Community Services Sector

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1 Community Services Sector Q ueensland s community services sector provides effective, inclusive human services by supporting communities in building skills, finding solutions and promoting social justice. Community based services in Queensland are delivered through a mix of government and nongovernment service providers, making a significant contribution to service delivery in Queensland. In 2009, the Department of Communities funded 1,487 community service organisations an amount of $1,129.1 million 1. The community services workforce in Queensland in 2006 totalled approximately 59,089 people 2. A strong and sustainable community services sector is crucial in order to underpin prevention and early intervention strategy, with community based providers the best delivery method for essential individual and family support services. Community based services have consistently demonstrated enormous benefits to the Queensland community including enhanced responsiveness, cost effectiveness, flexibility and innovation. Investment in the community services sector strengthens these benefits and builds the capacity of community service organisations to continually provide effective, responsive services to the most disadvantaged. This investment will fortify a solid base of preventative approaches in the long term, ultimately leading to better outcomes for Queenslanders. Key Issues Culture change Multiple Disadvantage Some Queenslanders are far more likely to suffer poverty and social exclusion. And the effects are multiplied when individuals and families belong to more than one group. QCOSS recognises the serious disadvantage faced by: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities People in rural and remote communities Culturally and linguistically diverse communities People with a disability Young people Older people Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities It is crucial for the Community Services Sector to be seen as a key part of civil society, and not simply as a service delivery agent for Government. The existing culture and climate of the government-sector relationship is strongly entrenched in historical ways such as the power-imbalance that exists between both parties. With a Queensland Compact in existence, it is crucial that the implementation mechanisms are robust enough to shift the existing culture. The Public Accounts and Public works Committee Report No. 2 3 ( Review of Auditor General Report 2 for 2007 Results of Performance Management Systems of Funding to Non-

2 Government Organisations ) reinforces the need for government to continue to improve its relationship with the NGO sector to take advantage of the sector s strengths including: the strong focus on the needs of its clientele; the specialist skills, knowledge and expertise contained in NGO organisations; flexibility and the ability to bring together funding streams from different sources such as various levels of government as well as from private sources; and the sector s ability to innovate. Government and the community services sector are about to embark on a plan of work to reduce red-tape and increase administrative efficiencies. The sector welcomes the initiatives that include: streamlined service agreements common intake and referral process; harmonised quality/licensing systems; harmonised screening requirements; and funding for output-based service provision and reporting The sector is also of the view that such initiatives will require significant shifts within government of what constitutes meaningful red-tape reduction for sector organisations. The sector is keen to embrace these changes if real benefits can be identified. Funding approaches Current funding models are out of date and do not meet the needs of contemporary service delivery practice. Currently most services are overstretched and unable to provide quality services to contemporary standards given the high risks and costs involved. The Public Accounts and Public Works Committee suggest the give/shop/invest model allows both government and NGOs the flexibility required to cope with the diverse needs of NGOs and their clients. (In order) to ensure that this model works, a major requirement is that (government) agencies need to identify and clearly articulate which of the three aspects of the model they are trying to achieve early in the funding process, as this will influence how they proceed. 4 Growing compliance costs are impacting negatively on service capacity with more time and resources being directed towards meeting accountability requirements and away from direct service delivery. This issue is one of the aims of the Compact Action Plan, with Working Groups of the Compact Governance Committee established to implement the harmonisation of quality systems, the streamlining of Criminal History Checks and the development of simplified reporting measures. Insufficient funding is resulting in significant capacity issues for community service providers. In Queensland in , 84,359 people were turned away from services without receiving assistance, or were offered only basic information and assistance, due to lack of funds, despite being eligible to receive help 5. Ongoing challenges in the Workforce The Australian Services Union s Building Social Inclusion in Australia Report found that 52% of workers in non government community services reported that they did not believe that they would still be employed in the non-government sector in five years time. Low wages were cited as the primary reason by both employees and by managers for deciding to leave the non-government community services industry. 2 P age Community Services Sector

