A NSW Labor government would deliver more job security and funding certainty for the community services sector, by introducing minimum five-year funding for key service providers.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns announced the election policy on Thursday, saying it would benefit the more than 7800 non-government organisations that operate in the sector as well as the 240,000 workers they employ and the one million people they support.
The essential frontline workers - predominantly women - were vital in supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the community, he said.
Community sector workers helped people throughout the pandemic, bushfires, droughts and floods, as well as the homeless and those experiencing domestic violence and children needing protection.
Currently, one in four community service workers is employed on short-term contracts, according to a NSW Council of Social Services report.
Mr Minns said organisations in the sector were often forced to reapply for their funding every 12, six or even three months and as a result, one in three organisations reported difficulties recruiting and retaining staff.
"Longer term funding will mean better services for frontline organisations because it's more time spent helping people and less time bogged down in paperwork to get funding," he said.
"This is a predominately female workforce, and ensuring certainty will also provide economic security for those employed in this sector," Mr Minns said.
Organisations were often forced to compete, rather than collaborate, which leads to a race to the bottom on wages and conditions in a sector comprised of predominantly women, he said.
Relationships Australia welcomed the move, saying it would ensure more money could be spent on frontline counselling and anti-violence services.
"The social services sector is crippled by short-term, panic-style funding, which is why we have been advocating for longer-term contracts," Relationships Australia NSW CEO, Elisabeth Shaw said.
"Short-term tenders in our world just don't reflect reality.
"The constant, often annual cycle of tendering and responding between government and the social services sector diverts resources from the frontline to the back office," she said.
Long term contracts would mean savings for the sector, with less time spent writing tenders and less time spent assessing them.
"I'm heartened to see the opposition announce solid plans to resolve this endemic issue should they win government in March 2023. I hope we now see the coalition step up to the plate."
The Australian Services Union mean more job security for the thousands of workers in the community sector.
"Adopting longer-term funding will create secure jobs in the female dominated industry to ultimately improve support for clients who depend on them," NSW & ACT secretary Angus McFarland said.
Australian Associated Press
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