The Australian Council of Social Service has today welcomed the release of the ALP’s ‘Plan for a Strong, Vibrant and Sustainable Community Sector’ which rightly recognises the community and not-for-profit sector’s critical role in designing good policy and delivering essential services to communities.
“This policy contains a series of welcome measures which would help the community sector get on with the job of supporting and advocating on behalf of Australia’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
“Importantly, it reaffirms the ALP’s commitment to respect community organisations’ vital role in speaking up about issues affecting the people and communities they serve, even where that involves criticism of government policy. This is vital to a healthy democracy and robust civil society.
“The ALP’s commitment to a new approach to funding, starting with a review of current funding arrangements and moving towards longer term contracts and more appropriate indexation arrangements, is also very positive.
“The missing part of the plan is a commitment to ensure adequate funding for frontline community services, following cuts of over $1 billion in the 2014-15 Budget, including $500 million from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, and further cuts in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 budgets, including youth and community health programs.
“As the ALP’s own policy notes, these cuts have resulted in service closures around the country and left significant gaps, with impacts for people on low incomes and in crisis.
“These cuts have affected homelessness and legal services, support for victims of domestic violence, community health, including mental health, financial counselling programs and vital services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and more.
“Frontline community organisations can’t absorb these funding cuts. Funding for advocacy and community development must also be a priority. How can civil society do its bit to improve the lives of people left behind without the capacity to participate in the right debates and processes, including with government?
“We need to assess exactly where community service gaps are, and ensure funding is allocated to fill them. We welcome the commitment to implement the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry into the DSS Community Grants, including an independent evaluation by the Auditor-General. A commitment to make room in the Budget for additional funding to fill service gaps is essential.
“ACOSS is urging all sides of politics to commit to adequate resourcing of community organisations to ensure they can keep helping communities well into the future.”
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