3 This is exacerbated by the fact that, although wages are low, the skills required to perform the work are high: this sector has a large proportion of workers with post school and tertiary qualifications (ABS Census 2006 data indicates 33.8% held a bachelor degree or higher and 13.2 % had completed a diploma). The ACOSS Community Sector Survey found that 66% of Queensland organisations responding to the survey reported that they had difficulty recruiting and retaining staff (p. 43). The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission handed down its decision in relation to the pay equity application of the Queensland Services Union on May 6 th. In this decision the QIRC provided for increases between 18% and 38% to award rates under the Queensland Community Services and Crisis Assistance Award State This decision recognised that the work done in the human services sector was historically undervalued and that rates of pay needed to be increased. In the Budget announced in June 2009 the Queensland Government agreed to provide an amount of $414M over four years to supplement wages paid to staff in the nongovernment human services sector. $65M is to be made available in the current financial year. Organisations report to QCOSS that, even with the supplementation, funding is still significantly short of the amount needed to implement the QIRC decision equitably across their organisation. The obvious risks of not having sufficient funds are that staff hours and services will be reduced. It is recognised that the decision to fund this significant injection of funds was made in hard economic times and was allocated on the basis of greatest client need. Organisations that missed out on the supplementary funding generally are those who provide services to less vulnerable clients or those requiring lower levels of intervention. The concern raised to QCOSS is that these services are usually those that prevent greater crises developing in the lives of Queenslanders and that the decision not to fund them is short-sighted and likely to lead to more people coming to the attention of the services that are funded and that currently are delivering to capacity. Evidence gathered by sector organisations indicates that some organisations will have capacity to equitably pass on the increases in wages. The majority of organisations report however that the shortfalls in years two and three of implementation are of greater concern to them and their capacity to pay staff equitably. Organisations currently estimate that the shortfall in wages across the sector is in the range of 20% to 25% of the funding already announced. The current Industrial Relations environment is complex given the uncertain nature of the possible changes to both the State and Federal systems and the move to award modernisation. Added to this is the confusion and disappointment in the sector about how the state government has decided to allocate the supplementary wages funding. Building sector capacity Experience with the sector development projects in the Department of Communities and Disability Services Queensland is proving that sector development work is best undertaken by the sector itself to ensure ownership and sustainability. There needs to be an on-going commitment to building and developing the already good work the sector is doing. QCOSS believes that building the community services system is an important next step. That is, improving the quality of the organisations performance and developing local and regional Community Services Sector Page 3

4 service systems that are more responsive to changing needs, in particular the complex needs of Queenslanders experiencing poverty and disadvantage. Recognising Progress Wins for the Workforce QCOSS welcomes the landmark decision handed down by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commissions in May 2009, which followed the award application and subsequent pay equity case of the Queensland Services Union. This decision is a significant step which highlights the value of the work performed by workers in the non-government Community Services Sector. QCOSS acknowledges the efforts of the Queensland Services Union, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, the Queensland Government, Employer Associations and the Community Services Sector which resulted in the huge injection of funds into the nongovernment Community Services Sector. The Queensland Government s commitment to invest $414M over four years is acknowledged as the biggest single injection in the Community Services Sector. This is a significant boost to the sustainability and capacity of the sector to deliver services to the most disadvantaged in Queensland. As a result of this injection of funds, workers in the non government community services sector in Queensland are now the best remunerated in Australia. It is the hope of the sector across Australia to be able to replicate the levels of funding provided in Queensland. Steps forward in Government Sector Relationship QCOSS welcomes the commitment of the State Government and the Community Services Sector to the implementation of the Queensland Compact with the Community Services Sector. QCOSS acknowledges the leadership of the Compact Governance Committee to implement the 2-year Compact Action Plan. It is with ongoing commitment and dedication that both parties to the Compact will realise the four goals of the Compact: to build strong working relationships, improve engagement in planning and policy, improve the sector s capacity and sustainability; and continue to improve service quality and innovation. Indexation The agreement by the Treasurer to index funding to community services sector organisations in the , , and State Budgets is an important ongoing initiative to strengthen the viability of the sector. QCOSS Recommendations 1. Ensure resources are dedicated to fully implement the Queensland Compact, with the following key priorities: A reduction in the burden of administration, compliance and duplication faced by the sector 4 P age Community Services Sector

