NFP Sector Responds to Labor’s Pledge on Future Funding
9 June 2016 at 10:00 am
The Labor Party’s election promises to scrap the Coalition’s community grants program and to forge a closer relationship with the Not for Profit sector have been welcomed by a cross section of the community sector.
Labor pledged on Wednesday, if they were elected, to scrap the Coalition’s community grants program, re-establish a national compact, support a one-stop-shop national regulator, reduce red tape and duplication, support volunteers and engage proactively with the charities and Not for Profit sector.
The welfare peak body, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), said the policy rightly recognised the community and Not for Profit sector’s critical role in designing good policy and delivering essential services to communities.
“This policy contains a series of welcome measures which would help the community sector get on with the job of supporting and advocating on behalf of Australia’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“Importantly, it reaffirms the ALP’s commitment to respect community organisations’ vital role in speaking up about issues affecting the people and communities they serve, even where that involves criticism of government policy. This is vital to a healthy democracy and robust civil society.
“The ALP’s commitment to a new approach to funding, starting with a review of current funding arrangements and moving towards longer term contracts and more appropriate indexation arrangements, is also very positive.
“The missing part of the plan is a commitment to ensure adequate funding for frontline community services, following cuts of over $1 billion in the 2014/15 budget, including $500 million from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, and further cuts in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 budgets, including youth and community health programs.
“As the ALP’s own policy notes, these cuts have resulted in service closures around the country and left significant gaps, with impacts for people on low incomes and in crisis.
“These cuts have affected homelessness and legal services, support for victims of domestic violence, community health, including mental health, financial counselling programs and vital services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and more.”
Dr Goldie said frontline community organisations couldn’t absorb the funding cuts.
“Funding for advocacy and community development must also be a priority. How can civil society do its bit to improve the lives of people left behind without the capacity to participate in the right debates and processes, including with government?” she said.
“ACOSS is urging all sides of politics to commit to adequate resourcing of community organisations to ensure they can keep helping communities well into the future.”
Chair of Community Council for Australia (CCA) Tim Costello said the Labor policy announcement was pleasing.
“The charities and Not for Profit sector are a vital part of every Australian community, as well as employing over one million Australians and contributing almost 5 per cent to our GDP,” Costello said.
“Ensuring this very important sector can get on with supporting the communities they serve should be a policy goal of all governments. The policy announced by the ALP is clearly a positive step forward in building stronger community organisations, supporting volunteers and developing a more productive relationship between the government and charities across Australia.”
CEO of CCA David Crosbie said: “Politicians often boast of their community connections, citing their involvement in charities as a real positive, but during election campaigns, it seems many of the issues that are important for charities fall well below the political radar.”
He said CCA had argued that all political parties should clearly state how they were going to help the organisations that communities across Australia rely on to hold them together in good times and bad.
“In this instance a major political party has released a policy that recognises some of the broader issues impacting on the sector. Ignoring the sector or making it more difficult for them is no longer an option,” he said.
“The ALP has shown that it has thought about what issues matter, that it has a policy and is committed to better supporting charities and Not for Profits across Australia. Many organisations and the communities they serve across Australia will welcome this policy announcement.”
The Labor policy also pledged to continue to support community organisations through the volunteer grants program which received another funding blow in the 2016/17 federal budget.
The federal budget delivered a $12 million funding drop over four years to a major government volunteer program – Department of Social Services (DSS) Strengthening Communities program.
Labor shadow minister Jenny Macklin said community organisations often relied on these small grants to assist them to attract and keep volunteers.
“Labor will provide a further $10 million toward this important program,” Macklin said.
Volunteering Australia CEO Brett Williamson responded positively to the Labor party pledge.
“From [our] perspective we commend the Labor Party for listening to the community sector and releasing the policy,” Williamson said.
“Volunteering Australia was pleased to be involved in the initial discussions that led to Labor’s announcement, as part of the first meeting of Labor’s Community Sector Partnership in 2015.
“The continuation of the small volunteer grants program is something we have advocated for, as is the idea that all DSS grants to the community sector should be five years in length.
“This is something the Coalition has acknowledged is important yet they have not extended it to volunteer management programs, which are currently languishing on uncertain six-month grant extensions.
“However this [Labor] announcement does not address all of the changes Volunteering Australia would like to see. We will be releasing our election platform and Vote for Volunteering pledge campaign [next week] and we will be advocating to all candidates to support the volunteering sector by signing on to that campaign.”
Community Council for Australia and the National Press Club of Australia are jointly hosting a lunch debate on Tuesday 14 June about the future of the charities and Not for Profit sector.
CCA chair Tim Costello will facilitate the discussion with Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, and Liberal Senator for the ACT, Zed Seselja.
For more details about how to attend the National Press Club debate contact firstname.lastname@example.org.