By EMMA CORNFORD
CENTRELINK has backed down from plans to change their welfare referral system after an outcry from Clarence Valley welfare providers.
Centrelink media manager Paul Creedon said Clarence Valley Centrelink would not implement the changes until there had been further consultation with community groups.
Mr Creedon said the initiative had been designed for the benefit of job seekers and understood most community groups had supported the plans.
"But if they say they want to discuss it further then we're flexible enough to do that," he said.
But Dean of Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral, Peter Catt, said there had been no community consultation about the pro- posed changes.
"We were all just sent a letter saying this would happen ... but now there is the chance to have consultation which is fantastic," he said.
"We know Centrelink are under very difficult circumstances ... so we're open to ways to make their load a bit lighter, but dumping this new system on us was not going to help."
The changes would have seen welfare recipients given a list of welfare organisations and told to choose their own, rather than having their needs assessed and allocated an agency by Centrelink. Fr Catt said Grafton Care and the Salvation Army were also opposed to the changes.
"Our concern was that customers would have spent a whole day going from one welfare agency to the next being told 'we can't help you' rather than Centrelink finding out exactly what they needed and re- ferring them on."