In around 1994 the community sector in Queensland had the first State Government presentation flagging serious changes to the way services to community organisations were going to be funded. It was clear that this would include aged care, disability, mental health, general community services (which include places like Neighbourhood Centres, Domestic Violence services and the like).The changes were part of the very early COAG (Council of Australian Governments) framework.
It seems like just yesterday - but it was nearly 20 years ago. I remember that there was a stunned silence in that big hall - while about 1000 people in the seats around me struggled to grasp what compulsory tendering for services would mean to our community. What it would mean to the generally high level of cooperation and friendly sharing of ideas and resources that regularly went on between agencies.
And where was it all leading?
Fast forward to today and in 2012 the Queensland Council of Social Services produced a Green paper in 2012 called 'Working Together' and this paper outlines many of the challenges and opportunities to which community services across the nation and this State will need to adjust.
Aged Care is a long way down the road now and is discussing incredibly complex funding models here which make the system, already straining at the seams, almost unworkable. Take some time to read these papers - you will then understand some of the complexities every organisation that delivers human services face.
The paper discusses the many drivers that have shaped, and will continue to shape the delivery of services to the community. It looks at how increasing accountability for public funds has required increasing and more sophisticated data management tools, higher level financial and risk management capacity.
The larger organisations (including Church based organisations) have been able to capitalise on their size and financial strength to manage these aspects of growth, as well as being able to access the capital to ensure their infrastructure and staffing profile meets this changing environment.
Rural communities, in the main, have not had the ability, and in many cases not seen the need, to keep up with their rapidly evolving city cousins. Rural communities simply plowed back donations or surplus fund into service delivery. The time has come to recognise that this is not sustainable.
The resulting conversations in the sector have given rise to an interesting proposition for the need to develop a Community Services Industry Body " dedicated to increasing the capacity and viability of community services organisations and securing the long-term future of the Industry in Queensland". You can read this paper here.
The Green paper and the CISB discussion paper provide an excellent information base that could, and should, form the starting point of discussions across all communities - especially rural communities. It is better to change now, while we have some control over the situation, than be forced out when we realise - too late - that the world has changed - that our community organisation cannot be funded to continue as it has in the past.
Flexi Queensland is interested in discussing the future with all like-minded organisations with a view to joining Flexi Queensland to create a rural based, State-wide organisation. Please call Brenda-Anne 4783 6901 if you are interested in discussing the opportunities.