Create a Community Sector Continuity of Service Enabling Fund
In 2020, ACOSS welcomed the announcement of additional funding during the COVID health and economic crises to meet demand in domestic violence, mental health, and emergency and food relief. However, with the health and economic impact of COVID-19 continuing throughout 2021 and extending into 2022, demand for some services remains heightened. Many community sector organisations continue to face difficulties due to service disruption, rising demand for services, falling revenue, higher costs, and a decrease in volunteers.
ACOSS is calling on the government to create a Community Sector Continuity of Service Enabling Fund to ensure continuity of service delivery, adaptation and secure jobs, to prevent loss of jobs or income, and to guarantee paid special leave for all workers.
Apply fair and uniform indexation to all grants and contracts for community sector organisations
The Commonwealth does not have a consistent or adequate approach to indexation of funding to community services. As a result, many organisations in the sector have seen real cuts to the value of their funding. Despite the emergency spending by the Federal Government to stave off the worst effects of COVID-19, it remains committed to tight curbs on services funding that were imposed before the pandemic hit. Unfunded shortfalls seriously impact the sector’s capacity to offer services to local communities, especially at a time of rising community demand and increased complexity of service user need. In real terms, the indexation arrangements amount to a gradual reduction of Commonwealth funding against projected cost increases, which mainly comprise wages.
ACOSS is calling on the government to establish the Wage Price Index (when greater than the Consumer Price Index for the same period) as the primary index for annual funding adjustments.
Conduct an assessment of community need for essential services so no one misses out on help anymore
The pandemic has had a significant impact on people experiencing poverty and disadvantage. Not only have community service providers observed rising levels of poverty as well as increased demand for essential services, but the complexity of need for people seeking assistance has also increased. This has been most noticeable in housing and homelessness, child, family and youth and mental health services.
Part of our national recovery must be developing a much better understanding of how the need for community services has changed over the past two years and how to best address it. Having this knowledge means government could invest in services to ensure individuals and communities who need help the most receive it without long delays.
Protect people at greatest risk from ongoing health impacts COVID-19
With over 6,300 deaths, increasing case numbers, and the recent emergence of the BA.2 Omicron variant, it is clear that Australia is not finished dealing with the pandemic. People experiencing poverty, disadvantage, and hardship have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s various impacts, including health risks. People living in our most disadvantaged areas are dying due to COVID-19 at a rate three times higher than those living in our most advantaged areas.
As we come into the winter season, it is crucial that we continue protecting those at greatest health risk from COVID-19. This means ensuring that all people at heightened risk can readily access vaccination doses, personal protective equipment, rapid antigen tests, and antiviral medications. It also means ensuring we have a ‘vaccine plus’ strategy for all important service centres including hospitals, schools, and other trusted community places.