Eleven key peak bodies in the non-government health and community services came together today to issue a last minute plea to the major parties to be saved from funding cuts and so called “efficiency dividends” which look likely to follow the state election. The peak bodies joining this call with SACOSS are: the Aboriginal Health Council of SA, Child & Family Focus SA, Community Centres SA, the Mental Health Coalition of SA, Multicultural Communities Council of SA, SA Network of Drug & Alcohol Services, Shelter SA, Volunteering SA & NT, Community Housing Council of SA, Youth Affairs Council of SA, all of whom represent charities operating across the health and community services sector providing support to vulnerable and disadvantaged South Australians.
The state government’s Mid-Year Budget Review in December announced an “efficiency dividend” to cut departmental funding after the state bank tax did not get through parliament, while the Liberal party has signaled that it would also use efficiency dividends to balance the books, as it promises tax cuts bigger than the revenue lost with the rejection of the bank tax.
SACOSS CEO, Ross Womersley, said:
"An “efficiency dividend” has little to do with efficiency and does not ensure government departments work any better. It is just a politically convenient way to cut funding because a Minister does not have to announce any specific cuts. Rather, the decisions are made behind closed doors by unelected Departmental heads – and for them, it may be easier to cut funding to community organisations rather than their own staff and operational budgets."
Community Centres SA CEO, Gill McFadyen, said:
"The non-government organisations who provide services in areas like family support, financial counselling, crisis accommodation and emergency relief already run efficiently on small operating budgets with dedicated staff and volunteers. Any reduction in funding will simply mean less support for vulnerable people."
Michael White, Executive Officer of SA Network of Drug & Alcohol Services, said:
"Anyone who knows someone who's struggling with alcohol or drug dependence, with mental health problems, or who has lost their job and has hit hard times knows the value of our non-government community services, so I don’t think it is a big ask to have certainty that our funding will at least be maintained."
The 11 peak bodies have written jointly to the Premier, Leader of the Opposition and SA Best, and called on all parties to commit to quarantining the non-government sector from the impacts of any funding cuts or government efficiency dividends.