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Perfect Storm Threatens NFP Sector

31 March 2011 at 1:08 pm
Staff Reporter
Workers in the social and community services sector will be lost to a ‘perfect storm’ of coinciding threats unless the Gillard Government acts on reform promises, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has told the National ACOSS Conference in Melbourne.

Staff Reporter | 31 March 2011 at 1:08 pm


Perfect Storm Threatens NFP Sector
31 March 2011 at 1:08 pm
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert alongside Shadow Minister for Families, Housing and Human Services Kevin Andrews at the ACOSS National Conference.  Photo: Ryan Witcombe

Workers in the social and community services sector will be lost to a ‘perfect storm’ of coinciding threats unless the Gillard Government acts on reform promises, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has told the National ACOSS Conference in Melbourne.

Senator Siewert says the sector is seeing a series of significant threats to the sustainability of social services all coming at once.

She says the Rudd and Gillard Governments have continued to promise much needed reforms for the Not for Profit sector, but so far their much-vaunted Compact with the sector has failed to deliver anything by way of practical reforms to address the crisis facing the sector.

Senator Siewert the threats to social services include:

  • The Social and Community Sector Workers pay equity case before Fair Work Australia, which has received no indication that Government will deliver a matching funding boost to services. She says everyone agrees a rise in wages is needed, but the sector is unable to support it without an increase in resources.
  • The introduction of the Increased Super Guarantee provision – again with no promise there will be matching funds
  • The increased cost of delivering services amidst increases in power, water, rent and insurance costs
  • The struggle to find workers, a situation Senator Siewert says will only grow worse as the population ages, demands on services increase and the value of community sector wages continues to erode. She says in areas of Western Australia and Queensland, the Not for Profit sector – and in particular the aged care industry – is losing staff to the mining industry. She asks how can the sector hope to hold onto underpaid staff when they can get a job earning $80,000 as a cleaner in a mining town?

Siewert says the overburden of inappropriate and contradictory funding and reporting requirements continues to grow, as government departments unilaterally impose contract conditions on social services that would not be tolerated in a commercial market or in other government service procurement contracts.

She says it is high time the government delivered reforms for the sector, rather than continuing to impose on them.

She says that when government departments think about reform, they are thinking about reforms done by them to the sector, not about reforming their own practices in relation to how they interact with the sector.

Siewert told the Conference that the sector needs long term, sustainable funding methods. She says if workers are unsure whether they will be employed come July 1st, then they will not be focused on their job.  

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One comment

  • John Coxon says:

    This so-called 'perfect storm' has been predicted within the nfp sector for a number of years. We can add to the list increasing operational costs for utilities, telephony, marketing, rentals etc. The reality is that even an increase in funding would be insufficient to prevent any fallout. Social agencies are competing for funding against more visible sectors such as aged care and even that sector is struggling to attract appropriate funding. ABS figures show that the level of Commonwealth spending on social services, other than welfare, has remained static at around 3 per cent of revenue for the past two decades. Many nfp organisations are their own worst enemy. Few have an integrated revenue development strategy. Many remain heavily dependent upon grant funding. Few management teams have the vision, experience or skills to look beyond subsistance living. Many continue to dream about employees with a social conscience who prefer to not chase the mighty dollar. Little consideration is given to holistic workplace development. Few service agencies consider possibilities for sharing back office services and costs. It is time for Boards and management teams to start planning for the future rather than responding to the past, create multiple revenue streams that enable agencies to fulfill their potential and meet real community needs and create workplaces where people want to contribute more than just service delivery. None of these alone are a silver bullet. Such an approach requires vision, experience and creativity. Does this describe your board or management team? More to the point such a strategy takes time, it requires long term planning and commitment from a group of people who are already stretched to their limit. This might explain why the sector remains stuck in the past. As a sector we can continue to stand on the edge of the lake admiring the approaching metorite; as the dinosaurs did in the past, or we can accept that we will have to create a new future. One where the sector takes responsibility for its own outcomes.

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