Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon has backed the call from local veterans for face-to-face services to resume at the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) office in Newcastle’s CBD.   

The DVA Veterans Access Network (VAN) office was closed in March last year in response to COVID-19 and still hasn’t reopened its doors to the public.

Ms Claydon said she was contacted by tireless veterans’ advocate and DVA-sponsored volunteer, Gerry Bailey, about the impact the ongoing closure was having on veterans and their families.

“Mr Bailey has let me know about the distress that local veterans and their families have experienced at not being able to access this office during this exceptionally difficult time,” Ms Claydon said.  

“He has also told me that the ongoing closure has led to anxiety in the veterans’ community that these important services may be suspended indefinitely.

“Many veterans rely on this drop-in service, especially those with physical, mental or social issues or disabilities which make face-to-face service delivery the most appropriate and comfortable form of contact for them.  

“Indeed, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) own website says the Veteran Access Network and Veteran Support Officers (VSOs) are two of its most important access points for clients.”

Ms Claydon said she believed the office could open in a COVID-safe way.

“The Newcastle Open Arms Veterans and Families Counselling office, which shares a back-office space with the VAN Office, returned to normal face-to-face services many months ago. Similarly, the NDIS offices, along with my own, are located only metres away and we both resumed walk-in constituent services many months ago. 

“I understand the need to exercise caution, but this mustn’t be at the expense of access or service quality.”  

Ms Claydon said wrote to the Minister after being told by the Department that there was no timeline for the reopening of the office.

“I’ve asked the Minister to put in place a firm plan for the imminent reopening the Newcastle DVA drop-in service,” Ms Claydon said.

“I’ve also asked him for his assurance that there is no plan to permanently close the Newcastle VAN office, change staffing arrangements or suspend services indefinitely.”

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