Advocating for urgent change relating to funding uncertainty
The ever-present feeling of uncertainty and apprehension relating to the looming eleventh hour confirmation (or otherwise) of the renewal of critical, lapsed program, core funding is almost upon us. The Victorian State Budget gets released on 23 May.
COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria have significant concerns about the resourcing uncertainty facing non-profit organisations that work to advance the interests of Victoria’s disadvantaged and marginalised communities. This has become an urgent issue relating to business continuity (critical community services), as well as the lack of any semblance of job security for community services staff.
Organisations like us typically operate at three levels – providing support and advice directly to individuals in the community, to non-government service providers, and to government through policy advice and advocacy for systemic change. The contribution to advancing the social and economic wellbeing of Victorians through a mix of these three functions cannot be overestimated. Without this effort, government would be considerably less informed and less able to respond effectively to the needs of key segments of the population.
Call to action
We call for the Victorian Government through its departments and statutory processes to work with us to achieve:
- A clearer public commitment to the value of independent, sector and consumer-based policy advice and systemic advocacy delivered through funded non-profit agencies, with this recognition expressed in the Victorian state budget.
- An agreement on core program funding to be locked in for longer periods, starting by making three year cycles the consistent minimum norm. This should be complemented by a guarantee that funding for agreed ongoing programs will be maintained across electoral cycles subject to any transparent changes of government policy.
- A commitment to work towards a sustainable and progressive funding increase that ensures non-profits remain viable and solvent in the long term, with transparent approaches to recognising the impact of increased demand and costs.
- An early, collaborative, and inclusive budget, funding, and program renewal process to avoid critical decisions on funding adjustments from year to year being made too late and without adequate consideration of the real impact on organisations, their staff, and the communities they serve.
- Management of relevant processes more consistently across program areas and portfolios and departments and ensure level playing field (ideally with a whole-of-government approach to peak body funding including holding of contingency funds to allow for sector needs).
In addition to providing for greater sustainability and continuity of program activity, these improvements by government will be matched by a commitment by affected organisations to enhance alignment of programs to government strategies and improve accountability for outcomes.
Older, Not Alone state-wide campaign
COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria are concerned about the increased pressures on ageing as Victoria approaches winter 2023. To address this, we will be launching a public campaign to drive attention to existing community resources that support older Victorians, and the ways in which this cohort can access truly vital support mechanisms.
One key aspect that underpins pressures faced by older people is community connection. It has been well established that older people being connected to community support or programs have better outcomes regarding their health, wellbeing, and ability to live independent lives. Community support already exists, such as financial support for energy costs, but older Victorians need to know that it exists. More importantly, they may need help in accessing it. We need to make sure that older people, their families, carers, and practitioners are aware of the opportunities available. It is vital for preventing loss of independence, isolation, and any decline in mental health and wellbeing.
We are working very closely with the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Office of the Commissioner for Senior Victorians, and the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) to launch this important campaign in early June.
The Hon. Lizzie Blandthorn, Minister for Child Protection and Family Services and Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers will officially launch this campaign with me, as CEO of COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria. We’re also creating an entirely new website that will clearly, and simply list all the critical, urgent resources older Victorians will need to have immediate access to during the coming winter months. Please watch out for the ramp up of all information and awareness activities of this important campaign, website, and event in the coming weeks.
Submission response to the Victorian Default Offer 2023 – 24
We recently made a submission to the Essential Services Commission (ESC) to provide feedback on the Victorian Default Offer (VDO) review 2023 – 24. While we acknowledge the decision to increase the annual VDO price, in reflection of the increased cost of electricity provision, we are concerned about the impact such a drastic rise in the VDO price will have on more vulnerable communities, such as older Victorians.
Daily living expenses and the cost of living should be taken into consideration for reducing the VDO price. The substantial 33.2% increase of average payments for electricity costs will impact vulnerable elements of the older population, with many reliant on government funds and concession prices to help their current financial circumstances. The accompaniment of escalating gas prices will heighten ongoing issues such as an increase in digital exclusion and negative health implications for older Victorians. Please read our full submission here.
Submission to review of Victoria’s Infrastructure Strategy 2021-51
We also did a submission to Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy. Our policy and advocacy priorities include various aspects of infrastructure, including housing, health and aged care facilities, transport (including road and pedestrian safety) and spaces for recreation and physical activity. More broadly, we have a strong interest in the critical role of infrastructure in supporting optimal health and wellbeing, and social and economic participation for older people. Please read the full submission here.
There is so much positive and exciting change occurring within COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria. We have escalated our advocacy and engagement activities with a wide and broad range of State Government departments, and senior public sector leaders in recent weeks. We’ve also engaged with and reached out to numerous like-minded not-for-profit and for-purpose, community organisations at the same time. In many instances, we are leading the charge and discussion regarding critical issues such as funding, structured, strategic community program development, and encouraging open and ongoing dialogue relating to proposed thought-leadership-based future programs that focus on clear, community-based dividends for government and the community.
We’re excited about what’s in store for COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria and look forward to sharing some amazing news with you in the coming weeks relating to a major shake-up of our membership services model from July.
Chief Executive Officer
COTA Victoria & Seniors Rights Victoria