A new survey from Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) finds the community service sector is under pressure due to COVID-19. With expected cuts to income support for 500,000 Queenslanders and the ending of the eviction moratorium for renters impacted by COVID-19, services are bracing for increased pressure.
The report is an initiative of the Australian Community Sector Survey (ACSS), a partnership between QCOSS and the COSS Network supported by Community Sector Banking, with research undertaken by the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Social Policy Research Centre.
QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh says, “In less than two weeks, income support payments like JobSeeker and JobKeeper will be cut by at least $300 per fortnight, and the eviction moratorium for renters will end. Our organisations are bracing for this impact.
“Community organisations will have to step up to cushion the blow both the federal and Queensland governments will be inflicting on some of Queensland’s most vulnerable.
“Community services are more important than ever during the current health and economic crisis.
“The community services sector provides support when people need it the most – whether they’re facing homelessness, dealing with mental health issues or fleeing domestic violence,” says Ms McVeigh.
“The ACSS shows that our sector rapidly adapted to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19, but it is very concerning that so many services were unable to meet demand.
“Community sector workers are clear that the additional COVID supplement to income support payments is making a big difference to people’s ability to meet basic needs.
“Our services are deeply concerned about what these cuts will mean for people and the demand it will place on our sector,” Ms McVeigh says.
Findings for Queensland’s community organisations include:
- Demand increased for most services: 54 per cent of organisations found the overall level of demand for services increased during COVID-19, while 23 per cent said demand stayed the same and a further 23 per cent said demand decreased.
- Increasing income support has had a positive impact on service clients: 82 per cent of organisations reported that the COVID supplement had a positive impact on the clients and communities they serve.
- The needs of clients became significantly more complex: 70 per cent of organisations said complexity of need increased during COVID-19, with just 5 per cent of organisations reporting a decrease in complexity.
- Organisations have seen many more clients than usual: 50 per cent of organisations reported an increase in clients their services were supporting, with just 21 per cent reporting a decrease in the number of clients.
- There has been a marked shift in the way services are delivered: 58 per cent of organisations shifted most or all of their services from face-to-face delivery to other modes of delivery (e.g. telephone or online).
- Less than one in five organisations have been able to meet demand: 18 per cent of services could meet demand during COVID-19, with 53 per cent usually being able, 19 per cent sometimes able, 8 rarely able, and 2 per cent never able to meet demand.
- Making childcare free during lockdown had a positive impact: 87 per cent of organisations reported that the temporary move to free childcare had a positive impact on the clients and communities they serve.
- Financial position of organisations: 38 per cent of reported that their organisation’s overall financial position worsened or significantly worsened as a result of COVID-19, with 32 per reporting it stayed the same and 24 per cent reporting it improved.
- JobKeeper: 54 per cent of organisations applied for JobKeeper
- Staffing levels: 56 per cent of services maintained their staffing levels during COVID-19, with 24 per cent of services having to let go of staff, and 14 per cent of services increasing their staffing levels.
- Government support for the sector: 52 per cent of organisations reported that the state government supported them by increasing funding flexibility (e.g. allowing them to rollover or repurpose funds).