Volunteering sidelined in Federal Budget
The Federal Budget has allocated no new funding to volunteering despite the devastating impact of COVID-19 restrictions. Two in three volunteers (66 per cent) stopped volunteering during the pandemic, amounting to an estimated loss of 12.2 million hours per week of volunteer work. This decline has had a profound and ongoing impact across the sector.
Volunteering Australia asked the Australian Government to support vital initiatives, as part of a Reinvigorating Volunteering Action Plan, that would safely revive volunteering. We are calling on the government to give this further serious consideration in the coming months.
Volunteering Australia asked the government to support initiatives that safely revive volunteering
As an immediate priority, VA asked the Australian Government to support vital initiatives to safely revive volunteering. For the 2020-21 Federal Budget, Volunteering Australia provided two sets of recommendations following consultation across the volunteering sector. These recommendations were included in:
Supplementary Pre-Budget Submission August 2020
The supplementary Pre-Budget Submission was made following the postponement of the Federal Budget and in the context of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on volunteers.
Pre-COVID, nearly six million Australians volunteered each year, of which adults with a disability or long-term health condition accounted for just over one-third. Those over 65 years of age, account for one-sixth of volunteers and are more likely to volunteer in welfare, community, and health settings – services vital to supporting Australia’s social and economic recovery. Many of these volunteers are not returning.
The costs of recruiting new volunteers can be prohibitive, especially for the many organisations already hit hard by COVID-19, and the capacity to adapt volunteer programs and absorb higher operating costs, due to safe workplace requirements, is limited.
Without action and investment, volunteering will not recover. This will have deep consequences for volunteers, organisations that rely on volunteers, and the individuals and communities that they support. Volunteers play significant roles in disability, health, welfare and aged care services, the sustainability of sports and the arts, environmental protection, and emergency management.
In the 2020 Federal Budget, Volunteering Australia recommends that the Australian Government invests in:
- A Reinvigorating Volunteering Action Plan – $5 million
The plan would enable volunteers to re-engage safely, support the adaptation of volunteer programs, and facilitate the recruitment of new volunteers to ensure services and programs can continue.
- A National Youth Volunteering Initiative – $10 million
At a time when paid jobs are scarce, this initiative could mitigate against poor mental health outcomes for young unemployed people and support pathways to paid employment.
- A nationally co-ordinated emergency management approach to volunteer engagement – $3 million
As the frequency and scale of emergencies in Australia increase, a nationally co-ordinated approach will help to rapidly, safely, and effectively mobilise volunteers who are vital at times of emergency.
Pre-Budget Submission December 2019
The proposed Budget Measures and Priorities in the December 2019 submission were:
- Value the volunteering contribution
- Launch an Australian Government Volunteering Statement – $30,000.
- Commission a State of Volunteering in Australia Report – $250,000.
- Launch National Volunteering Awards in 2020 – $110,000.
- Maintain the infrastructure that supports the volunteering sector
- Enhance online volunteer recruitment tools – $250,000 and $100,000 per annum.
- Maintain and further develop the Volunteering Resource Hub – $80,000 per annum.
- Restore Volunteer Grant funding allocation to 2010 levels – $21 million per annum.
- Review volunteering services that support employment pathways
- Review services and invest in pre-employment programs – reallocation of funding.
- Resource volunteering in aged care
- Expand Commonwealth Home Support Program Sector Support and Development funding to all states and territories – costs determined in accordance with the funding model.
- Continue Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) supplementation
- Continue supplementation and build additional funding into the base of affected grants – estimated at $566 million in 2021/2022.
 4159.0 – General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2014
 It should be noted that this quantum of investment does not address the wider needs of volunteer involving organisations who are financially vulnerable because of the impact of COVID-19. For example, see https://www.csi.edu.au/media/Charities_and_Covid-19_Report.pdf and https://covid.sportsfoundation.org.au/