Member for Barwon, Roy Butler, was in Broken Hill this week meeting with community groups and we also spoke with the MP about his recently introduced private members statement into the NSW parliament around non-government community groups and not for profit organisations and the continued centralisation of government services and the effect that has on smaller regional and remote communities.
“I worked across Western NSW for 17 years with three different agencies,”Mr Butler said, “and in that time what I saw was the centralisation of services back into major regional hubs like Dubbo, Tamworth and Griffiths.
“Your smaller towns used to have their own services, they had their own offices, their own caseworkers for human services, much of that was stripped out and moved into the larger regional centres.
“What that has done, well it’s done a couple of things, the quality of service the people get in those towns, in my opinion, is nowhere near as good because the person who is travelling three hours to a town to deliver a service doesn’t understand the town, not like someone that lives there.
“They don’t know that you can’t refer that person to that service because the families have had a falling out or something like that, because they just won’t show up.
“Having that local context is one thing, but what it has also done is created a whole lot of non-government services that have essentially filled the gaps that have been left by government that have pulled out.
“Those non-government services do a fantastic job and I’m not trying to take away from that and they are very important in those communities, I don’t think government is even aware of the value that they add.
“There has been a real trend over the last 10 or 20 years away from recurrent funding, so where you say to somebody, you’re a service you’re a necessary service we’re going to give you funding on an ongoing basis.
“That might change with a change of government, but you know you are locked in for a period of time and as long as you’re satisfying what you have set out to do and agreed to do you’re probably going to stay funded for as long as you’re there.
“What has happened more recently is that we have moved towards a grant model of funding where people have to reapply, maybe once a year or every two or three years to get grant money to continue doing what they do.
“What that creates is a level of instability in staffing because your staff need to pay a mortgage, or they need to pay rent you get towards the end of a funding period the staff go well there is no guarantee of a job so I’m going to go and find myself job where I know I’m going to get paid.
“That creates churning staff and you lose a lot of corporate knowledge and retained memory for what has happened they arrived at different decisions, so that is a negative thing from my perspective,” Mr butler said.
Some other negatives to this type of funding are the time and human resources that goes into the grant application process coupled with a period of uncertainty, which could take several months, waiting for the grant approvals.
In the most extreme cases a loss of grant funding could mean that the organisation will not be able to continue providing the services, representing a further loss to the community.
Mr Butler believes that the majority of government funding should be recurrent, to fund every day operational costs.
“If they want to run a particular program and they want to run that over one, two, three years that could be a grant, but to run their base operations there should be recurrent funding.
“There needs to be a guarantee that the bulk of their funding is guaranteed, but things that they want to do in addition, new things they want to do where they put a grant in and then potentially, they could say, well we want to make this a part of our business as usual and that could then become part of recurrent funding,” Mr Butler said.