Call to PM to Reinstate Volunteer Funding
Wednesday, 5th July 2017 at 5:00 pm
Volunteer Support Services are calling on the federal government to “immediately reinstate” $5.7 million back to the Volunteer Management Program or risk having a “highly negative impact on the volunteering sector”.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the chair of Southern Volunteering SA, John Smith, said the program had provided core funding to around 50 Volunteer Support Services (VSSs) across Australia since 1992.
He said cutting the funding showed the federal government gave “a very low priority to supporting volunteering in Australia”.
“The decision to stop specific funding for VSSs has been made without evaluating the value and effectiveness of VSSs,” Smith said.
“VSSs support volunteers, charities and not-for-profit organisations across all sectors of society, (not just for disadvantaged people), including animal welfare, community services, health, education, sport and recreation, performing and visual arts, law, international programs, environment, heritage and emergency services.
“Collectively VSSs across Australia provide services for tens of thousands of people annually, assisting them to access volunteer opportunities with not-for-profit agencies. Many people would not access volunteering opportunities without this assistance.”
His comments build on a campaign led by Volunteering Australia and supported by the state peak bodies to get the defunding decision reversed.
It comes after the Department of Social Services announced in February that from January 2018 the Strengthening Communities grants would be dismantled and the money transferred to the Strong and Resilient Communities (SARC).
The Strengthening Communities Grants Program is currently the primary source of funding for VSSs, which provide information, assessment and referral services for people interested in volunteering as well as volunteer management consultancy support and training.
The concern is that the changes outlined by DSS could have a major impact on the volunteer sector, with volunteer support services no longer eligible for their own pool of grants funding.
“If the Volunteer Management Program is not reinstated, VSSs will have to tender to the SARC program and will have to change their entire focus and service model to meet the funding guidelines,” Smith said.
“Unsuccessful tenders will result in many of the current VSSs closing, and this will have a very damaging and highly negative impact on the volunteering sector.”
Smith said if the decision was not reversed it would be the second time in three years that VSSs had had to tender for their own funding.
He asked the government to acknowledge the value of the volunteering sector.
“Volunteering has a huge benefit on the Australian community – 5.8 million volunteers in Australia contribute 743 million hours annually valued at $17 billion in terms of labour input and $290 billion annually in economic and social outcomes from services provided by volunteers,” Smith said.
“While volunteering is defined as ‘time willingly given, for the common good and without financial gain’, it does not happen for free, and requires the investment of resources in VSSs in order to maintain a professional, responsive and efficient volunteer workforce.
“VSSs have spent many years developing agency infrastructure, policies, procedures, systems, expertise, networks, connections, training programs, skilled staff and specific service responses in local communities with proven results – these are not created overnight.”