Greens to Move Senate Inquiry into Community Funding Cuts
23 December 2014 at 2:38 pm
The Australian Greens will move for a Senate Inquiry into the Department of Social Services grants process when Parliament resumes in February 2015.
The move comes as community organisations including peak bodies an advocacy groups nation-wide received notice from the Federal Government that they have been defunded, their funding hasn’t been renewed or their applications haven’t been successful.
“The budget saw budget cuts of $240 million over four years to programs funded under the Department of Social Services, and the subsequent grants process has caused concern and uncertainty across the community sector,” Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services, Senator Rachel Siewert said.
“This has culminated in some organisations being told just days before Christmas that their grants have been rejected and that funding will be discontinued, in some cases as soon as February.
“I will move for a Senate Inquiry into the grants process undertaken by the Department of Social Security when the Senate resumes.
“An inquiry is needed to thoroughly examine the Government’s decision making process and the way they have gone about delivering these significant and harmful cuts.
“I will ask the Inquiry to examine the impact of these cuts on the service quality, efficiency and sustainability of the sector, as well as the ability of organisations to properly advocate on behalf of their clients. Consultation, time-frames and the decision making processes used by the Government will also be examined.
“I have had phone calls and emails from community organisations who are dismayed at the prospect of losing their funding and needing to close their doors in the coming months. I have no doubt that critical services, including those in the disability, housing and homelessness, community services sectors will be affected.
“The Government appears to be undertaking an intentional campaign to weaken and bully the community sector, in particular their abilities to advocate on behalf of those people who will be the hardest hit by budget cuts and changes to income support.
“This grants process and the cutting of funding to key peak organisations is another example of this.
The Greens Terms of Reference include:
That the Community Affairs References Committee considers the impact on service quality, efficiency and sustainability of recent Commonwealth community service tendering processes by the Department of Social Security, with particular regard to:
· The extent of consultation with service providers concerning the size, scope and nature of services tendered, determination of outcomes and other elements of service and contract design
· The effect of the tendering timeframe and lack of notice on service collaboration, consortia and the opportunity for innovative service design and delivery
· The evidence-base and analysis underlying program design
· The clarity of information provided to prospective tenderers concerning service scope and outcomes
· The opportunities created for innovative service design and delivery, including greater service integration or improved service wrap-around
· The extent to which tenders were restricted to not-for-profit services, the clarity of these terms and whether they changed during the notification and tender process
· The implementation and extent of compliance with Commonwealth Grant Guidelines
· Potential and likely impacts on service users concerning service delivery, continuity, quality and reliability
· The framework and measures are in place (if any) to assess the impacts of these reforms on service user outcomes and service sustainability and effectiveness
· Information provided to tenderers about how decisions are made, feedback mechanisms for unsuccessful tender applicants, and the participation of independent experts in tender review processes to ensure fairness and transparency
· The impact on advocacy services across the sector
· Factors relating to the efficient and effective collection and sharing of data on outcomes within and across program streams to allow actuarial analysis of program, cohort and population outcomes to be measured and evaluated.
· Any other related matters
The Federal Labor Opposition says the DSS grants program is a disgrace and a shambles.
The Shadow Minister for Communities Senator Claire Moore said organisations have been in limbo since the May Budget and only have funding until the end of February.
“Many organisations have missed out and vulnerable Australians will suffer because vital programs have been cut.
“Mr Morrison’s predecessor, Kevin Andrews, promised more certainty for community organisations and left them hanging out to dry. Mr Morrison has inherited the Christmas message from Minister Andrews but no-one is celebrating.,” she said.