Victoria's Emergency Relief Sector Under Pressure
29 January 2007 at 10:09 am
Victoria’s emergency relief sector is fragmented, under-funded and under considerable pressure according to a ground breaking study just released.
The study warns that the current model of emergency relief delivery is unsustainable and that the medium term future of 3-4 years is uncertain.
Consultations and surveys carried out by VicRelief+Foodbank Victoria – Victoria’s largest emergency relief centre – during September, October and December 2006 found that agencies did not always identify as a sector and were often unaware of other agencies working in their local area.
The survey was funded by the Victorian Government and facilitated by CIVic (Community Information Victoria).
The study found that there were however examples of ‘best practice’ which need to be more widely available to the sector.
The extent and size of the sector is not clearly defined yet it is thought that some 800 organisations are involved in Victoria.
The survey report says that if there were only 300 agencies distributing emergency relief in Victoria and each had 10 volunteers contributing 1.25 million hours each year –with a paid rate of $20 per hour the cost to the community would be $25 million per annum.
But the report says the real figures are much higher than that.
These major recommendations relate to:
Funding – All consultations agreed that funding for the Emergency Relief sector is inadequate.
Training – 87% of the consultations agreed that training for volunteers is essential, that training needs to be made available locally, and that funding to deliver training is also required.
Networks -There is a lack of accurate information about existing Emergency Relief networks, and 100% of the consultations raised the need for networks to be established as well as the need for support and resourcing for both existing and new networks. Quality networks will provide leadership for the sector, and allow for advocacy and lobbying from the ‘grass roots’ level.
A database of local network member agencies should be established and continually updated. A major benefit of this would be to assist local councils with their Municipal Emergency Management Plans and to allow for the potential specialisation of service provision by Emergency Relief agencies.
Capacity building of networks will benefit the community, and the inclusion of local governments in networks will significantly contribute to meeting the needs of local communities.
Volunteers – The sector is mostly staffed by volunteers, and the volunteer population is ageing. The nature of volunteerism is also changing to being more short-term in nature and quite often event oriented. Volunteer recruitment and retention are major issues for the sector, and 93% of the consultations raised this as an issue.
Clients – Client numbers are significantly increasing, and the complexity of client issues presenting at Emergency Relief agencies is also increasing. This was an issue for 67% of the consultations. The need to provide education for clients in basic life skills was supported by 87% of consultations.
The report says the issues raised need to be recognised and acted upon as a matter of urgency.