ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: ACT Election 2020: supporting the community services sector

12 August 2020

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today released the first of its twelve issues briefs for the 2020 ACT Election to be rolled out over the next few weeks.

The issues brief – Supporting the Community Services Sector – calls for the incoming ACT Government to conduct a full needs analysis to understand increasing demand for community services resulting from Canberra’s demographic changes.

The issues brief also calls for proper funding to ensure community services workers – of whom 80% are women – are adequately paid and that services are fully resourced to meet the growing needs of the Canberra community.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell, said: “The ACT’s community service organisations provide support to people when they need it most – when they’re facing homelessness, escaping domestic violence or dealing with mental health struggles.

“Basic funding for community services has remained static despite rising demand and rising costs. The sector also desperately needs capital investments in fit-for-purpose facilities with accessible infrastructure and critical ICT to ensure staff and consumers are safe and supported.

“ACTCOSS’s Supporting the Community Services Sector issues brief also calls for a renewed commitment to the ACT Social Compact to ensure new initiatives are properly funded and that consultation with the community is improved through earlier engagement, more co-design and reasonable timeframes.

“Given the ACT has the fastest growing population who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, we need more investment in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander self-determination, policy and initiatives. This includes investment in community-controlled health, housing and education activities, and support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultures.

“We also need a revitalised commissioning and contract management process. A plethora of research shows that thin markets and highly complex consumers mean that transactional and market-led approaches to procuring community services may not yield good outcomes,” Dr Campbell said.

ACTCOSS’s 2020 ACT Election issues brief: Supporting the Community Services Sector is available here.

Other quotes from the ACT community sector in support of the ACTCOSS position:

“We are grateful for the funding we receive but the reality is without the ERO support funding we could not afford pay increases for staff as indexation is swallowed by increases in the costs of compliance. On top of this, the Supreme Court ruling denying some peaks portable long service leave will make attraction, recruitment and retention really tough for advice and advocacy services in the ACT...” – Travis Gilbert, CEO, ACT Shelter

“Government is a vehicle of the people and is made stronger with the involvement of people at all levels. Strong engagement and consultation of people in policy, decision making, resource allocation and service planning is vital to ensuring that we are responsive to needs and responsible in the use of funds. Good governance is built on strong participation and engagement of a diverse group of people. Carers, consumers, service users, citizens should be involved, consulted and at the centre of all decision making.” – Lisa Kelly, CEO, Carers ACT

Increased infrastructure funding and the continuation of the ERO are fundamental financial supports community sectors require. The pandemic has highlighted the vital role the community sector plays in Canberra. However, this is often carried out in ageing buildings, tight budgets and with inadequate corporate infrastructure. The ERO is a key way to attract and retain staff in an environment where we are constantly up against losing workers to the government sector.” – Jenny Kitchin, CEO, Woden Community Service

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.