Disability agencies set to merge

Minimal job losses are expected from merging two Dunedin-based intellectual disability support agencies.

Sherwood Centre Charitable Trust and CCT announced this week they were ''joining forces'' in a May 1 merger.

Sherwood would be dissolved as an organisation in the merger. No job losses were expected from CCT's workforce, numbering nearly 200 staff in Otago and Southland. Four or five of Sherwood's 13 staff would miss out on jobs. Sherwood manager Pam Tomkins said the move was driven by the push towards awarding government contracts to bigger organisations in mental health, some of which were from overseas.

She sensed the intellectual disability sector would follow a similar path to mental health.

Merging with a strong local provider with similar values would help secure contracts.

''By being a little proactive it's enabled us to make the choice of who we want to get into bed with.''

Sherwood's base in Green Island would remain, functioning as before, known by the Sherwood name.

Mrs Tomkins said her own job was one of those under threat.

The merger meant an increase in front-line hours in Sherwood's existing contracts, due to lower administrative costs.

She acknowledged there was ''some grief'', because it was the end of the organisation, which started life as the Firmament Trust following the closure of Cherry Farm Hospital in 1991.

CCT chief executive Barney Cooper said the organisations' contracts were very different, and staff would be trained to expand their skill base.

CCT assists people with intellectual disability or autism to live in their own home, while Sherwood provides employment support and vocational activities.

Mrs Cooper agreed ''absolutely'' that larger providers were increasingly favoured for government contracts.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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