Cost-of-Living Crisis hits Canberra Community Sector

19 April 2023

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has called for more funding for community services to address the cost-of-living crisis following the release of a report highlighting increased demand for support across the ACT.

ACOSS’s report, At the Precipice: Australia’s Community Sector through the Cost-of-living Crisis released today, showed that across Australia, increased demand is not being matched with the resources required for organisations to meet community need. The ACTCOSS ACT Community Sector Demand Snapshot, which highlights the key findings in the survey for the ACT, showed that Canberrans were struggling with cost-of-living pressures and lack of access to affordable housing.

Key survey findings for the ACT community sector respondents included:

  • More than half (56%) reported increased levels of disadvantage and poverty among the groups they support
  • Two thirds (67%) reported increased demand for their services
  • More than two thirds (69%) reported growing complexity of need among service users
  • Almost half (47%) reported increases in numbers of clients their service was unable to support
  • More than four in five (84%) reported that funding did not cover the full costs of service delivery
  • Two thirds (67%) said it was more difficult to attract and retain staff
  • More than a third (38%) noted more difficulty in securing funding compared with previous years.

ACTCOSS Interim CEO, Dr Gemma Killen said: “The findings from the survey tell us that the community sector in the ACT is struggling to meet demand as many individuals and families struggle with increased levels of poverty and distress.

“Cost-of-living increases over the last few years and a spiralling housing affordability crisis have meant more and more people are turning to the community sector for support. Our colleagues are seeing increasing numbers of clients in full-time work who cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

“Without adequate funding to sustainably staff our organisations, vulnerable community members are being turned away.”

Dr Killen also noted that poverty and disadvantage were growing among community sector workers themselves, with many unable to afford the high costs associated with living in Canberra.

Last week’s Priced Out report from Everybody’s Home(link is external) showed that essential workers in the ACT, many of whom are employed in the community sector, were spending up to 78% of their income on rent.

Dr Killen continued: “Despite the challenges, we know the community sector, when well resourced, is best placed to address disadvantage in Canberra. We are ready to partner with the ACT Government to ensure the community continues to receive appropriate, supportive and sustainable care.”

This Federal Budget, ACTCOSS joins with ACOSS to call on the Federal Government to:

  1. Fund the full cost of service delivery, including infrastructure, management, workforce development and administration costs in all Commonwealth grants and contracts for community services.
  2. Create a fairer tax system to fund quality essential services and a social security system that meets need starting by cancelling stage 3 tax cuts.
  3. Lift base rates of income support payments like JobSeeker and Youth Allowance to at least $76 a day.

“It is clear that all levels of government must work closely with the community sector to ensure it is properly resourced and Canberrans have access to the services they need,” Dr Killen concluded.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Gemma Killen, Interim CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0480 439 131.

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