5 Constructive involvement of the sector in planning and policy decisions A commitment to sustainable workforce development Embedding Compact principles and commitments in organisations and government practice at all levels (to be demonstrated by culture change) 2. In addition to reporting to Parliament, to ensure resources are dedicated to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the Compact. 3. Government to adopt an investment model of government/ngo interaction as the basis of a whole of government funding framework, underpinned by principles of the Queensland Compact. 4. Government to commit to implementing the following principles in the area of funding policy: Address the sustainability of community services through endorsing full cost recovery funding covering not only costs associated with direct service delivery but also an appropriate portion of overhead and management costs. Apply the funding policy to historical funding in addition to newly funded services Move towards an outcomes-based funding approach as a far more useful way to focus on the impacts, benefits and changes to clients as a result of the organisation s efforts during and/or after service provision Remove obligation on service providers to contribute income raised from independent sources to supplement government funded services (no contributions policy). 5. Government address recruitment and retention issues in the sector, including wage inequity, by: providing additional funding to the supplementation already announced in the 2009 State budget so that the shortfalls identified by organisations can be met in the second and third year of implementation. QCOSS estimates that an additional $77M over the next three years would enable the sector to continue to operate at current capacity. lobbying the federal government to ensure that the rates of pay in the Queensland Community Services and Crisis Assistance Award State 2008 (QCSCA) are included in the applicable modern award and the Federal government develop contracts with organisations in Queensland that reflect the rates of pay in the QCSCA. developing a strategy, with community sector employers and the unions, for funding enterprise bargaining to allow annually adjusted, percentage-based wage rates (as is the case with all comparable industries). developing a scheme, with community sector employers and the unions, for the implementation of a portable long service leave scheme. We believe there is strong support for the establishment of such a scheme in Queensland and it would be one important mechanism for increasing the staff retention rates in the sector. 6. Government should assist in building the capacity of the sector over the next five years by funding a state-wide sector development strategy that is based in, and delivered by, the Sector. This will achieve a common baseline sufficient to ensure quality and appropriate delivery of community services. QCOSS believes that the sector development envisioned in the Homelessness Reform area would be an important first step and builds on the regional work undertaken by QCOSS in earlier work. Community Services Sector Page 5

6 1 Department of Communities Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Health and community services labour force. National health labour force series number 42. Cat.no.HWL 43. Canberra: AIHW. 3 Public Accounts and Public Works Committee Report No. 2 Review of Auditor-General Report 2 for Results of Performance Management Systems Audit of Management of Funding to Non-Government Organisations, Brisbane, QLD, Public Accounts and Public Works Committee September 2009 (p. 46). 4 Public Accounts and Public Works Committee Report No. 2 Review of Auditor-General Report 2 for Results of Performance Management Systems Audit of Management of Funding to Non-Government Organisations, Brisbane, QLD, Public Accounts and Public Works Committee September 2009 (p. 7). 5 Australian Council of Social Service, Australian Community Sector Survey 2008 (Queensland), Strawberry Hills, NSW, Australian Council of Social Service, Australian Services Union, Building Social Inclusion in Australia: priorities for the social and community services sector workforce, Carlton South, VIC, Australian Services Union, Australian Council of Social Service, Australian Community Sector Survey 2008 (Queensland), Strawberry Hills, NSW, Australian Council of Social Service, This paper is part of QCOSS s policy platform that contains over 20 policy papers. Go to for other papers including Mental Health, Violence Prevention, and Social Inclusion. Ground floor, 20 Pidgeon Close (off Beesley St), West End Qld 4101 PO Box 3786, South Brisbane Qld 4101 Ph: (07) Fax: (07) Toll Free Website: 6 P age Community Services Sector

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