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What Needs to be done in RW Human Services – An NGO Perspective

The new South Sydney Interagency had its second meeting on 11 June 2008. The feature of the meeting was a short consultation carried out by NSW Council of Social Services (NCOSS), the peak non-government organisation in NSW. NCOSS is commencing a series of visits across the state to talk to community organisations about what they want to see in the 09/10 State Budget. Yes, the process for the next budget gets going almost as soon as this budget is announced. The value of a generalist interagency is that we can look across our area in a holistic way to see all the supports in place and how all NGO activities impact on each other and the South Sydney Region. Below is a write up of the findings which also gives a window into the needs of local human service agencies.

Affordability and Cost of Living

Older people and people with disability facing financial stress.

There are regular increases in public housing rents and no compensation – “working families” are not the only ones.

Ageing

Increase in complaints from the elderly around violence and drinking, not always actual crimes but just the perception or fear of something going to happen. Creates social isolation and makes it difficult for service to access clients.

There has been about a 30% increase in the ageing population.

Issues for the ageing who are ‘not so old’ having access to Senior’s Groups beyond day programs.

Elderly are fearful of using lifts in their apartment blocks.

Community Development

Need community development right down to individual counselling. It’s about strengthening the community and reconnecting the community. Change the vibe.

There has been a lot taken out of community development work.

There has been a philosophical shift – medicalising and pathologising the individual – what is wrong with “them”. This makes service provision tiring.

It’s about building social capital and having a well connected social fabric.

More and more people are being concentrated into an area, people who are ageing, next to people with a mental illness and complex problems leading to increasing fear/tension.

CSGP

If CSGP is moved into child protection and away from a whole of community focus there will be a big impact on other services like HACC and Disability services that are auspiced by community organisations. The community focus is being whittled away.

DOCS has picked up community services but other Departments also need to pick up this responsibility.

Funding

Increasing work on the ground impacted upon by silo funding – not receiving the funding to do the work that is needed. We’re committed to partnerships but needs more than this.

Short term funding a problem – increases community expectations and then the funding stops and the project ends.

Other people are getting the funding that should go to the community.

Always project funding tied into the three year election cycle – needs to be program funding. It’s exhausting having to continually apply for funding.

A lot of time and energy goes into small grant submissions to run small but important projects that have proven to be successful.

We have a regional worker that works with tenants to link them with the community. Government departments are telling us what that person to be doing, not looking at what is already working or what is needed on the ground.

Greater reliance on the tendering program and people are forced to compete to get it.

Many organisations are hanging together on small grants.

Services are funded led rather than leading the funders.

Difficult to balance competition and partnerships with tendering process.

Stress caused by funding.

Housing

Huge amount of housing stress and it is getting worse and worse.

Housing NSW are confusing the categories of new arrivals between refugees and people who are sponsored to come to Australia. People arrive as refugees and a local person of a similar ethnicity is asked to provide support, then are classified as a ‘sponsor’. The government expects the sponsor to provide a lot of support so less government support is provided. These HNSW appointed ‘sponsors’ cannot provide the level of support that is expected and the ‘sponsored’ refugees are being denied accommodation and other basic services. This is traumatising them and making it difficult for services to engage. Also impacts on the well being of their children.

Tenant participation model is being changed without tenant participation.

Basic maintenance in housing is always a problem; increasing need for adaptations.

Sustainability of housing for young people an issue.

Support the independence of the landlord role – housing also has a community support role in the same way policing is not just about arresting people but about crime prevention.

Mental Health

The area has huge Issues with general mental health and particularly mental health issues due to ageing; drug and alcohol related mental health and links between mental health and homelessness.

Housing NSW targets people with the most complex needs but public housing does not have case managers and the community sector is left to pick things up.

Interface between mental health and drug and alcohol – increasing level of the problem and community services need to be careful of what they can do and what they are skilled to do.

People with Disability

Waiting lists for accommodation are huge. One woman has been placed in Camden (it was the closest and most accessible home) but a long way from her family.

Refugee and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities

Issues arising with new and emerging African Communities – sharing accommodation, maybe 2 – 3 families sleeping on the floor in a small unit.

Short term funding for CALD and Aboriginal mother programs.

Sector Issues

Lack of knowledge in the community about services in the area.

Marrickville does a post box drop once a month with a double sided leaflet advertising the services.

Neighbourhood Centres are good sources of brochures etc – people need key points to go to when they need something.

TV campaign will reach the general population, but then you may get more people than you can provide a service to.

Transport

Keeping up with the demand and needs of ageing and people with disability an issue.

Health access – community transport picking up health transport.

Community transport provides a shuttle bus service that goes to key areas (estate – shops – hospital – etc) and funded by the Council. Other Councils are interested in this model.

Some services provide 1:1 assistance – pick up, go shopping, carry shopping into home

Street Beat Bus for young people – runs Thursday – Sunday 10pm – 3am, free call and the bus will pick up and take home – currently reviewing and want to extend to 7 days a week.

Young people need transport at night – don’t want to be home for a variety of reasons.

Getting taxis a challenge as they won’t go into certain areas.

Workforce

Workforce is a big issue – workers have high workloads and this impacts on their time available to link with networks.

Also impact on public sector - key roles being filled by ‘backpackers’ who do not have corporate knowledge or commitment.

Wages and living affordability – huge changes and these impacts as well.

In Community Legal Centres getting a Principal Solicitor can take 12 months. Can’t compete with salaries offered by legal aid or they can earn privately. CLCs can only offer SACS Award or just above.

Worker retention is an issue people burn out and you lose valuable resources.

Can no longer provide the ‘emotional’ payback that kept the workforce happy and wanting to work – culture of not appreciating.

Need funding to put into training to make people feel wanted and happy to stay in the sector.

Relationship with the Government is increasingly problematical.

No leadership from the State Government to value and respect the NGO sector – do not respect our input.

Increased friction between the public sector and the community sector but need to work in partnership.

Youth

Increasing drug and alcohol related violence over weekends, especially being experienced by Indigenous youth.

The above related to culture, is endemic - has to be put in this context. Young people are just surviving and they save to drink and forget then end up in gaol. They are not thriving.

Need bigger community strategies aimed at young people – not one-off projects but sustainable long-term programs.

There are a lot of youth services in this area, but not enough to do what needs to be done.

Source: Notes taken by NCOSS of the Consultation supplied by ISRCSD