ACOSS Push for Welfare Funding
Tuesday, 28th October 2014 at 9:47 am
Welfare peak body ACOSS has called for a 6 months rollover of funding for any Not for Profits facing an end or reduction to their funding after the Abbott Government was forced to extend its application processing last week.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said more time is needed to ensure Not for Profits protect the clients and workers from the crises they will otherwise face if their social services are forced to close or reduce service levels in the face of changes to Government funding.
Last week the Federal Government was forced to extend the current funding arrangements for more than 5000 welfare charities for up to four months as it tries to respond to an “avalanche” of applications – but the charities are yet to be officially informed.
A Senate Estimates Committee hearing in Canberra was told that the Social Services Department received 5,572 applications from welfare groups seeking $3.9 billion over four years when there is just $800 million available after cuts to the program budget.
The Federal Opposition slammed the Government saying the “shambolic” community grants process will affect a diverse range of organisations delivering services including emergency food and financial relief to Australia’s most vulnerable people.
“The Department admitted today that grants are way oversubscribed with an avalanche of applications from charities and Not for Profits,” Labor’s Shadow Minister for Communities Claire Moore said.
Department of Social Services Deputy Secretary Barbara Bennett told the hearing the department expected a lot of interest from organisations for funding but were not prepared for a ‘five-fold overbidding for funding’.
ACOSS said it is deeply concerned by the ongoing uncertainty about Commonwealth funding for community services.
“To date, many services have had funding contracts due to expire in December without any indication of whether those contracts will be extended, for what amounts and over what period,” Dr Goldie said.
“The announcement by the Department of Social Services that many contracts will be given a two month rollover while funding decisions are still being made provides some immediate comfort.
“However, it is simply inadequate. How are community organisations supposed to guarantee ongoing service to clients, many of whom are among the most vulnerable in our communities?
“Equally critical is the inability of services to guarantee ongoing employment to the 919,000 staff and 2 million volunteers who are the backbone of the support these organisations provide to the community.”
Dr Goldie comments also follow the release of the Curtin Charities report last week, based on the first year of charity data collected by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
“The latest data has confirmed once again how significant Australia’s charities are both socially and economically. Australian charities contribute 5 per cent of GDP and 8 per cent of employment nationally, plus occupation for 2 million volunteers,” Dr Goldie said.
“We must recognise the economic as well as the social implications of ongoing uncertainty for our community services which compound the social crisis we are facing as the people and communities that depends on social services have no idea whether those services will continue.
“We are also calling once again for reforms that ensure not just 3-5 year timeframes in contracts but commitments to adequate negotiation and rollover periods as those contracts come to end, to prevent us being in this situation again.”