, services he believes have been a key to the social well-being of the Maitland community for the past 30 years.

“This is a very behind the scenes sort of service,” Reverend Burgess said.

“My biggest concern is that the case load these guys are carrying won’t be picked up.  

“This is one of the only places people can access this type of highly trained person and that’s what’s most concerning. 

“At a time when we should be reducing the hurdles to mental health services, it seems like we’re adding to them.”

As part of the changes, consumers will require a GP referral and a diagnosis resulting in an up-front fee and limited follow-up sessions.

“My concern is that the most ­vulnerable, the most marginalised, will be, in effect, cut adrift in this,” Reverend Burgess said. 

“Are we seeing a shift from health as service to health as profit? 

“That’s the thing about community health, it’s an example of how health has always worked in our country.

“I think it’s going to be tough to get this back but you never know ... we need to make a bit of noise.”

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