The ACT community sector provides valuable support to Canberrans. This support ranges from assisting individuals in times of crisis to building community involvement and participation.
The sector includes a wide range of not-for-profit community organisations, self-help groups, community associations and consumer advocacy groups. Almost 4000 employees work within the sector.
Today, its work is being carried out in a climate of unprecedented change. This has been brought about by a range of factors, including:
- Rising salaries as a result of the 2012 Equal Remuneration Order;
- Putting resource decisions in the hands of clients through the National Disability Insurance Scheme and a broader increased desire for consumer-centered models of service;
- A greater focus by funding agencies on achieving and measuring outcomes;
- Increasing reliance on new technologies;
- The introduction of government initiatives such as the Human Services Blueprint and A Step Up for Our Kids (Out of Home Care Strategy 2015-2020); and
- A continued focus to achieve benefits through joined-up service delivery.
These and other changes have implications for how organisations are resourced, what clients expect, and what type of capabilities organisations require. They also present new challenges for organisations to remain viable, responsive and sustainable into the future.
The Community Sector Reform Program
The ACT Government Community Sector Reform Program aims to support the community sector to respond to these changes. It is funded by the co-contribution levy, a pooled resource that was first announced in July 2012 and extended for a further two years in July 2015, and from financial and other resources provided by the ACT Government.
Components of the Program include:
Red tape reductions. Already more than $2.6 million of red-tape savings in time and administrative effort for community organisations have been achieved through changes to procurement, contracting and reporting. The red-tape reform is ongoing, with new initiatives being rolled out that include a new, simpler funding agreement template developed in consultation with the sector; and access to a new online tool to improve quality and reduce red tape for service providers. Other red tape reforms to date include:
- amendments to audit requirements under the Associations Incorporations ACT to reduce the cost of audits to incorporated associations in the ACT;
- reduced financial reporting requirements under Service Funding Agreements to only once a year;
- extension of the maximum term of Service Funding Agreements from three to up to five years, based on an assessment of appropriateness and risk;
- the development of a simpler recurrent grant arrangement and the transferral of 47 low risk Service Funding Agreements that did not represent the clear purchase of services to recurrent grants; and
- the introduction of a single relationship manager for community organisations funded by the Community Services Directorate, to reduce the number of people funded organisations have to deal with.
The Sector Development Program, designed to build the skills of sector leaders. This program has included capacity building initiatives focusing on areas including governance, financial management, working with government, organisational sustainability, tendering and procurement, and strategic risk management. About 350 leaders of sector organisations have participated in the program. Upcoming components of the Sector Development Program will focus on building sector capability around business collaboration and strategic alliances.
The Governance and Financial Management Initiative, which provided packages of consulting time worth $20,000 from a panel of consultants to more than 40 organisations.
The ACT Community Services Industry Strategy 2016-2026
The ACT Community Services Industry Strategy 2016-2026 sets out a 10 year vision for forward planning of the Community Services Industry, which is critical to the economic and social wellbeing of Canberra.
The Strategy identifies the following four priority areas to be addressed (as well as desired outcomes to be achieved):
- Industry capability
- Research, planning and evaluation
- Governance and leadership
The Strategy is the result of an extensive period of consultation with the community sector by consultants KPMG and work with the sector will continue to inform its implementation.
The Industry Strategy has been developed under the guidance of a Steering Group comprising representatives from government and industry.
The Steering Group is a sub-committee of the Joint Community Government Reference Group (JCGRG) and membership is primarily from the Community Services Industry. The Steering Group will continue until the work has been completed, which is anticipated to be in 2026, although members will be able to renew or cease their membership on an annual basis.
ACT Community Services Industry Workforce Plan 2017-2020
The Workforce Plan is the first implementation plan for the Industry Strategy and focuses on goals and actions to grow, strengthen and sustain the workforce.
NDIS Sector Development Fund
The ACT community sector continues to benefit from an investment of $12.5 million from the Commonwealth’s National Disability Insurance Scheme Sector Development Fund (SDF). Since 2014 the SDF has been allocated to a range of initiatives that support the development of a sufficient and sustainable market of disability providers within an integrated and efficient human service sector. This includes the provision of dedicated resources to support opportunities to explore and implement collaboration, partnerships and mergers. More information is on the National Disability Insurance Scheme webpage.