Calling for an immediate NSW Government funding increase
ACWA continues to lend our voice to advocacy efforts, led by NCOSS, for increased funding for the community services sector of at least 2%.
While the NSW Government has agreed to provide DCJ-funded community organisations, in general circumstances, the 1.75% wage indexation recently determined by the Fair Work Commission, what needs to be further canvassed with the Department is whether there might be circumstances that constitute an exception to this commitment
It is also important to note that this 1.75% cash injection is also only an interim measure applying to wages until the State Budget is announced in late 2020, which will determine the indexation rate for the sector going forward.
ACWA is continuing to liaise with NCOSS regarding these ongoing efforts to secure funding arrangements for NGOs that adequately cover the rising costs of service provision and mandated wage increases, and guarantee the continuation of Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) supplementation payments. In this regard, you can read a copy of the letter sent to the Department of Communities and Justice Secretary, Michael Coutts-Trotter, on these issues. ACWA will keep you apprised of developments as they come to hand.
In the meantime, ACWA is encouraging our members to help support the cause by taking these matters up with your local representatives. In order to assist, NCOSS has developed a letter template, as well as a fact sheet and case studies that outline the impact of inadequate indexation on local services. You will find all these resources on the NCOSS campaign webpage.
ACWA’s response to proposed fee increases to Community sector degree qualifications
ACWA has been asked by the Department of Communities and Justice to provide input into its response to a Briefing Note, prepared by the NSW Australian Services Union (ASU), regarding the impact on the sector of proposed fee hikes to Social Work and related degrees under the Commonwealth Government’s planned university reforms. Please see below the background information and recommendations developed by the ASU, together with ACWA’s response that community services degrees be exempt from these planned fee increases.
- The Commonwealth Government’s proposed university fee increases will see the fees for Social Work and related degrees (Human Services, Social Sciences, Youth Work, Community Welfare, Behavioural Science, Psychology) increase by 113%. The degree currently costs less than $30,000 and will increase to $58,000 (for four years).
- The Commonwealth Government’s rationale for the new fee structure is that it will lower student contributions in study areas where there is a strong demand for jobs and increase them in areas with less demand.
- However, Social Work and related degrees form part of the broader Health and Social Assistance industry that the Commonwealth Government’s own discussion paper says is the fastest growing jobs market. The Commonwealth Government appears to have ignored the “Social Assistance” aspect of this industry and only focused on lowering the fees of Health-related courses.
- The Commonwealth Government’s own Job Outlook website lists Social Work as an area of strong future growth. The number of people working as social workers has grown very strongly over the past 5 years and is expected to grow to 35,500 by 2023.
The ABS and other sources list Health and Social Assistance as the fastest growing employment sector in the economy. This includes social workers, psychologists, nurses etc.
- In addition to increasing the fees by 113% for Social Work and related degrees, the Commonwealth Government is proposing to decrease the Government contribution meaning that students will pay more and universities will receive overall less funding for these “Social Assistance” degrees. This could threaten the viability of Social Work schools and degree programs at institutions across NSW.
The importance of Social Work and related degrees for the community services sector in NSW:
- The social and community services sector includes Aboriginal and migrant services, disability services, child protection, youth and family services, domestic violence and sexual assault support services etc.
- This sector is growing and will be vital to supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our community in the COVID recovery and as we enter a recession. The sector relies on a pipeline of Social Work and related degree graduates to fill critical roles in its workforce.
- The Australian College of Community and Disability Practitioners (ACCDP) surveyed the community sector workforce in NSW in 2017 on skills and qualifications. That survey found that across the entire sector, including NDIS, over 35% of workers had a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification. ACCDP surveyed over 200 employers in the community sector, and over 70% of employers listed a bachelor’s degree as an important qualification in their consideration of suitable candidates for positions.
- The Commonwealth Government’s proposed fee increases in Social Work and related fields will further exacerbate the workforce shortages – in both recruitment and retention – that exist in this critical sector in NSW. It will disproportionately impact women who work in this sector, creating barriers for both entry and career advancement.
- The Commonwealth Government’s proposed fee increases for these degrees also overlooks recent NSW Government initiatives that have set or recommended minimum degree standards for employment in the social assistance sector.
- The ASU recommends that the NSW Government and its departments advocate to your Commonwealth counterparts that Social Work and all related community service degrees (Social Science, Social Welfare, Youth Work, Psychology etc.) be exempt from any fee increase, and rather should access the fee reductions that Health and Education degrees will be receiving.
- That there should be no net loss per student to Social Work schools so that there is ongoing investment by Universities in NSW these critical study areas of employment
ACWA supports the ASU’s position on this issue, and has provided the following response:
ACWA is in full support of the ASU position in regard to the potential negative impacts of changes to university fee structures for social work and related degrees.
ACWA further notes that some evidence-based programs funded by DCJ. and delivered by ACWA members, such as MST-CAN and FFT-CW, require these qualifications as mandatory for their practitioners. This reflects an increasing trend of relevant university qualifications being required in the community services sector and even now this does not always match a return on investment analysis, but it is especially the case if the cost of these degrees is substantially increased. A reduction in the number of appropriately qualified graduates would be extremely detrimental to the sector and those it serves.
Pregnancy warning labels on alcoholic beverages
ACWA has welcomed the recent decision by the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation to introduce an effective pregnancy health warning on alcohol products.
ACWA was among 4000 community leaders and advocates who endorsed an open letter calling for reform in this area. Our national peak, CAFWAA, also played an active advocacy role in this national campaign by writing letters to all relevant Ministers highlighting the need for new labelling standards.
You can read a copy of the media release issued by the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education in response to the decision, together with the Foundation's 'thank you' message to supporters of this important advocacy campaign.