Govt Urged to ‘Share the Love’ on Volunteer Funding
14 February 2017 at 5:25 pm
Representatives from Australia’s volunteer management sector converged on Canberra on Tuesday to appeal to the government to restore federal funding for their operations.
The sole source of federal funding for volunteer management is the government’s Strengthening Communities grants program, which is currently under review.
The “share the love” gathering on Tuesday (coinciding with Valentine’s Day) saw CEOs of the state and territory peak volunteering bodies together with representatives of volunteer support services from across Australia discuss how the grants were being used to deliver stronger, more resilient communities through local volunteer management.
Last week national peak body Volunteering Australia warned that the dismantling of the Strengthening Communities grants and the introduction of the Strong and Resilient Communities grants in 2018 would have a major impact on the volunteer sector.
An announcement 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 Aus (@VolunteeringAus) February 14, 2017
Minister for Social Services Christian Porter and shadow assistant minister for social services Louise Pratt attended the event.
Volunteering Australia CEO, Adrienne Picone said the event was an opportunity for the volunteering sector to raise its concerns directly with politicians.
“We have known since the release of the 2016/17 Federal Budget that the federal government would undertake a redesign of the Strong and Resilient Communities grants to take effect from 1 January 2018, but until the last few weeks it has not been clear what form that redesign would take,” Picone said.
“We now know that the volunteer management stream of funding which has been specifically allocated to volunteer support services will be eradicated, and that volunteering will be forced to compete alongside other worthwhile projects from across the community services for broader pools of funding that respond to themes of disadvantage.
“This is just one step in the gradual devaluation of volunteer management that we have watched with concern over recent years. Another example of this is the decision a few years ago to move volunteering out of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which was an accurate reflection of our role as a community partner that touches every portfolio of government.
“We are concerned that these proposed changes to funding have the potential to rip the heart out of place-based volunteering support services.
“This year, the Strong and Resilient Communities grants are delivering over $7.4 million in funding to on-the-ground programs as part of the volunteer management stream of funding. To lose this would be an enormous blow to communities who rely on the volunteering programs that this funding delivers.”
Picone said minister Porter told the gathering that “he would do everything he can” to support volunteers.
“I came away with a sense of hope that the sector can be engaged in decisions around volunteering and we can explain the potential risks of the funding changes,” Picone said.
She said Volunteering Australia would be increasing its advocacy efforts.
“We will be stepping up our efforts… we know we can do that better.”
A spokesperson for the minister told Pro Bono News: “The government is improving the way it delivers community development funding through the new $18 million Strong and Resilient Communities (SARC) grants.
“SARC grants replace the Strengthening Communities Activity and will focus on ‘whole of community’ approaches to emerging community challenges,” the spokesperson said.
“There have been no cuts to funding with $18 million available for community organisations.
“In recognising the valuable contribution of Australia’s volunteers the government will continue to separately fund the $10 million Volunteer Grants program.”
The spokesperson said grants were expected to be open for application mid year and currently funded organisations will have the opportunity to apply for grants under two new grant programs: Community Resilience Grants and Inclusive Community Grants.
“The grants will support community projects that develop both individual and community capacity through volunteering, youth sports and cultural activities.
“This funding will also support projects that build and strengthen community leadership.”