A report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has called on the next government to support the ‘chronically underfunded’ community sector.
Among the key findings of the ‘Carrying the Costs of the Crisis’ report, 20% of community sector organisations said their main funding source covered the full costs of service delivery.
Forty per cent of respondents said they had a contract with government of five years or more, and five-year contracts were found to be less common for organisations whose main income source was the federal government, with shorter contracts being more common.
With half of all organisations surveyed receiving 2-8 weeks’ renewal notice for government contracts, uncertainty contributes to a lack of job security and employee confidence.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said these factors contribute to ‘enormous physical and psychological burdens’ on the community sector workforce.
“Community sector workers provide complex services to people in need,” said Goldie. “The work is incredibly rewarding but also stressful and relentless, especially during the pandemic.
“Without more stable funding, organisations cannot offer the job security and career advancement that these workers deserve. Little wonder, then, that nearly one in three of the people who participated in our survey plan to leave their role in the next year and almost one in 10 are considering leaving their industry altogether.”
Goldie further flagged that the long-term effects of those with COVID necessitates greater investment in the sector, given the nature of the services those organisations are providing to people dealing with those effects.
Twenty-seven per cent of respondents had contracts that preclude engagement in system advocacy and 38% were concerned about the ramifications of doing so.
Among other things, ACOSS is calling for the creation of a Community Sector Continuity of Service Enabling Fund.
The report was undertaken by the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW Sydney for ACOSS and the State and Territory Councils of Social Service, supported by Bendigo Bank. The experiences of 1,828 community sector workers, including 513 service leaders at CEO and senior manager level and 640 frontline workers, were examined.