3 April 2017

It’s your SHOUT, Mr Barr

| John Hargreaves
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About two years ago or so, I was at the gym and was approached by a lady who wanted some advice on how to get the ACT Government to help this umbrella organisation who had its funding threatened by the introduction of the (then) new National Disability Insurance scheme. That organisation was SHOUT. She was a volunteer with that body.

This problem has been highlighted recently by the withdrawal of $110,000 in funding to that umbrella organisation by the ACT Government and that organisation is facing closing down.

You may not know what SHOUT does, so I’ll give a bit of information on it here. You can get detail from their website at www.shout.org.au.

Essentially, SHOUT is an umbrella organisation which provides support for a group of smaller issue specific self-help organisations to allow the economies of scale such that the smaller organisations can continue to provide direct services to their clients without the drain on their resources for administrative support. They also assist in promotion and provision of information more widely than the smaller organisation can deliver. It is a point of contact for clients and member/affiliate organisations, a referral point for the public and an information resource centre. I have only touched on the services provided by SHOUT but you should be able to get the gist.

Back in 2002, I chaired a Standing Committee in the Assembly which looked at a number of issues pertinent to the ACT Budget. The then Department of Community Services was trying to get smaller self-help groups to combine in one location so that they could take advantage of the economies of scale in the provision of services because there was that move from block funding to program funding which did not allow any money for administrative support. DCS was suggesting the colocation of smaller services in some of our spare school space. Some organisations took advantage of this opportunity and did colocate.

The epitome of this policy was SHOUT. Formed in 1981 in the International Year of the Disabled, it understood that the smaller organizations such as the Down Syndrome Association and organisations of similar size were operating on a shoestring with volunteers doing the administrative work and (no disrespect to them) they suffered in the quality of submissions to Government in the annual begging bowl derby.

In the report of that Standing Committee, there was a recommendation that the Government adequately fund the community sector for its indirect costs and that it fund a development and implementation plan for community services. The Government noted the recommendations and provided some funds for a Community Facilities Needs Assessment Study.

It said the purpose of the study is to assess current and future requirements for the provision of community facility land in the ACT, inform future analysis and assessment of development proposals and maximise the use of existing community facilities. The work will also provide information for Government agencies to use in the future planning of community facilities and service provision.

All this showed me was that they did not get what the Committee was on about. It wanted the community services adequately supported but the Government only saw a need to look at its own community facilities (and physical ones at that). They completely missed the point.

One arm of the Government was saying that the community sector should get its house in order but the other arm was looking at its own facilities and not at the viability of community sector organisations and how they fit into the Government’s own aims for community support. Weird.

This is a list of the community organisations who depend on the support from SHOUT. You can see what a blowout in administrative and promotion and referral costs would occur if they had to go it alone.

There are another 31 affiliated organisations who support each other.

I would urge you to go to that report of the Standing Committee, look at the comments and the submissions and you will see that the sector did everything the Government wanted but in an amazing about-face, the funding of a measly $110,000 was being ripped out of the sector which would have meant more fundraising by individual groups, less effective advocacy, less effective administration and promotion and a lessening of cross-sector collaboration.

No wonder social media and traditional media, letters to editors are inundated with complaints.

On top of this, it is poor public policy and downright dumb politics.

It is poor policy because for a paltry $110,000 the Government has tried to shift some responsibility for viability in the community support sector onto the very same organisations which reach out to people in distress. It sought to shift this to that sector years ago to reduce costs and now that the sector is half viable, the Government is going back on its own position of minimal support into one of zero support.

The politics are dumb because vulnerable people vote with their hearts and they have supporting mechanisms which are influenced by their suffering and the empathy shown by Government. That a Labor Government would stoop to do this fills me with shame.

And now it seems that the ACT Government has given SHOUT a reprieve. Given it is at the end of a financial year (nearly), the Gumment has found, miraculously, enough readies to give the organisation a lifeline. It said it has found some money in its bucket to help SHOUT over the hump! What? So it has an amount of money in the bank after only three-quarters of a financial year to rescue an organisation which is discharging its own social responsibility, for a “rescue mission”? Hardly! SHOUT needs certainty. It needs at the very least a five year guarantee of continued funding. Putting off the execution cos the executioner needs to sharpen his axe doesn’t cut it with me. They still don’t get it! Do they?

So, hey Mr Barr, et al, how about putting your hand back into the pocket a bit deeper and stumping up the miserable $110,000 for five years? These organisations need our support and it’s your SHOUT!

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rommeldog56 said :

Grail said :

The ACT cannot promise five years of funding as a backstop for Federal Liberals gutting NDIS.

NDIS was a laudable Federal Labor concept but was poorly scoped by Labor, demand was drastically under estimated and national rollout was not funded. The 10s of billions of $ to pay for the NDIS has to be found from somewhere. Federal Liberal hasnt “gutted” the NDIS as far as I can see.

The NDIS doesn’t even have its head office in Canberra.

Grail said :

The ACT cannot promise five years of funding as a backstop for Federal Liberals gutting NDIS.

NDIS was a laudable Federal Labor concept but was poorly scoped by Labor, demand was drastically under estimated and national rollout was not funded. The 10s of billions of $ to pay for the NDIS has to be found from somewhere. Federal Liberal hasnt “gutted” the NDIS as far as I can see.

SuzanneNewnham6:41 pm 03 Apr 17

Grail, SHOUT does not fit the NDIS criteria, never has, never will. The initial funding via the International Year of Disabled in 1981 got Self-Help-Organisations-United-Together up and running. Any funding via disability instead of health does not mean that SHOUT fits that category. This is not about Federal or ACT politics & the NDIS. This is about an organisation which, through absolutely minimal funding, provides low-cost administrative packages to 47 support groups which in turn provides for some 6000 clients. These support groups operate on high levels of volunteers including up to 100% in a lot of these groups. Being part of SHOUT enables these groups to focus on delivering support, information, and in some instances advocacy without having time and energy consumed by massive fundraising. As a member of various support groups I can tell you that they have helped me immensely.
Groups offer a safe environment during meetings whereby a person doesn’t have to explain their condition, state of health, why they’re surrounded by pillows or have to keep getting up and down, sometimes meetings are the only social outing a person with a chronic condition feels comfortable in attending. With the support groups there is someone on the end of the phone who listens to you and understands what you’re going through – no medical or health advice (they’re not there to offer that) but how to put one foot in front of the other, advise resources available and where to find them. SHOUT is the umbrella that allows the support groups get on with what they do best – which includes saving the ACT Government (whichever party is at the helm) heaps of money and resources in both the health and community services sectors.

Grail, in reference to your “But terribly clver [clever] of you to make the problem about the ACT to distract from the real issue” It IS an ACT issue because SHOUT is there providing administrative support for ACT Groups. John Hargreaves’ article explains well the background and the reasons for the necessity of confirmed ongoing financial support of SHOUT.

This is what the NDIS ICS support is for. Go pester your buddies on the Hill, Colin. Make sure they don’t drop the ball which is already in play. As the Federal government plays political games with state funding, it should be their responsibility to fund the most sensitive projects. The ACT cannot promise five years of funding as a backstop for Federal Liberals gutting NDIS.

But terribly clver of you to make the problem about the ACT to distract from the real issue. Maybe the money for NDIS would appear if Federal Liberals weren’t so hell-bent on giving away billions of dollars to Adani and poor megacorporations who struggle so hard to pay 0 tax?

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