National Survey of Community Services
18 April 2005 at 1:04 pm
A national survey of community services in Australia shows a service under strain with many organisations unable to meet demand for help.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) launched its Australian Community Sector Survey 2005 saying a lack of funds meant 68% of community services surveyed were not able to help all the people who sought assistance.
ACOSS President Andrew McCallum says one out of every three times when people seek help from housing services, such as homeless refuges, they are turned away.
Legal services had to turn someone away for every 6 times they are able to help. Other organisations use waiting lists or tighten eligibility for their service which puts many people off even walking in the door.
The Australian Community Sector Survey 2005 found a 6.5% increase in the number of times people were turned away from a community service in 2003-4 compared to the previous year.
Surveyed organisations reported a slight decline of 3.4% in the number of people helped but a 9.2% increase in the number of times services were provided.
Of community services surveyed, 67% agreed that “clients have more complex needs than last year.
McCallum says a jobless mother escaping domestic violence, for example, is likely to need emergency housing, counselling, financial and legal help.
He says with budget deficits and staff shortages community organisations are trying to help people with varied and complex needs.
Federal, State and Territory governments are the major funders of Not for Profit community service organisations. Last year the Federal Government increased its level of funding to surveyed agencies by 8.2% and State and Territory Governments by 4.8%. However, income from client fees grew by 10.3%.
ACOSS says all governments need to do more to address the social problems that community service agencies deal with daily. Business and government both could step up their contributions to make a difference.
Other findings of the Australian Community Sector Survey 2005 include:
– 60% of the community services surveyed agreed their waiting lists had stayed the same or increased in 2003-4 compared to 2002-3.
– The number of times people were turned away from a housing service increased by 10% in 2003-4, rising from 38,643 to 42,561 times.
– The number of times people were turned away from community legal centre services increased by 10%, rising from 12,946 to 14,785 times.
– 9% of the times people sought financial and material support they were turned away due to lack of service funds to meet demand.
The survey involved 831 community services which assisted 2,009,831 people in the 12 months to June 2004.
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