The Tasmanian budget is another let down for the vulnerable Tasmanian’s relying on community service organisations and for workers.
The ASU has long called for indexation of funding which allows services to remain viable and to continue to employ staff in secure employment. When the Government handed down a less-than-adequate increase last year, the ASU called on them to do better. This year, the calls from the ASU and the Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TASCOSS) have again been ignored. TASCOSS sought a solid indexation model calling for a 9.5% indexation across Tasmanian Government funded community services for the 2023/24 Budget, and a commitment to the introduction of a fit-for-purpose model for indexation from 2024/25. The budget provides no ongoing indexed funding model and just a once-off $2.1 million to be shared between community service organisations in the next financial year, equating to a 4% increase in funding.
We know firsthand the critical role that community services play in supporting the most vulnerable members of our society. The community services industry is essential in providing support for those experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and domestic violence, among other issues. However, community services are chronically underfunded, with workers facing increasing workloads, insecure work and inadequate pay.
Fair indexation ensures that funding for community services keeps pace with inflation and increases in the cost of living, enabling community services to deliver high-quality services to those who need it most. Additionally, the introduction of a fit-for-purpose model for indexation would ensure that funding for community services is sustainable and responsive to the changing needs of our community.
Insecure employment, including fixed-term and casual employment, is now rife across the community services sector. Short-term funding and low indexation rates keep wages low and jobs insecure. Employers in the sector have told the ASU that they would prefer not to employ staff in this manner but are hamstrung by the short-term funding contracts offered by the Government for many programs.
Members tell us of programs that have been running for 15 years, but whose funding is renewed yearly by the State Government, meaning they are on yearly contracts and constantly worried about their future employment. As a result, they can’t get a mortgage, plan a family holiday, or develop in their jobs, because of this insecurity.
They have also described how this structure has shifted the balance of their work away from a client focus and has meant a lack of opportunity to build skills or develop long-term relationships with clients.
In the social and community services sector, there is an inextricable connection between indexation, secure, well-paid jobs and the quality of support that users receive. Indexation and insecure employment exacerbated by short-term funding arrangements must be addressed by the State Government. We stand with ASU members and TASCOSS in the fight to improve community services.