Community services not coping: ACOSS

ACOSSA new survey of Australia’s community services sector reveals that 80 per cent of frontline agencies are unable to meet current levels of demand with the resources they have. The biggest gaps in meeting demand are in the areas of greatest community need.

The survey of almost 1,000 community service workers from around the country shows that 43 per cent of services are simply unable to meet the needs of people coming to them for help. A further 37 per cent can ‘almost’ meet demand. Only 20 per cent reported being able to meet demand fully.

‘From the coalface of community work, our findings are deeply concerning and should ring alarm bells for federal government policies that would inflict deeper pain on the people doing it toughest in our community,’ said Australian Council Of Social Services CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

‘As a society we simply cannot accept policies that will further erode the living conditions of people on the lowest incomes, or reduce the social services that are their lifeline.

‘We are particularly perturbed about the state of our nation’s community legal and accommodation services, which have reported great difficulty meeting demand: 72 per cent and 51 per cent respectively are unable to meet demand. Yet, despite the urgent need for these services in our community, they have been subjected to federal funding cuts and ongoing funding uncertainty.

‘Services reported they would need to increase capacity substantially to meet current demand levels in these and other vital areas of need.

‘We are troubled by the plight of both young and older people not in paid work and of single parents, with community service workers reporting a noticeable deterioration in their quality of life and levels of stress in the past year.

‘Fifty per cent of on-the-ground community workers said that quality of life was “a lot worse” for young unemployed people and 56% perceived that life for sole parents was more stressful.

‘Life for both young and older unemployed people has become more stressful over the past 12 months and community workers identified employment and affordable housing as top policy priority issues that urgently need to be addressed.

‘More than anything these findings highlight the need to bring to an end the current climate of uncertainty, both in funding for crucial services and for vulnerable groups in our community.

‘The federal government needs to go back to the drawing board on some of its deeply unfair Budget measures, including significant funding cuts for social and community service programs, and proposals such as removing payments for young unemployed people for six months of each year.

‘Already 2.5 million people are living below the poverty line in Australia, including 603,000 children. Now is the time for us to work together as a community to turn this picture around.’

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