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  • Two thirds of community sector workers reported that poverty and disadvantage increased among the people accessing their services in 2019.
  • 82% reported demand in the community either ‘increased’ (50%) or ‘increased significantly’ (a further 32%) in 2019.
  • More than 40% of organisational leaders said they need to be cautious about engaging in systemic advocacy because of their funding arrangements.
  • 60% observed increased competition for funding.

Demand for community sector services is skyrocketing, and government support for the sector is not keeping pace, according to a new survey released today.

With the impact of coronavirus due to increase demand even further, the Australian Community Services Sector Survey of 1,454 community sector workers, has demonstrated just how stretched services are.  

NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said the survey is another wake-up call for governments to step up and better support the vital work of the sector.

“The community sector urgently needs more resources to ensure it can appropriately support those most at risk,” Ms Quilty said.

“These services employ dedicated and experienced staff who are dealing with increased demand and increasing complexity.  

“They are serving people who can have pre-existing health conditions, complex needs and other factors that compound the risk of coronavirus and can lead to devastating consequences.

“It is vitally important that governments step up and help the frontline workers and organisations who help so many during times of crisis.”

The survey report was prepared late last year by the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW Sydney in collaboration with the Councils of Social Service of Australia, supported by Community Sector Banking. 

To address the demand and better prepare for the impact of coronavirus, NCOSS is calling for a range of immediate initiatives, including:

  • Boosting staff numbers and enabling the development of a contingency/back-up workforce to continue providing essential care as the virus spreads.
  • Establishing alternative models of care for clients with COVID-19.
  • Providing financial compensation for casual staff who are unable to work due to COVID-19.
  • Upskilling staff in relation to infection control and provide compensation to allow staff to participate in training.
  • Setting up a dedicated hotline to provide advice to organisations providing residential care to vulnerable populations.
  • Providing priority access to personal protection equipment, including, but not limited to face masks and hand sanitiser.

“These measures are a starting point and address the most urgent issues being raised by frontline community services workers,” Ms Quilty said.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie, said: “The community sector is crucial in supporting us all and in particular those most vulnerable to the current health and economic crisis.

“Our survey, which was carried out before the coronavirus outbreak and the bushfires, shows the sector was already struggling to keep up with demand, with rising unemployment, stagnant income support payments and sky-high housing costs.” 

The Australian Community Sector Survey can be found here:

Media contact: Nick Trainor 0407 078 138 (NCOSS)