THE AUSTRALIAN (Newspaper) DECEMBER 22, 2014 7:53PM
Source: News Limited
Rick Morton – Social Affairs Reporter – Sydney
Rick Morton on Google Plus
Cruel Christmas for social services
Blind Citizens Australia national president Greg Madson: ‘Some can survive on other funding sources but many will have to close down.
The peak bodies for the disability, homelessness and community sectors were told which ones would lose funding just days before Christmas in an announcement from the Department of Social Services late this afternoon.
The budget-saving measure aims to haul back tens of millions of dollars by streamlining the number of representative bodies in the two sectors.
In the disability arena most condition-specific bodies like Blind Citizens Australia — which lost $190,000 — and two deaf groups, the Disability Advocacy Network Australia and Brain Injury Australia all had their funding revoked.
People with Disability Australia, First Peoples Disability Network, Children with Disability Australia and some other “cross-disability” organisations won funding.
Community Housing Federation Australia, National Shelter and Homelessness Australia also lost funding as part of a $21 million cut to the sector.
The new regime is part of the Department’s “A New Way of Working” grants process but the cuts came at the request of political masters looking for budget savings.
One source within the government said it was known the cuts would have to be “brutal”.
Some of the funding losses came only as a result of decisions taken for the most recent Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook update last week. Organisations were told only via phone call and told to keep the conversation confidential. They have still not received formal letters acknowledging the decision.
Blind Citizens Australia national president Greg Madson said peak body organisations would collapse.
“Some can survive on other funding sources but many will have to close down,” he said.
“It’s not a very nice realisation. We knew something was coming but we didn’t know it would look like this.”
Carol Croce, Executive Director of the Community Housing Federation Australia, said she was “profoundly disappointed”. The organisation’s funding was not only cut but its contract was severed one year in advance, stopping in June next year instead of 2016.
“We are profoundly disappointed at this decision,” she said.
“I just don’t understand how the government plans on continuing its discussions in these sectors when they are taking away the mechanisms to have those discussions about the future.”
The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, which hoped to survive as a consortium for all condition-specific representative bodies also lost its funding.
The National Information Centre on Retirement Investments was also axed.
Greens spokeswoman on family and community services Rachel Siewert said the cuts delivered uncertainty.
“We’ve known that cuts were coming, but for organisations to hear the news that their funding has been cut just days before Christmas is very cruel,” she said.
“This inflicts maximum chaos and undermines the sector’s advocacy on behalf of vulnerable Australians.
“With a new Minister on the way, it is vital that organisations can engage on behalf of their stakeholders, but these cuts will make that impossible.”
The Department has been approached for comment.