2023 Policy Initiative - Community and social services sector

Empowering communities by supporting place-based and community-led services

The social services sector provides essential care and support to more than a million people across NSW every year, including those impacted by poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, mental health challenges, disability and other complex issues. Despite the crucial role that the sector plays in the wellbeing of the state however, successive governments have denied the sector the funding and stability it requires. 

In recent years, health, financial and social pressures caused by or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly increased demand on the sector, but without commensurate funding, workforce issues in the women-dominated sector have increased too. 

The Greens will ensure that the social and community services sector is resourced with sustainable and secure funding, and its essential workforce receives the investment it needs and deserves.

THE GREENS WILL: 

  • Provide funding security for the social services sector
  • Guarantee funding for neighbourhood and community centres
  • Fund local programs to target social isolation and strengthen community connections
  • Resource community legal services to meet 100% of demand
  • Invest in the social services workforce with a workforce development strategy

FUNDING A SECURE SECTOR

The community and social services sector carries out essential work, providing care, support, guidance and social support to more than a million people across NSW every year — and does so without the secure or adequate funding that both they and the people they support deserve. 

The Greens will reform funding processes for the community sector to provide funding security. We will ensure all funding is indexed to inflation and pegged to address growing populations, including growing vulnerable populations. We will also extend standard funding contract lengths to 5 years at minimum, 7 years in rural areas and 10 years in remote communities.

EMPOWERING COMMUNITY CENTRES

Community and neighbourhood centres provide essential support, social connection and pathways to assistance for their local communities. Currently however, these community-led, place-based services have no ongoing support from the government.

The Greens understand the crucial role played by neighbourhood centres and recognise the expertise of centres in identifying challenges faced by their local communities and the tailored solutions that will best benefit their unique context. We are committed to developing an ongoing and collaborative dialogue between government and community and neighbourhood centres through a formalised partnership agreement. 

In recognising the value of neighbourhood centres, we commit to sustainable and ongoing funding for all 175 centres across the state and for their peak body, allocated through a new and dedicated funding stream which recognises the need for flexible funding use based on emerging local need. 

In line with asks from the Local Community Services Association, the NSW neighbourhood and community centres peak body, we are committed to recurrent funding for every single neighbourhood centre for a minimum of 2.5 full-time equivalent workers and $50,000 in operational costs, and the LCSA for two full-time equivalent positions. We will also establish a Community Investment Fund for one-off funding, to enable individual centres to seek additional funding and to support the establishment of new centres in communities currently lacking a neighbourhood centre. 

RESOURCING SOCIAL CONNECTION 

Loneliness and social isolation has increased to critical levels following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Greens will resource communities to support their peers by investing in place-based services to deliver social connection programs tailored to their community needs. 

We will deliver $20,000 in one-off project funding to each neighbourhood centre in the state to increase social connection programs to address post-pandemic social isolation. We will also resource the Local Community Services Association to provide coordination and project management between neighbourhood centres.

SUPPORTING COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRES

Community legal centres support their local communities through free legal help, wraparound services and holistic support to people going through tough times. Currently though, CLCs do not receive sufficient funding to meet service demand, let alone for their crucial systemic advocacy work. 

The Greens will ensure that the sector receives long-term and sustainable funding to build a resilient, responsive and innovative sector able to fully address the legal needs of vulnerable communities. In particular, we will ensure Community Legal Centres and Aboriginal Legal Services are funded to meet 100% of service demand to increase the capacity for advice, representation, education and outreach, with an increase of $10.5 million per year for the Community Legal Centre Program and $2.5 million per year for Aboriginal Legal Services. 

We will also increase baseline funding (separate from demand-based service delivery funding) to allow the sector to continue crucial systemic and law reform advocacy work, and provide recurrent disaster readiness and response funding of $2 million per year. 

INVESTING IN THE COMMUNITY SECTOR WORKFORCE

Workers in the community and social services sector are stretched thin, with increased demand not reflected in government funding commitments. The workforce is highly feminised, with three in four workers women, and experiences low pay, poor conditions and a significant gender pay gap. The workforce needs and deserves investment to support workers and the sector’s continued success.

The Greens will invest in the community and social services sector workforce by introducing portability of entitlements, including long service leave, to provide incentive for experienced staff to stay in the sector. 

We will also work with the sector to establish a workforce development strategy. This strategy will focus on recruitment, retention, and skills development. Additionally and where appropriate the strategy will address prevention of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout, and prioritise support for and recruitment of First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse workers, and workers in regional areas. 

FIND ALL OUR POLICIES:  GREENS.ORG.AU/NSW/PLATFORM

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