NFPs reveal the devastating impact of coronavirus on their organisations
18 March 2020 at 2:47 pm
Voices across the social sector say urgent support for charities is needed
Charities are warning they will struggle to survive the coronavirus pandemic without a targeted stimulus package from the government.
With many organisations facing funding cuts, job losses and fundraising shortages in coming months, sector leaders say it is essential charities are supported in the next round of economic measures.
Government stimulus desperately needed
OzHarvest has joined forces with Foodbank, Youth Off The Streets, Father Bob Maguire and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to demand economic support for the sector.
Ronni Kahn AO, OzHarvest founder and CEO, said the current economic stimulus package offered no help to the charity sector – despite employing over 1.3 million Australians and contributing $150 billion to the economy.
“With the current situation unfolding globally, millions of jobs are potentially at risk and vital services are in desperate need of funding to be able to continue supporting vulnerable communities,” Kahn said.
“We can stop events. We can stop sporting matches. We can close schools. We can make changes in the way businesses operate. But we cannot stop feeding people. The knock-on effect of not being able to deliver food is huge.”
Sector leaders say COVID-19 has put emergency and relief charities at high risk of not being able to deliver services – because of operational difficulties and funding issues – at a time when demand will continue to surge.
Professor Jeff Dunn AO, CEO of Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, warned many NFPs would go under without government support.
“Beyond the sudden and tragic loss of life, the economic and social impacts will have far-reaching implications for all of us, imposing additional hardship on the significant number of families in our community who are also facing cancer, chronic disease, illness, and disadvantage,” Dunn said.
“They need us now more than ever. We stand ready to support them – but we cannot do that without a lifeline from government.”
But while the Greens have called for NFPs to be included in a future stimulus package, the Morrison government has so far remained coy on how it will support the sector.
When asked by Pro Bono News if the government was considering providing economic stimulus for NFPs, Charities Minister Zed Seselja declined to comment.
Charities wary of spreading infection
With health experts urging Australians to maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus, charities dealing with vulnerable members of the community are particularly affected.
Life Without Barriers – which provides services in areas such as foster care, disability, aged care and homelessness – has suspended all non-essential staff travel and asked employees to reduce work that is not an immediate priority to relieve pressure on its client services staff.
A spokesperson told Pro Bono News the charity’s priority was to promote the health and welfare of its clients and staff.
“We have activated our emergency response protocols, led by our chief executive and executive team. We will ensure the continuity of care for the people we support and supporting our staff,” they said.
“We have provided all staff with information on health practices and ensured that they can access the 24/7 nurse-led health phone line so they are able to quickly access accurate health advice.
“We continue to actively communicate to staff, people we support and their families and have taken actions to ensure we minimise the risk of infection.”
Life Without Barriers is also working with the sector and government partners to ensure that the people it supports are included in ongoing community responses to the pandemic.
Calls for government relief for contracted service providers
Mission Australia has expressed concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on homelessness and other community services, noting the difficulties of ensuring that people are looked after during this public health crisis.
CEO James Toomey told Pro Bono News the organisation’s ability to keep services running was more important than ever, making it vital that a stimulus package was offered to help the sector.
“This is a time of great financial uncertainty for our sector, particularly when some charities are facing increased donor fatigue and donors who are halting support following recent and current crises,” Toomey said.
“It is incredibly important that all community services organisations are adequately supported so we can continue delivering important services at a time of great need.”
Toomey said what would really help was if there was relief for contracted service providers in meeting their service obligations.
He said it will be difficult for organisations to maintain contracted service levels at a time when movements of people are being restricted and staff may be forced to self-isolate.
“We call for relevant government departments, for the foreseeable future, to relax contract requirements for all government-funded community services during this time of unprecedented uncertainty,” he said.