Dismantling Volunteer Funding
Wednesday, 8th February 2017 at 5:14 pm
Volunteering Australia has warned that the dismantling of the Strengthening Communities grants and the introduction of the Strong and Resilient Communities grants in 2018 will have a major impact on the volunteer sector.
An announcement on Wednesday from the Department of Social Services (DSS) revealed that volunteer support services would no longer be eligible for their own pool of grants funding.
The redesign of the Strengthening Communities grants program into the new Strong and Resilient Communities (SARC) grants program is expected to start from 1 January 2018.
Volunteering Australia CEO Adrienne Picone told Pro Bono News that the consequences of the new funding framework being undertaken by DSS would see the sector no longer have the infrastructure that supports organisations to recruit and retain the volunteer workforce.
“This has disappointed Volunteering Australia as the move demonstrates the federal government’s continued undervaluing of the role of volunteering in building strong and resilient communities,” Picone said.
“What has happened is that the framework has been developed without consultation but now DSS is actually going out to ask services to give their feedback on the new SARC model that will start in 2018.
“The Strengthening Communities Grants Program is currently the primary source of funding for volunteer support services – but the changes outlined in [the] DSS meeting would make such funding much harder to access.
“What we learned today is the Strong and Resilient Communities grants program does not provide specific funding for volunteer support services. This is yet another example of the de-prioritisation of volunteer management by the government and a lack of recognition for the role volunteer support services play in promoting, resourcing and supporting volunteering in local communities across Australia.
“We are concerned that this proposal does not fully consider the impact of not providing discrete grants for the infrastructure that supports volunteering and volunteer involving organisations.
“Volunteering Australia and the sector as a whole feel their concerns have not been heard and the fact that volunteering contributes more value to the community than many other major industries, which receive substantial funding from government, continues to be ignored.”
Picone said that effective, safe, productive and efficient volunteering did not “just happen” and it is not free.
“It requires expertise, leadership and local knowledge, as well as effective workforce management. Volunteer support services provide infrastructure in communities to lead, enable and build capacity to recruit and retain volunteers in a wide variety of organisations and services, from the human services and civil society groups, to environmental, animal welfare and sporting groups,” she said.
She said Volunteering Australia and state and territory peak partners were hosting an event at Parliament House next week and representatives of volunteer support services will meet with decision makers about the work they do and the impact that it is having in helping the government to achieve its goal of building strong and resilient communities.
“The event will also be an opportunity for the volunteering sector to raise our concerns directly with politicians, including Minister Christian Porter and shadow assistant minister Louise Pratt, about the new Strong and Resilient Communities grants program and the value that volunteering support services offer,” Picone said.
The 2016 federal budget delivered a $12 million funding blow to the Strengthening Communities volunteer program.