Community sector needs secure government funding, longer contracts, research finds

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday June 23, 2021

Inadequate funding and insecure contracts are hindering community organisations that provide crucial government-funded services.
Inadequate funding and insecure contracts are hindering community organisations that provide crucial government-funded services. (Adobe/wavebreak3)

Community sector leaders have urged federal, state and territory governments to address funding and contracting issues that are preventing organisations from effectively serving people who are experiencing hardship.

New research, conducted by the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW Sydney and published by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) on Wednesday, has explored the experiences of community sector service providers and peak organisations.

Inadequate funding and insecure contracts are hindering community organisations that provide crucial government-funded services, the research has found. This has led to reduced employment security for staff and uncertainty of service provision, ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie noted.

“The most important change governments can make that will provide job security for frontline workers and certainty for people needing services is longer contracts and funding agreements that cover the full cost of providing the service,” she said in a statement.

“Service providers reported their intense frustration that one or two year service contracts, and delays in contract renewals meant they had to reduce staffing and stop much needed services.”

Funding uncertainty has hindered long-term planning, and an ‘over reliance on short-term contracts and funding small projects and programs has left organisations without adequate resources for essential functions’, the report found

“In addition, peak bodies noted that lack of funds for advocacy means that significant community concerns and issues which cross multiple governments or departments cannot easily be identified or addressed,” it said.

Small organisations in particular were found to struggle to maintain their funding in the current environment.

“The sector recognises and values the contribution of small organisations in supporting particular populations and local communities, and are concerned about the challenges these organisations face applying for funds, succeeding in competitive processes, and engaging in complex contractual and reporting environments,” the report said.

The report has made recommendations to improve the capacity of community organisations to do their work. These include increasing standard contract lengths for community sector grants to at least five years, improvements to transitional funding arrangements, funding the full cost of service delivery, and placing people and communities ‘at the centre of planning, design, procurement, management and governance of all services purchased using a commissioning approach’.

The report has also called for the removal of restrictions on using government funds for advocacy or law reform in funding contracts, Goldie noted.

“We are strongly opposed to the current attempts to put in place additional regulations that could lead to further threats to the advocacy capacity of community organisations,” she said.

At a time when communities are continuing to experience the impacts of bushfires, as well as floods and the pandemic, more flexibility for services in communities impacted by natural disasters is needed, Goldie said.

“They need to be able to redirect funding to meet agreed alternative services,” she said.


READ MORE:

 

About the author
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
The Mandarin Premium

Insights & analysis that matter to you

Subscribe for only $5 a week

Get Premium Today