Program ‘removes red tape’ for fire victims seeking support

THE recovery response to bushfires that left Clarence communities devastated wasn't good enough, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said, as he announced a program aimed to simplify the process during a visit to Clarence Valley Rural Fire Service Control Centre at Ulmarra.

Learning from Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, the minister responsible for disaster recovery announced case managers would be made available for people who had lost homes and property due to bushfire as part of a "one stop shop" to access assistance from local, state and federal government.

"There's probably anger in the northern part of the state, because you feel at times that we forgot you and somehow that the recovery has been too slow, and I think that those criticisms are just.

"I think you can always criticise the response. I'm mindful there are people on the ground, the agencies in this region have been doing a lot of the assessment work and maybe it's gone too slow because of the fires down south, the focus wasn't here."

Mr Barilaro said the Bushfire Customer Care Program announced yesterday aimed to "cut through red tape" and simplify the process for anyone seeking assistance.

"We know when an individual has been traumatised by loss of home or property, it's very difficult to navigate and traverse the maze of government," he said.

"Register with Service NSW and we will put a case manager that will stick with you from the moment you register to the end of your journey."

Mr Barilaro said affected people would receive assistance regardless of whether they were insured or not and could access accommodation advice, charity services, financial assistance, mental health services, support for businesses and more.

"For those that are insured it means that every cent from their insurance will go to rebuilding. For those that aren't insured it means one less headache you need to worry about."

The announcement comes after the government came under fire earlier this week as reports of bushfire victims yet to receive financial assistance remained living in makeshift accommodation and in tents.

Opposition leader Jodi McKay yesterday called for an intensive case-by-case approach to bushfire victims, with focus on ensuring safe housing modelling the Victorian $14.4 million program that similarly provides a case manager to assist individuals in accessing services.



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