THE social services sector in Western Australia is at breaking point, with skyrocketing staff costs and increased difficulty attracting new recruits, according to those on the front line. Not-for-profit organisations are feeling the brunt of a shortage of quality employees, with the resources sector in particular draining the talent pool. Warren Palmer, from The Salvation Army in WA, said while the organisation was meeting current commitments in delivering 65 social programs throughout the state, managing a multi-million dollar budget had its challenges. "Over the past five years, a consistent increase in demand and economic conditions have dictated that our services have needed to expand their capacity and instigate new programs," Mr Palmer told WA Business News. "Coupled with the pressures of increased costs, which affect all of us, financial management of a $21 million program budget is becoming extremely complex and difficult. "The Salvation Army is also affected, like the broader social services sector, by staff costs and [difficulty] attracting employees. "The sector, we believe, is struggling to maintain its employee base, given the competition in WA at present and the expectation that we will keep expenses to a minimum. "As government funding has not kept pace with the financial challenges of delivering social services to the community, we have been encouraged by other sectors in the community, like business, with their support in investing working capital into the social services sector. "In the last five years, the Red Shield Appeal in Western Australia has increased from $3.8 million to $5.9 million in 2006-2007. We are currently on target to meet out goal of $1.4 million from the business community." Mr Palmer said that goal could not be reached without assistance from companies such as Osborne Park home design and renovator, Dale Alcock Homes. This year, Dale Alcock Homes is the major partner of the Red Shield Appeal doorknocking campaign, which aims to help Western Australians dealing with substance abuse and domestic violence, and those experiencing extreme financial pressure. Dale Alcock Homes managing director, Dale Alcock said growing up in a small Wheatbelt town (as he had) meant ''a person's word is everything'', and that his entire company approach was based on that philosophy. Mr Alcock is passionate about community issues and charity work, contributing more than $5 million in the past decade to projects such as the WA Drug Treatment Program, the Fremantle Medical Research Foundation, The Salvation Army, Appealathon, and to junior football. Mr Palmer said The Salvation Army was increasingly seeking to initiate new programs in partnership with the corporate sector, in light of the state's booming economy. "What we aim to find in partnerships is the right partner which fits with our organisational mould and objectives, much like the corporation that seeks an active social services partner," he said. "There is no denying that asking for financial resources is high on the agenda when seeking a partner, however we do acknowledge the benefits of assisting our organisation in other ways." Mr Palmer said volunteering was a great staff event and, with 7,000 people required to knock on doors this year, many places remained to be filled.
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