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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 April 2021) . . Page.. 1012 ..

It is in that vein that I start by congratulating CSD on their resilience and their initiative responses to the serious social and cultural issues that the pandemic has brought in the last 12 months. The breadth and interceptions of the work undertaken by the Community Services Directorate—including on family safety, young people, women, domestic and family violence, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans and housing—was highlighted over these last 12 months. Supporting the community sector to provide support for Canberrans is a vital function of the directorate and it was particularly important throughout this financial year as our community rebuilds.

The ACT Greens understand that the community sector in the ACT provides an invaluable service to members of our community, particularly those doing it toughest. The ACT population is growing, and demand for community sector essential services is continually stretched through that growth. Yet funding levels remain almost static. Many of these organisations have existed on baseline funding that has not increased commensurate with population growth and increased demand. As the pandemic progresses, we will all feel the impacts on many levels, and it is clear that we cannot go back to pre-COVID-19 funding levels.

We know that more people are reaching out for support who have not reached out before. The pressure on community sector organisations and service providers is increasing by the day, with some services experiencing double or even triple previous demand levels. Short-term funding agreements and one-off grants create uncertainty and pressure for community service providers who need to just get on with delivering those services instead of worrying about whether they can continue to deliver their programs and keep staff.

The ACT Greens know that the ACT government must move forward toward long-term funding agreements to build trust and provide security of staffing and service provision for the community sector. Funding should be indexed to match population growth, able to meet demand, while ensuring that community sector workers can be paid above award wages without the need to do unpaid overtime to meet their workload and have security of employment. These are all issues which future budgets will need to address.

I take the opportunity to highlight one of the programs that has made a significant difference to the safety and wellbeing of our community since its establishment in 2019—the Safe and Connected Youth project. This project aims to provide temporary accommodation, respite, and support to young people at risk of homelessness and their families by reducing family conflict. This evidence-based approach has been led and championed by several key community organisations, including the Youth Coalition of the ACT, Northside and Woden community services, the Conflict Resolution Service and Marymead. Now managed by the Conflict Resolution Service, this project was funded a modest sum of $470,000 to continue the therapeutic case work while the project is being evaluated.

Vital to ending youth homelessness is post-trauma support for young people who have experienced periods of homelessness to prevent them from becoming homeless again.

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