Community Services Under Strain - ACOSS
22 May 2006 at 1:05 pm
Community services are under strain and unable to meet demand for help according to a new national survey and the ACOSS says the Federal Budget has missed an opportunity to address some of the key issues.
ACOSS’s annual Australian Community Sector Survey, released before the Budget, received responses from 1182 community services which assisted 2,740,000 people across Australia in the 12 months to June 2005.
ACOSS President Lin Hatfield Dodds says 65% of service providers reported an increase in the complexity of needs of people in the past year which required more than one type of service.
By way of example Dodds says a jobless mother escaping domestic violence, for example, is likely to need emergency housing, counselling, financial and legal help. With budget deficits and staff shortages community organisations are under strain trying to help people with varied and complex needs.
ACOSS Director Andrew Johnson says the lack of resources meant 132,000 people eligible for services could not get assistance from community services last year.
Johnson says some services such as housing assistance and legal services really struggle to meet demand.
The Australian Community Sector Survey 2006 found:
– There was a 9% increase in the number of people helped in 2004-5 compared to the previous year.
– Organisations reported they turned away 29% more people eligible for a service last year than the year before.
Needs were complex
– Many people using services had multiple disadvantages. 53% of service users
– were jobless and 32% of people using services had a disability.
– 15% of people using services were Indigenous and 21% were from a non-English speaking background.
Funding was from multiple sources & increasingly from client fees
– Governments are the major funders of non-profit community service organisations. Last year the Federal Government provided 22% of total funding to surveyed agencies and State/Territory Governments 46%.
– However, income from client fees grew by 5% from 2003-4 to 2004-5 and comprises 10% of funding for services.
ACOSS says given the largesse of the Federal Budget, the Government had a golden opportunity to spend more to make sure Australians who are really struggling have a fair go.
ACOSS says low income Australians in paid work have gained through adjustments to income tax and family payments changes.
However ACOSS says it was hoping for greater investment in solutions to provide better quality, more accessible and affordable services in the areas of housing, indigenous health, dental care, child care, supports and services for jobless Australians to change the lives of people on low incomes.
Here is a snapshot of some of the Budget announcements:
$1.4 billion over four years for COAG mental health initiatives, including:
– $380m for better access to GPs, psychologists and psychiatrists through Medicare – – $132.1m over four years for more respite places to help families and carers
– $36.6m over four years for community based programs to help families with mental illness.
$9.4m in 2006-7 to extend JET child care to meet gap payments for parents moving into work or study.
One off Carer Bonus – $1,000 for Carer Payment, $600 for Carer Allowance.
Ageing and Disability
$90.2m over four years to assist younger people with disability living in residential aged care to find more appropriate accommodation.
$24.2m over five years to simplify access to aged care services through more timely, consistent and quality assessments by Aged Care Assessment teams.
$152.7m over five years to improve care for older patients in public hospitals by enhancing in-patient services and the transitions to appropriate long-term care, avoiding re-admission to hospital and improving care services when people stay long term in smaller rural hospitals.