Open letter says the voice of charities must be included in national COVID-19 response
19 August 2020 at 5:40 pm
“Given the critical role of charities in supporting and rebuilding both our communities and our economy, it is disappointing that the [sector] has been left outside of important national policy discussions about rebuilding our economy,” the letter says.
Charity leaders have written to the prime minister expressing concerns about a lack of representation on the National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board, with fears the sector will again be relegated outside of the main national policy agenda.
The Charities Crisis Cabinet’s (CCC) open letter – which will be sent to the PM on Thursday – said the sector’s important role in Australian society must be considered and incorporated into the government’s national policy development and agenda setting.
The letter noted that charities employ around 1.3 million staff (10 per cent of Australian workers) and contribute more than 8 per cent of the nation’s GDP.
“Given the critical role of charities in supporting and rebuilding both our communities and our economy, it is disappointing that the charities and not-for-profit sector has been left outside of important national policy discussions about rebuilding our economy, especially within the new National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board,” the letter said.
“While it is good that some of the members of this commission serve on charity boards, the failure to involve experienced and knowledgeable people from the sector itself reinforces a view that charities are not important to our economy or to future growth and prosperity.”
The COVID-19 Coordination Commission was re-established as the National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board in July.
It has a strategic advisory role and aims to offer a “business perspective to government on Australia’s economic recovery”.
CCC member David Crosbie, who is also CEO of the Community Council for Australia, said the government must ensure the perspective of charities is heard.
He told Pro Bono News one of the good things to come out of COVID-19 was that many governments around Australia have been prepared to listen and respond to the needs of the charity sector.
“We saw this in the way the federal government extended JobKeeper to charities… and in the way many government departments have been more flexible in allowing charities to do what is needed within communities rather than demanding charities comply with pre-existing contractual requirements,” Crosbie said.
“We are hoping that as governments increasingly seek to rebuild the economy and create jobs, they not only listen to business interests, but also engage with charities.”
The establishment of the National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board has not affected the not-for-profit working group that was set up by the commission to consider government and sector responses to issues affecting vulnerable Australians during COVID-19.
A spokesperson for the advisory board told Pro Bono News last week that the working group would be reporting to government shortly.
But Crosbie fears the voice of the sector will not be heard clearly without better representation on the advisory board.
“Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 commission now not having any meaningful representation from the charities and not-for-profit sector, the Charities Crisis Cabinet is concerned that charities may again be relegated outside of the main national agenda and policy setting processes at the federal level,” he said.
“The Charities Crisis Cabinet believe there is huge potential for charities to be part of the solution for governments seeking to rebuild the economy, but if governments revert to a business as usual approach, this potential may not be realised.”