Volunteering integral to achieving Federal Budget priorities
The Federal Budget has allocated significant and welcome new funding to aged care provision, mental health services and building community resilience, with each of these relying on the contribution of volunteers. In taking forward these reform agendas, the role of volunteers needs to be explicitly recognised with dedicated investment ensuring volunteering is safe and sustainable into the future.
Volunteering Australia asked the Australian Government to invest in volunteering to ensure it can support the nation’s social and economic recovery. This included investing in a Reinvigorating Volunteering Action Plan to bring back volunteers and to support services and programs that rely on a volunteer workforce. We again call on the Australian Government to partner with the volunteering sector to develop and implement a package of measures to address the impact of COVID-19 and the longer-term challenges that the sector has been facing.
Even with the new funding, the Federal Government’s reform agendas on aged care, mental health and community resilience will stall without investment in volunteers:
- Over 80 per cent of residential facilities and half of home support programs engage the services of volunteers
- Mental health services, such as Lifeline, rely heavily on a volunteer workforce
- Volunteering builds community resilience, preparing people to connect and work together in advance of disasters and emergencies.
Volunteering Australia welcomes the additional one-off funding of $6.6 million for the Volunteer Management Activity which will support the transition to the new Volunteer Management Activity program and the investment of $3.4 million towards improving volunteer management IT infrastructure.
In January, Volunteering Australia submitted its Pre-Budget Submission to guide the development of the 2021-22 Australian Government Budget. The Pre-Budget Submission outlines key priorities and ways to support and enhance volunteering, developed in collaboration with the State and Territory volunteering peak bodies and the wider volunteering sector.
The 2021 Federal Budget should invest in:
- A Reinvigorating Volunteering Action Plan. The plan would enable volunteers to reengage safely, support the adaptation of volunteer programs, and facilitate the recruitment of new volunteers to ensure services and programs can continue.
- A National Strategy on Volunteering. Investment in developing a strategic and whole of government approach in volunteering will address the decline in volunteering and enable key government-funded services to be sustainable.
- A National Youth Volunteering Initiative. 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 approach to volunteer engagement in emergencies. As the frequency and scale of emergencies in Australia increases, a nationally co-ordinated approach will help to mobilise volunteers rapidly, safely, and effectively.
- Investment in the Aged Care volunteer workforce. Sector Support and Development funding within the Commonwealth Home Support Program should be extended nationally, and investment allocated to fund the Aged Care Royal Commission’s volunteer recommendations.