Feds Move on NFP Grant Arrangements
21 May 2014 at 2:58 pm
The Federal Government has moved to reassure the Not for Profit sector of the benefits of its new grants arrangements revealed in the Federal Budget.
Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews says the Government’s new grant arrangements for the Not for Profit sector, set for July, will reduce red tape and give service providers greater flexibility.
Minister Andrews made the comments in his speech at the recent Building Partnerships between Government and Not for Profits conference in Canberra.
“We are collapsing the current unwieldy 18 discretionary grant programs into just seven larger funding buckets,” he said.
“These new grants will entail longer-term agreements that will provide greater certainty as you plan the services our communities need.
“We will also simplify the administrative process by negotiating single consolidated agreements between the Department of Social Services and service providers.
“The genesis for these reforms is what you’ve been telling me during the many conversations I’ve conducted with civil society stakeholders.
“You have all expressed your concerns to government. And we have listened.”
He said as part of the new arrangements, the Government would roll out a streamlined system that added three newly broad-banded programs – Families and Communities, Housing and Homelessness, Disability, Mental Health and Carers – to complement those already existing in Ageing and Aged Care.
“The Families and Communities Programme incorporates a large portion of the current social services grant programmes,” he said.
“Priority areas include early intervention activities that focus on financial capability, stronger communities, support for migrants transitioning to life in Australia and family wellbeing.
“The revised structure of this new program means funded organisations will have greater flexibility, a lighter administrative burden and greater control over how they fashion services to meet the particular needs of their communities.”
He said the Housing and Homelessness Program would generate the policy advice to grapple with the conundrum of housing affordability in Australia.
“The Disability, Mental Health and Carers Programme will provide support for people with disability and mental health issues and their carers,” he said.
“This includes proactive assistance for the work-capable disabled to find employment that bestows dignity and self-sufficiency.
“These three new programmes sit alongside those Ageing and Aged Care Programmes that were streamlined previously.”
Andrews said the new arrangements would significantly reduce red tape and give services providers greater flexibility to drive local solutions to local issues by reducing prescriptive service delivery.
“Simplifying the number of grant programmes will also help streamline reporting requirements,” he said.
“In other words, we want you to spend more time on helping people and less on unnecessary paperwork.”
Andrews said the Department of Social Services was also working on implementing a “one-agreement per provider” system, where possible and new performance reporting.
“Gone are the days when you needed a plethora of agreements with government before you could even get out the door,” he said.
“We are also streamlining the financial acquittals process to further reduce red tape…
“We want to move the focus from the stick to the carrot as we implement new ways of collecting, reporting and utilising programme performance data.
“Reporting for new funding agreements will also be as streamlined and automated as possible.
“My Department will reduce the amount of reporting to priority information only. From now on, every piece of information we request will have a clear purpose.”
Andrews said the department would share what it learnt through regular reports on service coverage areas, benchmarking and service delivery trends over time.
“We will link with other Australian Government data sets and periodic surveys to give you a more holistic picture of your clients and your local community,” he said.
“This will improve the understanding of client pathways, strengthen visibility of outcomes over time and reduce the cost of evaluations.”
Andrews said the Government had committed more than $1.5 billion over five years for a new five-year agreement for more than 250 providers who can deliver: Communities for Children Facilitating Partner Services; Family and Relationship Services; and Family Law Services under the new Families and Communities Programme.
He also said to minimise service delivery disruption the Government had committed $590 million for six and 12-month extensions to most grants due to expire on 30 June this year.
In his speech, Andrews also stood by the Coalition Government’s plan to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.
Andrews said that he made the promise to implement policies that invigorate rather than debilitate the sector and among that is the ACNC’s abolition.
“So the best thing we can do is to get the regulators off your backs and out of the way to the maximal extent possible…
“Our cornerstone objective – what guides us in our efforts to build a more productive partnership between Government and civil society – is that we fundamentally believe that local people understand local issues and are best placed to solve local problems.”
To view a diagram of the Government’s new grant arrangements, click here.
To view Minister Andrews’ full speech, click here.