NSW community groups facing an uncertain future
24 June 2019 at 4:22 pm
Community organisations in New South Wales could be forced to choose between cutting staff or closing altogether because of measures in the state budget, sector advocates believe.
The NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) is frustrated by a funding measure “buried” in last week’s state budget that sets the indexation for some community-funded services at 1.75 per cent for the coming year.
With the national minimum wage set to rise by 3 per cent, NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty warned that community organisations would struggle to pay their staff.
“This is a sector that already runs on a shoestring. Every year they are asked to do more with less, and this decision could put them at breaking point,” Quilty said.
“Even large organisations are grappling with individualised funding packages under [the National Disability Insurance Scheme] and aged care reforms which don’t cover the full cost of service provision.
“For smaller organisations, it’s becoming next to impossible. They face the choice of cutting hours, employing less qualified staff or simply shutting up shop.”
Quilty said community organisations just wanted to pay their predominantly female workers a decent wage but explained this needed to be supported by increases in funding.
She said given the NSW government’s continual downsizing of the public sector and outsourcing of essential services, it was vital that NGO funding matched the real cost of service provision.
“[Community workers] are real heroes in our community and they deserve not only financial security, but frankly more respect from the NSW government,” she said.
“The risk of not adequately compensating NGOs while expecting them to provide the same or even higher levels of service is that good people will leave. It won’t be a viable career option.”
Following her re-election earlier this year, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her government would “focus on tackling social issues to reduce disadvantage”.
This year’s state budget included funds for a disability and ageing commissioner, $55 million for new infrastructure in disadvantaged Indigenous communities, and $8 million to help Foodbank provide breakfast for students at 500 extra schools.
“Only through a strong budget are we able to provide cost of living relief to households, invest unprecedented amounts in infrastructure and services, and support the most vulnerable in our community,” Berejiklian said.
But Quilty said the budget just made it more difficult for the community sector to help vulnerable people.
“The community sector is dealing with ever-increasing demand for services as more people in NSW fall through the cracks, but this budget does little to address that,” she said.
“It is safe to say that as a whole, the premier’s post-election promises to address disadvantage are yet to be fulfilled.”