The new Federal Government has certainly hit the ground running and is wasting no time to deliver on Labor’s election commitments. Moves to abolish the cashless debit card are well underway, and the increase to the minimum and award wages came as a welcome relief to many as individuals and families struggle to meet the soaring cost of living. While the incoming Government did not commit to increasing income support payments, we remain hopeful that the October Budget will provide for an increase for income support recipients, who are struggling more than ever to meet basic needs.
The wage increase, of course, places significant financial pressure on social services organisations who are delivering Government funded programs. FRSA members delivering programs under the Families and Children Activity have seen funding decline, in real terms, over the past several years. We know from the CIE Report we published in 2020, that our members are close to, or at, the efficiency frontier. There is limited, if any, scope to achieve further efficiencies and funding this much-needed wage increase will be tricky. We are working hard, along with others in the social services sector, to ensure that the increase in wage costs is reflected in indexation.
It’s not just our new Government that appears to be busy and intent on making improvements. Earlier this week, the Department of Social Services Community Advisory Group, which is made up largely of national peak bodies across the social services sector, met face to face in Canberra. Part of the day was spent taking stock of what the group had achieved since it was established in 2014 and reflecting on its purpose moving forward to ensure that the wealth of expertise and experience in the room is used as effectively as possible to inform strong social policy development. At the same time, DSS is undertaking an internal review of the grants cycle, looking at ways to improve the process and build stronger relationships with grant recipients. We have greatly appreciated our conversations with DSS on this topic, which have been open, receptive and thoughtful.
New initiatives are happening here at FRSA too! I am delighted to announce that with the support of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, FRSA will be establishing online Communities of Practice (CoPS) for providers of five services funded by the Department of Social Services under the Families and Children Activity (see more below). To this end, FRSA is recruiting for a project officer to coordinate the CoPs on a one-year, four days per week contract. This position can be undertaken remotely, and we’ll be opening it up to interested applicants across the country. We encourage people in the FRSA network to apply.