Friday, April 1, 2011

A perfect storm that threatens the future of the not-for-profit sector

Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert spoke some truths at the National ACOSS Conference this week, warning that the NFP sector faces a "perfect storm" of coinciding forces that threaten its future.

Whilst these threats have been acknowledged and recognised before by many in the the sector, they are becoming more urgent, and as Rachel points out, there is no evidence that any of the reform proposed by the Rudd or Gillard will address them. The threats identified by Senator Siewert were:
  • The Social and Community Sector Workers pay equity case before Fair Work Australia, which has received no indication that Government will deliver a matching funding boost to services. She says everyone agrees a rise in wages is needed, but the sector is unable to support it without an increase in resources.
  • The introduction of the Increased Super Guarantee provision – again with no promise there will be matching funds
  • The increased cost of delivering services amidst increases in power, water, rent and insurance costs
  • The struggle to find workers, a situation Senator Siewert says will only grow worse as the population ages, demands on services increase and the value of community sector wages continues to erode. She says in areas of Western Australia and Queensland, the Not for Profit sector – and in particular the aged care industry – is losing staff to the mining industry. She asks how can the sector hope to hold onto underpaid staff when they can get a job earning $80,000 as a cleaner in a mining town?
As Rachel points out Federal (and State Governments) have promised plenty, but delivered little. Indeed rather than deliver 'reform' Governments continue to impose inappropriate and contradictory funding and reporting requirements and fail to address the historically high levels of underfunding. Reform is done to the sector, rather than to inappropriate government policy, practices and processes.

She concluded with this:
“The Rudd and Gillard governments have continued to promise much needed reforms for not-for-profits and community services, but so far their much-vaunted compact with the sector has failed to deliver anything by way of practical reforms to address the crisis facing the sector".
 Very true.

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