Welfare Peaks to Fight ‘Devastating’ Funding Cuts

Peak welfare Not for Profits ACOSS and State and Territory Councils of Social Service have issued a collective New Years Resolution for the Federal Government to stop devastating funding cuts to community organisations across Australia.

‘We are determined to convince the Federal Government to reverse its decision to cut funding from community organisations around the country as well as the key national community peak bodies in the housing, homelessness, disability areas, two days before Christmas,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

“It is clear that the consequences of these cuts have not been considered by the new Minister responsible, and all our early signs from community people around the country tells us the impacts on vulnerable communities will be devastating.

“Defunding national community advocacy organisations decimates the voices of civil society, with highly skilled experts from the community no longer around the tables with Government and business in 2015 to work on solutions to some of the country’s national challenges.

“What happened to this Government’s commitment not to gag the community? You don’t get a bigger gag clause than completely defunding community advocacy.”

Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Services, said: “At a time when we know that up to 80 per cent of services are turning people away it does not make sense to cut services or peak bodies.”

“Demand for services is increasing as unemployment rises and housing costs remain high.  Peak bodies are in a unique position to identify critical community needs and service improvements as well as provide well informed policy advice to government.

“The Australian Council of Social Service has repeatedly raised the concerns of its members about the flawed DSS tender process, and warned this fraught process would create bad outcomes.

“The COSS network has advocated strongly for transparency and improvements to the procurement process as a matter of standard practice: including offering contracts of reasonable length and reasonable notifications on tender outcomes.”

Mark Henley, CEO of QCOSS said: “The Government has not communicated a formal plan or comprehensive social policy agenda informing its decisions about which services continue and those that will shut their doors. Instead, the approach seems random and chaotic.

“This approach makes it impossible to know what the service setting for people needing urgent support in 2015 will look like. Losing peak bodies that can monitor service capacity and gaps makes it even harder to maintain a clear sense of service availability and changing community need.”

Irina Cattalini, CEO, WACOSS said: “Early analysis suggests that the Commonwealth is unilaterally shifting costs to the States and Territories for vital services that they no longer want to support.

“This would be a pre-emptive move at odds with the consultative approach adopted in its ‘Reform of the Federation’ White Paper. If the Commonwealth withdraws from funding services in this way it will throw significant pressure on to the State and Territory Governments; already stretched by the twin pressures of the cuts announced in this year’s Federal Budget.”

Tracy Howe, CEO of NCOSS said: “The community sector has long raised the issue of short-term notifications which are known to be detrimental and has been advocating for six months notice on contract outcomes with six more months for transition to close down services.

“While some organisations have received notice that their funding will not be renewed beyond June others are being notified that their funding will cease in February.”

“For staff the reality of coming back to work after the Christmas holiday period only to discover that services to your vulnerable clients will no longer be there past February 2015 is completely devastating. As the New Year dawns, the effects in communities who will lose services and lose representation through peak bodies is even more distressing,” the leaders of the Councils of Social Service said.

The Australian Greens will move for a Senate Inquiry into the Department of Social Services  grants process when Parliament resumes in February 2015.

Article posted in ProBono News Australia Jan 6, 2014: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au