Certainty needed for community services

A couple of months ago I was at a seminar where three community organisations were presenting. Two of the three presenters were waiting to find out if their organisation would get a contract renewed with MSD. Not knowing if their contracts would be renewed meant not knowing if they could pay staff, not knowing if they would have to make people redundant, not knowing if they would have to start winding up the organisation.

I went back to Parliament and put in questions asking when groups would find out and how many didn’t get their contracts renewed and the answers came back as if everything was fine.

This happened last year too. Some organisations had to stop paying staff as they waited for funding to come through.

This morning there have been reports in the media about community budgeting services caught in limbo as MSD delay over the review of services.

We spend a lot of time in this Parliament talking about providing certainty to businesses. Our families and communities also need certainty.

Productivity is compromised and the ability to plan and innovate is also profoundly affected. It does tend to keep organisations quiet though as many have been warned that if they speak up and challenge the government then they won’t get their funding renewed. This report written by Dr Sandra Grey and Dr Charles Sedgwick in 2013 highlighted the precarious state of many community organisations.

There has been almost a decade of real terms funding cuts to community agencies, many are now eating into reserves to maintain service delivery. The sector is very vulnerable and the government says it is doing a line by line review of all these agencies to make sure they are effective. While this might sound sensible, in an environment of chronic under funding, increased need for complex services the real life impact is increased uncertainty, compromised service, and more stressed people and families.