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ACOSS@work special edition: funding
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ACOSS@work Special Edition: Funding

March 2014

Dear member,

This special edition of ACOSS@work provides a briefing on sector funding uncertainty and an update on key opportunities for your input to ACOSS as part of our strategy for the Federal Budget.  As many of you will be aware directly, there is considerable government funding due to expire on 30 June this year. While only three and a half months away, processes to renegotiate these programs of funding are either on hold or non-existent, as the Government considers the report of the Commission of Audit and its decisions for its first Federal Budget in May.
 
ACOSS has been continuing to advocate strongly on two of our core principles with respect to this funding uncertainty: that the people experiencing poverty and inequality be protected from the impact of Government cuts; and that community services be actively involved in timely negotiations about funding with government. Our advocacy has been directed at the Commission of Audit, the Senate Inquiry into the Commission of Audit, and in working with Government directly and through the media to articulate the implications of funding uncertainty and any cuts to those most vulnerable in our community, and the organisations that support them.
 
This brief provides you with the information we have about funding uncertainty. It is also an opportunity for our members and networks to provide input to our ongoing advocacy in this critical area, by alerting us to additional areas of funding uncertainty not covered here. 
 
We invite you to the following opportunities for ACOSS members to share information and discuss strategy towards the Federal Budget.

ACOSS Budget Strategy teleconference, Friday 21 March, 2-3pm AEDT

ACOSS Budget Strategy - Health Policy teleconference, Friday 28 March, 2-3pm  AEDT
This teleconference is open to all ACOSS members, but will focus specifically on the implications for accessible, affordable, equitable health, and identifying strategies to respond.
 
Member training: Budget analysis, Thursday 9 April, 2-3pm AEDT
ACOSS will also be conducting our annual member training on Budget  analysis from our Sydney office for any organisations who wish to attend.
 
Full details for participation in the teleconferences and training are included at the end of this bulletin. Please make sure to RSVP your attendance to ea@acoss.org.au
 
As always, your input to this campaign is critical. If you have anything to add to the information below, please let us know by contacting Tessa Boyd-Caine or Jacqui Phillips.

Regards,
The ACOSS team
 

Overview
The Terms of Reference of the Commission of Audit state that it “has a broad remit to examine the scope for efficiency and productivity improvements across all areas of Commonwealth expenditure.” ACOSS has called for people experiencing poverty and inequality be protected from the impact of any consequent cuts. However the implications of funding uncertainty extend throughout the sector - they affect the provision of services to clients; they are crucial for paid staff; and they affect the overall viability of community organisations.

ACOSS Funding Survey 2014
As part of our Budget strategy, ACOSS recently asked members to participate in our 2014 funding survey in order to gain a better idea of the current state of funding.  Of those organisations that responded:
  • 64% stated that they were expected to deliver continued activities under a contract or funding agreement that was yet to be finalised;
  • 46% stated that they expected to receive funding but that the process was on hold; while
  • 33% stated that they had not yet begun funding negotiations.
  • At least 68% of respondents identified up 10 staff positions being affected by funding uncertainty; while
  • 7% identified over 100 staff positions as being affected.
  • The majority of respondents (59%) were in a rental or tenancy agreement, or other business contract, which would extend beyond the life of their funding agreement - showing how these funding decisions have ramifications that extend beyond staffing and provision of services.

Uncertain funding agreements ending in 2014
NPAH
The NPAH has funded a range of homelessness and family violence programs since it started in early 2009. It was extended for an extra year after its initial term, and is now due to expire in June 2014. There is no agreement now about current funding, nor any process by which organisations can identify needs and work with government funding bodies about how to meet these needs. The implications for Family Violence Services who currently receive funding under the NPAH shows that the impacts on clients of any withdrawal of funding could include loss of support for women and children to stay living in their homes safely; loss of material aid for those forced to leave their homes due to family violence; closure of residential support; and reduced out-of-hours support. The impacts on the future viability of the services themselves - many of whom are stretched to capacity even with the NPAH funding - could be irreparable.

