Senate to Probe Social Services Funding Process
12 February 2015 at 3:48 pm
The Australian Senate has voted to hold an inquiry into how the Department of Social Services provides funding grants to community services.
The Greens spokesperson on family and community services, Senator Rachel Siewert, said the inquiry would address the “shambolic” grants process that she claimed was leaving essential services across the sector without funding.
“The grants application process introduced by the Government is a debacle that has left seismic shockwaves through community services,” Siewert said.
“There is a great deal of uncertainty and confusion about the grants process with community organisations nation-wide receiving notice from the Federal Government that their funding hasn't been renewed or their applications haven't been successful or are being required to sign onerous contracts. This undermines the ability of the community sector to support their clients and to delivers services to the community.”
Siewert said that funding cuts and a difficult grants process were making life difficult for community organisations.
"The budget saw cuts of $240 million to programs funded under the Department of Social Services, the subsequent grants process has made cuts throughout the sector and it is important that we get an understanding of where and why cuts have been made. There needs to be accountability and transparency in this process,” she said.
"The process culminated in some organisations being told just days before Christmas that their grants had been rejected and their funding discontinued, in some cases as soon as this month.”
"The inquiry will thoroughly examine the Government's decision making process and the way they have gone about delivering these significant and harmful cuts. The inquiry will 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.
"Community organisations and those who access their services were unnerved at the prospect of reducing or losing their funding and will be relieved by news of this inquiry.”
Last month Social Services Minister, Scott Morrison, ended a period of particular uncertainty when he made a surprise announcement that he would provide bridging funding to organisations that had previously been told they had lost funding.
“Social services grants support front line services being delivered in our communities, by our communities. My highest priority as we transition to new arrangements is that access to critical frontline services is not interrupted and we avoid unintended consequences,” Morrison said.
“The bridging funding is about ensuring we don’t allow front line service gaps to emerge in critical areas.
“Providers of ongoing frontline services under the grants program will have their funding extended to 30 June 2015 while new services are properly established and clients are appropriately referred. For emergency relief service providers we expect a more rapid transition process and will extend current funding arrangements for these services to 31 March 2015.”