The state government has today committed $12 million from this year's budget to provide low-interest loans to community sector ogranisations and a social innovation grants program.
Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett says his government will boost funding to non-government organisations to provide social services instead of government departments.
He told a WA Council of Social Services (WACOSS) conference in Perth today that his administration recognised that government agencies were not always the best placed to help the most vulnerable in society.
Mr Barnett said the government already spent more than $800 million through the community sector and 60 per cent of funding for disability services went through non-government organisations.
"The government will spend more and more on human and community services but we want to spend that money better," he said.
"This is a prosperous state, it also needs to be a caring and compassionate state."
Mr Barnett said the government believed community-based organisations were closer to those in need, were more flexible and adaptive and were able to bring in support from corporate sponsors, family members and volunteers.
The premier said eligible community groups included those who worked with the mentally ill, those who provided foster carers for vulnerable children and those who provided shelter for the homeless.
He said new measures in next week's state budget included $10 million to establish a community investment fund to provide low-interest loans to eligible groups to upgrade their offices, cars and equipment.
Another $2 million would go to set up a social innovation program so new ideas could be tried out in the community sector to tackle homelessness, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse and to prevent suicide.
A community forum would also be set up to forge a new relationship between the state's more than 300 community groups and the state government, Mr Barnett said.
Opposition Leader Eric Ripper said Mr Barnett was trying to get services on the cheap by shifting delivery from the public sector to not-for-profit groups with no funding to address the wage gap between the two sectors.
Mr Ripper said he welcomed the announcement of extra money for low-interest loans and pilot programs, but it did not go far enough.
"Without a significant injection of funds, the Barnett government is simply shifting the cost of the social safety net to the community service sector."
Community service workers were paid on average 30 per cent less than public sector workers and were operating under a $198 million shortfall in funding, Mr Ripper said.
The government should provide extra funding for more services, not just shift the cost and responsibility, he said.
The number of Western Australians needing assistance from the not-for-profit sector had increased by 20 to 30 per cent and with skyrocketing household bills under the Barnett government it would only get worse, Mr Barnett said.
The premier's announcement is below:
Helping community organisations deliver better social services to people in need is a key component of the Liberal-National Government's support of the community sector in the 2010-11 State Budget.
Premier Colin Barnett today addressed the WA Council of Social Services State Conference where he outlined new Government initiatives including:
- A $10 million Community Development Investment Fund
- An initial $2million Social Innovation Grants Program and
- The establishment of a Partnership Forum.
The move complements the more than $800 million a year the Liberal-National Government provides to non-government organisations to provide the best possible service for the community.
"The Liberal-National Government recognises that government agencies are not always best placed to help to those most vulnerable in our society," Mr Barnett said.
"This Government trusts the community sector and it is demonstrating that trust by empowering organisations to provide their services in the best possible way to people who need the most help. This approach has achieved an excellent result in the disability services area where the Government supports non-government organisations to provide an unmatched quality of service.
"As demand for services increases, the Government must support and build the capacity of the community sector organisations that work tirelessly to support people with mental illness, provide foster carers to vulnerable children and shelter for the homeless.
"As part of the 2010-11 Budget, the State Government will provide $10 million for a Community Development Investment Fund through which low-interest loans will be offered to eligible community sector organisations.
"The loans, which have generally been out of reach for many organisations, will be for capital purposes such as building an income-generating asset base through new or refurbished infrastructure. Other examples could be as purchasing property; vehicles and equipment, to deliver services more effectively and enable the organisation become financially sustainable over time.
"The Government wants to give community sector organisations greater opportunities to pursue their core mission - providing high-quality services to people in need.
"The Social Innovation Grants Program will promote new and improved ways of delivering social and community services. Funding of $2 million in 2010-11 and $4 million for each year thereafter will encourage the sharing of policy, practice and data across agencies and identify co-location opportunities."
The Community Development Investment Fund and Social Innovation Grants Program will be administered by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and start on January 1, 2011.
The premier also announced the establishment of a new forum for overseeing the relationship between the public and community sectors.
The Partnership Forum will comprise equal numbers of public and community sector leaders, be chaired by Professor Peter Shergold AC, Centre for Social Impact.
The first meeting of the Partnership Forum is expected to be held by August 2010.
"The Liberal-National Government trusts the many hundreds of non-government organisations that work every day to deliver services and care to those who most need assistance," Mr Barnett said.
"We will demonstrate that trust by progressively shifting the delivery of services away from government agencies to the community sector."
The 2010-11 State Budget measures are on top of the Liberal-National Government's commitment to the community sector including:
- More than $800million in the disability and community support sector
- Cost of living rebate for seniors
- Country aged pension fuel card
- Seven million free off-peak public transport trips taken under the free transport initiative for seniors.