Greens amplify calls for funding boost for community sector under strain

2021-09-15

Tomorrow the ACT Legislative Assembly will debate a motion put forward by Johnathan Davis MLA that calls on the government to increase support for Canberra’s invaluable community sector during this extended lockdown. 

The motion comes after an open letter to the Chief Minister from peak bodies in the community sector including ACTCOSSACT ShelterATODACanberra Multicultural Community ForumCommunity  Housing Industry Association ACT and Mental Health Community Coalition ACT.

The letter explained that while demand for community services has dramatically increased, the sector is under strain. 

The motion calls on the ACT government to: 

  1. Continue to work closely with the ACT community sector in the government’s response to COVID-19. 
  2. Examine options to provide financial support and security to community sector organisations during this period, including: 
    1. Providing security of funding for ACT community sector organisations impacted by the delayed budget.
    2. Providing as much flexibility as possible for all ACT community sector organisations contracted to provide non-COVID related services.
    3. Providing rent relief for all ACT community sector organisations renting from the ACT Property Group. 
    4. Increasing the indexation of contracts to meet the Consumer Price Index. 
    5. Considering the impact of the recent increase to the superannuation guarantee percentage and the Fair Work equal remuneration decision when determining budget allocations to ACT community sector organisations. 
    6. Providing a temporary rebate on payroll tax. 
  3. Explore options to provide additional financial supports to Canberrans on low incomes.
  4. Report back to the Assembly on the above by the 10th of November 2021.

“We all have a right to feel safe, to have a roof over our heads, a peaceful home environment and the physical and mental care that we need,” Mr Davis said.

“It is the ACT community sector that provides these vital services to Canberrans. Without them, the ACT government would not be able to respond as effectively as it has to the significant and complex public health challenges during this current outbreak of COVID-19.

“However, since the lockdown began, many of these organisations have faced both a drop in income and an increased need for their services. Community workers have rolled up their sleeves and worked incredibly hard to provide support to local people facing the most challenging circumstances. The ACT Government must ensure they are resourced appropriately. 

“The current outbreak in the ACT is having a disproportionate effect on people who are already vulnerable. The continued failure of the Federal Government to provide adequate income support payments to unemployed and under-employed Canberrans continues to place substantial additional pressures on the community sector to support people on low incomes.

“This motion is the first step to securing essential additional resources for a sector that tirelessly supports us in our times of need,” Mr Davis said.

“The ACT Greens bring strong relationships with the community sector to this government. It is the deep connection and respect that the ACT Greens have for the community sector that has enabled and strengthened these effective partnerships”

Quotes attributable to ACTCOSS CEO Emma Campbell:

“It means a lot to receive public acknowledgement of the work done by community sector organisations and community sector workers. ACTCOSS thanks Johnathan Davis MLA for introducing this important motion in the ACT Assembly.

“COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable Canberrans. The ACT’s community sector is on the front line, ready to support those most affected. Throughout these difficult months, the community sector has never stopped providing healthcare including vaccinations and testing, legal advice, emergency relief, housing and homelessness services, mental health care, early education, and aged and disability support. 

“The ACT’s community service organisations provide support to people when they need it most. Whatever the challenge faced, community sector staff work tirelessly to support the ACT community and deliver essential services to those who need support.

“Yet, community sector work is too often undervalued and underfunded and our female-dominated workforce is chronically underpaid.

“Basic funding for community services has remained static despite rising demand and rising costs. Supporting the sector makes economic sense – for every 1% of GDP invested in care work increases direct, indirect and induced employment by 1.7%. But more importantly, it makes sense for our community. Our sector is the backbone of Canberra, supporting the community, families and individuals at all stages of life.

“Additional support must include more investment in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander self-determination, policy and initiatives - in community-controlled health, housing and education activities, and support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultures.”