This report, commissioned by QCOSS and written by David Gilchrist and Thomas Emery at the Not-for-profits University of Western Australia (UWA) Resarch team, focuses on building our understanding of the Queensland social service sector. The understanding is developed by focusing on change and its potential impact on the sector service mix – what services it provides, their quantity and quality.

Using the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) data (2016 and 2018 data – 2018 data being the latest available) and Australian Bureau of Statistics data, the Not-for-profits UWA Research Team have sought to examine the sustainability and economic impact of Queensland’s social service sector. In undertaking this study, the following key findings were established:

  • The social service sector belongs to the largest employer group in the Queensland economy
  • It is made up of many organisation types but, due to poor data assets, we have only been able to examine the registered charities headquartered in Queensland of which there were 5,246 in 2018, having increased in number since 2016 by 5.26 per cent or 262 organisations
  • Though charity numbers increased by 262 organisations, those additional charities only employed about half as many staff as those they replaced
  • Queensland’s charities increased the number of beneficiary types and Other Activities suggesting that the service mix expanded between 2016 and 2018
  • These organisations reported employing 119,281 full-time and part-time staff in the 2018 financial year, an increase of 0.8 per cent on 2016 figures. The sector also reported an increase in casual staff employed of 4.5 per cent
  • A fall in terms of job quality between 2016 and 2018 is likely: the above increase in casual staff was accompanied by an increase in part-time staff and a reduction in full-time staff
  • A fall in volunteers deployed was also reported of 12.41 per cent between 2016 and 2018. In all, 324,039 volunteers were reported as deployed in 2018
  • In 2018, income increased but not in proportion to expenses with a commensurate reduction in profitability.

Earning the additional income cost Queensland’s charities $196m in net loss.

  • Aggregate profit fell by 23.76 per cent in the period between 2016 and 2018
  • 63 per cent of charities falling into a range of profit of between positive 10 per cent and negative 10 per cent failed to achieve a profit covering Health CPI for 2018, while 47 per cent overall performed worse than Health CPI
  • In terms of net assets, the sector experienced an increase of 11.8 per cent between 2016 and 2018. Current assets rose by 4.72 per cent, likely a working capital increase in response to increased activity driven by increased funding
  • Non-current assets rose by 11.76 per cent likely in response to service-specific assets increasing with increased activity and/or increased values being placed on assets for reporting purposes.

Overall, the findings confirm that service mix change is likely underway with potentially increased risk to beneficiaries while financial stress looks likely to continue as profitability reduces. The report also demonstrates that there is a need for better, more mature data assets to be created in order to furnish government, sector leaders and the community with better information for planning and outcomes assessment purposes.

If the social service sector is not properly shepherded, researchers concluded, Queensland stands the risk of losing vital services and capacity which is expensive and time consuming for government to replace.

Read the full report.