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Will small Community Centres cease being funded?

There is quite some concern amoung neighbourhood centres that DoCS policy changes may see smaller (under $1 million) community centres pushed out of the service system. In the letter below the Eastern Suburbs, Inner City and Inner West Neighbourhood Centre Forum have raised their concerns over the changes with DoCS. This clearly would have implications for local Centres in Redfern Waterloo.

Eastern Suburbs, Inner City and Inner West NEIGHBOURHOOD CENTRE FORUM

P.O. Box 437, Maroubra, NSW 2035

December 16th, 2005


Ms Gul Izmir,

Deputy Director General,

Department of Community Services,

Locked Bag 28,


NSW   2131

Cc Morris Iemma, Premier, Neil Shepherd, Director General, DOCS,  Reba Meagher, Minister for Community Services,  Michael Daley, Member for Maroubra, Paul Pearce, Member for Coogee,  Peter Debnam, Member for Vaucluse, Clover Moore, Member for Bligh, Carmel Tebbutt, Member for Marrickville,  Kristina Keneally, Member for Heffron, Tania Plibersek, Member for Sydney, Peter Garrett, Member for Kingsford Smith,  Malcolm Turnbull, Member for Wentworth,  Anthony Albanese, Member for Grayndler,  Gary Moore, NCOSS, Sally McMannus, ASU.

Dear Ms Izmir

The Neighbourhood Centre Forum has asked me to write on their behalf, to raise issues of concern contained in two recent documents issued by your department (DOCS, Corporate Directions 2005/06, and DOCS Funding Policy, August 2005) and to request answers in regard to some issues that are not clear to Forum Members.

The issues are as follows:

1. We are unable to find reference in the Corporate Directions document, to the Department’s ongoing commitment to the Community Services Grants Programme. Of particular concern is the absence of any mention of the CSGP, in the Department’s Ongoing Responsibilities (Page 7). Can you confirm whether or not the Department is committed to an on-going partnership with, and funding of, CSGP services?

2. If so, can you confirm that the CSGP will remain in the Partnerships and Planning Unit within DOCS?

3. Can you give further information about what Programmes in the Communities Division will be declining or ceasing over the next five years ?(Page 7)

4. We note, in the Funding Policy document, several statements about non-government organisations like neighbourhood centres, which are funded under the CSGP. These statements infer that small organisations (those with funding under $1M) are inefficient and problematical to integrate into a sustainable and viable service system. We do not agree with the arbitrary definition you have used, of a small organisation, as categorised by the Productivity Commission, and we dispute that an economic argument of efficiency, can be determined on the basis of size.

Furthermore, we wish to draw your attention to the large number of CSGP funded services which also receive funding from a number of other State Government departments, Local Government and the Federal Government, often bringing their funding income to well over $1M.

Can you provide us with further information about how and when these inefficiencies were measured in so called small organisations funded under the CSGP, and why you consider the $1M benchmark to be an appropriate “yardstick”?

In relation to statements about difficulties “small organisations” face being part of a sustainable and viable service system, we are not aware of any issues that have been raised in this regard. In fact, it would seem that a sustainable and viable service system is nothing to do with organisational size, rather more to do with adequate resourcing and support from funding bodies.

Can you provide us with further information about measurements of sustainability and viability that have been undertaken in “small organisations” funded under the CSGP?

5. The Management Committees of many CSGP funded services have signed a Workplace Charter with their employees, to uphold the existing SACS Award as the minimum industry standard of employment.

What measures will you put in place, in any tendering process that involves CSGP funding, to recognise and value this cost, which may conflict with other tenders?

The Funding Policy document appears to be a Briefing or Background Paper, rather than a Policy document. It contains many erroneous assumptions and demonstrates an extremely limited understanding of community organisations and it is silent on some important issues which should be included:

1.      The CSGP has not received any growth monies since 1993 and statements in the document in regard to the rising costs we have experienced and our difficulties in this regard, should note this.

2.      Service Specifications and Reports on Achievements, introduced in 2001-02, have never adequately described service provision or reliably measured outputs or outcomes. CSGP funded services have argued this point many times with the Department, and requested that more work be undertaken in order for the Department to be able to collect reliable and accurate information. Outcomes for clients and communities, which is the first principle of the Funding Policy, have never been quantitatively or qualitatively measured by the Department, primarily because of neglect and disinterest.

We would welcome the development of new Outcome measurements that provided meaningful information about our service provision.

3.      We are aware of the development of Good Practice Standards for CSGP funded services and query why they have not been implemented as promised?

4.      The Funding Policy suggests the amalgamation of services as a potential solution to viability. We believe that this would diminish the ability of services, like neighbourhood centres, to respond to local area need and it would create conflict and division in a service system that is currently built on organisational co-operation and respect.

5.      The “flavour” of the Funding Policy and Corporate Directions documents imply that the current service system is untenable and that major efficiency and economic reforms must be undertaken. We dispute these views and believe that no research has been undertaken to validate these conclusions.

6.      We believe it is essential to securely fund some services, like neighbourhood centres, on a long term basis. Neighbourhood Centres across the State, auspice, support and provide a diverse array of other services including those funded by many other State Government Departments, Local Government and the Federal Government. These services enhance and extend the capability of the CSGP. Neighbourhood Centres need to remain locality-based, so that they are easily accessible to all members of the community, who may need to access crisis assistance, like domestic violence services, mental health services, etc. We are completely opposed to any proposal to tender out neighbourhood centre funding.

7.      We are aware of the recent and significant problems encountered by “small organisations” in the EIP tendering process and the widespread failure of “small organisations” to compete for, and be successful in, gaining funding under this Programme. We do not feel that the process had integrity because it was not undertaken on a “level playing field”, and the beneficiaries have been the larger organisations with poor networks, relationships and linkages on the ground. The process, as you are aware, has been the subject of widespread criticism. We do not believe that DOCS has sufficient understanding of the nature and variety of services in the CSGP service system, at this time, to consider embarking on such a process.

We are concerned that DOCS has not sought or collected evidence in regard to the Funding Policy document and it is clear that the Research, Funding and Business Analysis Division has made sweeping assumptions about the sector. These assumptions are mischievous, inaccurate and display a measure of contempt for the thousands of workers employed by small organisations, which accounts for almost all of the diverse service system of the CSGP. These assumptions also show disrespect for the efficiency and effectiveness of the services we provide, and the clients, to whom we provide them.

We would be very supportive of any genuine attempts by the above Division to enhance their understanding of the CSGP service system, in particular the roles, structures and complex service provision of neighbourhood centres, and would welcome contact with them, in this regard.

Yours sincerely,


Barbara Kelly

(for and on behalf of the Neighbourhood Centre Forum)