Crucial community services that have helped Queenslanders through floods, COVID-19 and soaring costs of living will be forced to cut programs if funding is not increased.
Neighbourhood and Community Centres (NCCs), which help more than 1.6 million Queenslanders each year connect with vital local services and programs, are being forced to consider cuts to their services amid skyrocketing demand.
Today, during national Neighbourhood Centre Week, QCOSS and Neighbourhood Centres Queensland (NCQ) are jointly calling for an urgent increase in funding for NCCs.
QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said for many people experiencing vulnerability and poverty, the state’s 143 NCCs were their first port of call.
“Neighbourhood and Community Centre workers have been on the ground providing vital services during the floods, during COVID-19, and they are helping people keep a roof over their heads during the housing crisis,” said McVeigh.
“Despite this, a majority of the 127 government-backed centres are inadequately funded, with median funding of just $124,600 a year. This barely covers private rent and the wages of one worker.
“Given the current housing crisis and soaring costs of living, these centres need proper funding to match the unprecedented demand they are facing. At a time when they are doing an incredible job to meet their communities’ needs, they should not be considering cuts to services because they are inadequately funded.”
NCQ CEO Em James said Neighbourhood Centres were the lowest funded social service in the state with the widest open door for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.
“Neighbourhood Centres are vital places of connection, participation, and inclusion at a time when the epidemic of loneliness has been highlighted by the government inquiry into social isolation and loneliness. Our data shows that they produce $4.81 in social value for every $1 of government funding.
“Government has commissioned report after report on Neighbourhood Centre work since 2017 that demonstrate Neighbourhood Centres are critical social infrastructure in communities. These reports also state the sector is grossly under resourced and while we’ve been promised reforms for the past five years, most of our centres are still only receiving funding for one worker. This Neighbourhood Centre Week, we’re calling on the state government to support neighbourhood centres as neighbourhood centres support their communities.”
QCOSS and NCQ are calling on the State Government to increase the current annual median funding of $124,600 per NCC, to a minimum of $256,000 per centre. They are also calling for funding for 10 new NCCs in population growth areas and an extra 57 intervention support workers to act as a first port of call for people in urgent need of help.
The calls come as Queensland celebrates Neighbourhood Centre Week this week, which highlights the inspirational work of NCCs around the state. Centres provide places of support, connection and basic necessities through floods, fires and COVID-19. Some initiatives include providing the state’s first homeless bus shelter and buying land to ensure elderly people can be adequately housed in the future.
This year’s theme of Neighbourhood Centre week is ‘Local Community Resilience’.
Image: The Neighbourhood Hub’s General Manager, Nicolette Ffrost, says the Hub has seen a rise in demand for assistance from the Mackay community.