A lack of certainty, including about funding, is a key problem affecting the community sector’s ability to deliver crucial services, new research has revealed.

The research, the first of its kind in the sector, is detailed in a report released today by UNSW's Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) and the Council of Social Service, NSW (NCOSS). The research was made possible with funding from the Department of Family and Community Services.

The research, conducted by SPRC's Dr Natasha Cortis and Dr Megan Blaxland looks at the characteristics of community services and the trends in their experiences working within the sector and with government.

Dr Cortis said, “This is the best data we have about how organisations are faring in the current environment. There has been anecdotal evidence of many of the trends revealed but now we have the hard data to back it up.

“We will be conducting this research again next year to deliver an annual snap shot of the sector, so this report provides a bench mark for tracking the state of the community sector over time.”

NCOSS CEO Alison Peters said the data would help identify what the sector needs to function most effectively into the future and what the sector and government can do to support that. 

“We’ve got some great news from the research which shows respondents felt their relationship with government had improved in the last five years. However there are some clear areas for improvement.

“Only 20% of respondents felt funding models available encouraged flexible service delivery and only 16% felt funding models were sustainable all or most of the time. Only 34% felt they knew enough in advance whether funding would be renewed.”

NCOSS CEO Alison Peters said a lack of sustainable funding often left services without the ability to develop middle-to-long term strategies which allow more effective use of resources and better services overall.  

“NSW relies on the community sector to deliver crucial services so we should make sure they are in a position to make the best use of the funding available. This means allowing for planning into the future.

“No business could function effectively without long term financial certainty and community services are no different.

“The sector must now work closely with government to consolidate where things are going well and find solutions where improvement is needed.”

Read the full report: The state of the community service sector in New South Wales 2014

Media Contact:  Fran Strachan, UNSW Media Office, 9385 8732, 0429 416 070