Community sector struggling to meet demand
20 January 2020 at 5:23 pm
Australia’s peak welfare body is calling for a $2 billion injection for community services
Just 5 per cent of community sector staff believe they can completely meet service demand, a survey finds.
The Australian Council for Social Services (ACOSS) surveyed 1,400 staff across the homelessness, financial counselling and mental health services.
Over 80 per cent of community sector workers reported that in the last year, levels of demand in the community either increased (50 per cent) or increased significantly (32 per cent).
Sixty per cent of people surveyed also said there was a rise in the number of clients they were unable to support over the past year.
Staff in the housing and homelessness, financial counselling and legal services were most likely to report demand pressures, and rural and regional areas were found to have high levels of unmet need.
One practitioner from the Northern Territory said in the report, released at the end of 2019, that they were often the “last line of support” for many of their remote clients.
“If we can’t provide our services no support is given,” they said.
Extra strain over Christmas
While the holiday period is traditionally known as a time for relaxation and socialising, ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said it put more strain on an already stretched sector.
“For people who are on low incomes, facing a relationship breakdown or family crisis, struggling with their mental health, leaving a violent situation, or facing discrimination or homelessness, the festive season can be a particularly worrying and isolating time,” Goldie said.
“Many people experiencing disadvantage will turn to charities for help to get by. But the results of our survey show community services already do not have enough resources to keep up with demand.”
She also noted that community groups had been surveyed before the full force of the bushfires and heat waves hit communities all over Australia, putting services under even more pressure.
“Community services will be under intense pressure, facing devastation themselves, and often at the front line, helping people through terrible crisis and loss, as well as the long road to recovery,” she said.
“Without being able to access the support of community services, people can be left to homelessness, poverty, debt, family violence or escalating legal problems.”
Plan of action needed
She said the $50 million federal government package for charities announced on Wednesday was incredibly welcome, but more support for the sector was needed.
“In the lead up to the federal budget, we’re calling for a $2 billion replenishment to the community service sector, following years of funding cuts,” Goldie told Pro Bono News.
“This money would help create great jobs all over the country including in regional areas, with local people being paid to provide the help and support their communities so desperately need.”
See the full survey results here.