The Canberra Goulburn council of the St Vincent de Paul Society has been blindsided by a massive drop in federal emergency funding. Source: RiotACT.
Previous funding of $335,000 for crisis assistance on food, rent and electricity across the region – comprising the ACT and most of southeastern NSW– will be slashed by 25 per cent from 2020.
Warwick Fulton, president of Vinnies’ Canberra Goulburn council, said the defunding had come as a major shock to the organisation, which is fully compliant with all funding requirements. “It came completely out of the blue and our CEO thought there must be a mistake,” he said.
“We have been doing this for 20 years and never had a problem before, so we asked what had gone wrong. But all we’ve received from Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Families and Social Services, is a response saying there’s no mistake and the cuts will go ahead. No reasons or explanations were given.”
The charity is now seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Fletcher for clarification.
The cuts come on the back of a year in which Vinnies has already reached deep into its pockets and those of its donors to support Tathra bushfire victims and provide drought relief to rural areas in crisis.
Mr Fulton said that the funding is generally used for people in desperate straits who cannot pay their rent or power bills. About 60 per cent will also need food for their families.
The Department of Social Services insists that there have been no cuts to emergency relief.
Instead, the Department sought to characterise the funding change as part of “an open and competitive process designed to maximise the quality of services available for vulnerable Australians”, resulting in emergency relief funding of $254,776 for Vinnies with an additional $81,000 in one-off transition funds for 2019. Previously, the charity had received $335,000 per annum.
The Department of Social Services provided the following statement to CathNews.
“The St Vincent De Paul Society and its State and Territory affiliates will receive $5,558,945 nationally. This is an increase in overall annual funding of $646,056, over four and a half years.
“There have been no cuts to Emergency Relief funding in the ACT and Capital Region. Full funding has been maintained for the next 4.5 years at $847,443 per year.
“Following an open and competitive process designed to maximise the quality of services available for vulnerable Australians, seven organisations including the Society of St. Vincent De Paul Pty Ltd, were selected to provide emergency relief services in the ACT and Capital Region over the next 4.5 years, from 1 January 2019.
“The Society of St Vincent De Paul (Canberra-Goulburn) will receive $253,776 per year (excluding GST) to provide Commonwealth Emergency Relief services from 1 January 2019 (in Capital Region, Australian Capital Territory, Central West, Riverina) and a further $81,957 for 12 months from 1 January 2019 for transition funding.
“The Department wrote to Society of St Vincent De Paul (Canberra-Goulburn) on 15 November 2018 to notify them of the outcome of their Emergency Relief funding application.”
Vinnies Canberra-Goulburn’s federal funding cut before Christmas (Canberra Times)