Essential services underfunded by government ACT

THE ACT government is underfunding essential services in Canberra, report says.

the Count the costs report, prepared by the Center for Social Policy Research at UNSW, found that three out of five community sector organizations do not apply for government ACT funds to deliver services because available funding was insufficient to cover costs .

The report released today (11 February) also found that nearly half of organizations were running government-funded ACT programs at a loss.

ACT Social Services Council (ACTCOSS) CEO Dr Emma Campbell said the report, commissioned by ACTCOSS, highlights the financial pressures faced by ACT’s community sector.

“It is not viable for the community sector to run essential services such as mental health support, community legal support or domestic violence services without sufficient funding to cover the costs,” said the Dr Campbell.

“Community sector workers are doing an incredible job providing essential services, but we are seeing increased rates of burnout among staff and leaders as they make difficult decisions due to resource constraints, including in refusing people.”

The report also highlighted the historical undervaluation of the sector and the expectation of funders that the community sector would be able to maintain low overhead despite rising costs.

He also detailed issues such as Canberra’s high cost of living, rising financial strains and large unmet housing needs which have led to increased demand for services.

Rachel-Stephen-Smith, ACT minister for family and community services, said the ACT government would carefully consider the report’s findings and recommendations.

“The ACT 2021-2022 budget included $4 million over four years to support increased funding for the community sector,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“However, we understand that there is still work to be done, which is why the government commissioned this report jointly with ACTCOSS.

“Community service organizations are an essential part of a thriving Canberra, and we appreciate the efforts beyond those working in the sector.”

The report made a number of recommendations, including revising all ACT funding agreements to fully cover the costs of delivering services, and revising the calculation of escalation to ensure that levels of financing follow the increase in costs.

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Michelle J. Kelley