ACTCOSS has released today the 2016 ACT State of the Community Service Sector report prepared by the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) at UNSW. With valuable support from project partners, Volunteering and Contact ACT, we were able to identify 401 community service organisations operating in the ACT. Surveys were sent out in August 2016, and we are deeply grateful to the 166 organisations who participated in the survey – a great response rate of 41.4%.
Following the release of the ACT Community Services Industry Strategy 2016-2026 in July, ACTCOSS immediately got to work to address the need for an in-depth industry profile, including detailed information on the state of the industry. We engaged the experienced team at SPRC who conducted the survey in August-September and have since been hard at work analysing the rich data provided by the sector and writing up this landmark report.
The State of the Sector report pulls together for the first time a comprehensive picture of those vital organisations in the ACT that provide community services, speak out on social issues, and represent the interests of their members in decision-making processes. It provides information to guide decisions about investments needed to deliver on the Industry Strategy vision of an inclusive, equitable and sustainable community services industry through quality services; community development; client- and community-centred action; and a trusted voice on community need.
The State of the Sector report provides a detailed picture of our sector, its strengths and challenges. It validates things we have known to be true about our sector and it debunks some myths. The report highlights our strengths and the unique value we deliver through the diversity of our workforce, our collaboration, and our commitment to community development and advocacy alongside service delivery.
The report indicates the benefit of a partnership approach between the ACT Government and the community sector under the Social Compact and Community Sector Funding Policy. It also shows that there is still room for improvement in terms of recognising the sector as partners in the policy process. The report raises real concerns about the adequacy of government funding for the sector to cover the true costs of service delivery. It indicates that while community service organisations do have diverse income streams from market and philanthropic sources, the quantum of income is not sufficient to shift the need for adequate government funding to meet demand, undertake community development, be a trusted voice on community need, and build evidence to shape policies.
ACTCOSS believes this report adds significantly to the evidence base that can guide the implementation of the ACT Community Services Industry Strategy 2016-2026. We look forward to hearing the reflections, insights and suggestions it generates amongst our members, the broader sector, government, philanthropic funders, and the wider community.
Read the report.