Youth Connections
The Youth Connections program, which provides career counselling and case management for approximately 30,000 young people aged between 15 and 19, is currently funded under a 4-year funding agreement that is due to expire in December 2014. An evaluation of the agreement shows that it reaches only a quarter of the target group of at-risk early school leavers. Mission Australia has found that, if these young people currently supported by Youth Connections were to receive income support instead, it could cost the Government over $390 million a year.

Financial Counselling
Current contracts for financial counselling services are due to expire in June 2014. These are vital services, currently helping 80,000 - 100, 000 people each year. A cessation of government funding would affect the 950 financial counsellors currently providing a cost effective, community-based service. During the 2013-14 financial year, financial counselling services received approximately $20 million in Commonwealth Government funding, while Income Management - the other scheme put in place to improve financial literacy - has cost $1 billion since its commencement in the 2005-06 financial year. There is limited evidence that compulsory Income Management is achieving its aims, while financial counselling services represent a cost-effective, non-discriminatory alternative.

Emergency Relief Services
Commonwealth funding for Emergency Relief services is maintained through the Financial Management Program, which also funds Financial Counselling, microfinance and financial literacy programs. Emergency Relief funding is valued at $84 million a year. There is no certainty that this funding will be maintained beyond June 2014. It is estimated that 1 million people require Emergency Relief Services each year.

Funding cuts already announced
Legal assistance services
The Attorney-General's department has confirmed already that $13.4 million will be cut from legal assistance programs including Aboriginal Legal Services, Community Legal Centres, Family Violence and Prevention services, and Legal Aid. Whilst these cuts have been described as cuts to capacity to engage in policy reform rather than cuts to services, the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department has confirmed before Senate Estimates that it is impossible to make sure cuts don't affect services. ACOSS members whose funding has been affected have confirmed that the cuts will reduce capacity to provide community legal education, support in civil and family law matters, and work with courts to support clients.
See ACOSS media release: ACOSS concerned by proposed cuts to Aboriginal legal services and foreign aid

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative body
The Government has announced its intention to discontinue funding for the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples beyond June 2014. National Congress has a critical role to play in the leadership of public policy and development, and there is no guarantee that it will be able to continue this after June.

ACOSS taking action
ACOSS has been involved with a number of actions identifying the dire implications of funding cuts to services that support the most vulnerable people in our communities; calling for clarity on future funding for various programs; and expressing our deep concern at decisions to cease or reduce funding.

ACOSS coordinated advocacy with representatives from Domestic Violence Victoria, the Council to Homeless Persons, WRISC Family Violence Support, Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service and McAuley Community Services for Women on Thursday 6th March to engage the media in the potential negative consequences if funding is not maintained under the NPAH. Several media stories resulted, including: Youth connections: see our media release ACOSS calls for action on jobs and employment support to stem growing unemployment

A general media release was issued on Tuesday March 4: ACOSS calls on Commonwealth to end funding uncertainty over services. This resulted in the following media stories:
Further resources
ACOSS submission to the Commission of Audit Inquiry
ACOSS supplementary submission to the Commission of Audit Inquiry
ACOSS Budget Priorities Statement


Member teleconference details

ACOSS Budget Strategy teleconference
Friday 21 March
2-3pm (NSW, ACT, VIC, TAS) 1.30-2.30pm (SA) 1-2pm (QLD) 12.30-1.30pm (NT) 11am-12pm (WA)
Dial-in number: ph:1800 200 232 | Guest Pin # 232 062
RSVP to ea@acoss.org.au
 
ACOSS Budget Strategy - health policy teleconference
Implications of the federal budget for accessible, affordable, equitable health and identifying strategies to respond.
Friday 28 March
2-3pm (NSW, ACT, VIC, TAS) 1.30-2.30pm (SA) 1-2pm (QLD) 12.30-1.30pm (NT) 11am-12pm (WA)
Dial-in number: ph:1800 200 232 | Guest Pin # 232 062
RSVP to ea@acoss.org.au
 
Budget analysis: annual member training
Thursday 9 April
2-3pm Sydney time
ACOSS Office, Level 2, 619 Elizabeth St. Redfern, NSW, 2016
Please note: this training session will be available remotely if you cannot attend in person. Please let us know if you wish to attend remotely.
RSVP to ea@acoss.org.au
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