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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 16 September 2021) . . Page.. 2641 ..

ACT Health and Community Services directorates have written to all funded non-government providers offering a flexible approach to organisations adversely affected by COVID-19. Organisations experiencing significant impacts on capacity or services that cannot be delivered have been encouraged to implement alternative modes of service delivery to meet the needs of the people they support. Routine reporting requirements have been deferred to reduce their administrative burden during this period, and we have committed to continue payments to contracted organisations during the lockdown period even where outputs are unable to be met.

The ACT government has established regular communication channels to keep our community partners informed about the COVID-19 response as the pandemic progresses. The Minister for Health has hosted two interactive webinars to date with ACT Health and Community Services Directorate funded NGOs, which I have also attended. I am pleased to report that the first webinar was held on 12 August 2021, the day on which the ACT lockdown was announced. A third webinar is scheduled for 22 September 2021. The webinars have been important for sharing information, helping to maintain relationships and hearing from community organisations about any new or emerging issues of concern.

I have also held online meetings for the disability sector, to better understand community concerns and answer questions as we continue to manage positive cases among people with disability and disability care workers. Being able to provide open and honest information to the community, and to the NGOs who work with those most at risk in our community, is very important to me.

From 17 August 2021, the COVID-19 NGO Working Group was re-established to address key issues and concerns for NGO partners during the COVID-19 response. The group meets twice-weekly and includes representatives of ACT Council of Social Services, Carers ACT, Health Care Consumers Association, Families ACT, and the ACT Health and Community Services directorates.

Together, the ACT Health and Community Services directorates manage approximately $150 million in recurrent annual funding for services delivered by non-government partners. This includes over 250 services delivered by more than 120 organisations.

During the ACT’s first lockdown in 2020, the ACT government allocated $7 million to assist NGOs to support people in our community experiencing disadvantage. Building on this, we have announced additional funding in recent weeks to extend a range of mental health and community supports delivered by community partners during the current lockdown period, and I will have more to say on this in the coming days.

As is clear from this data, the ACT government has a strong and enduring relationship with the local community sector and looks forward to building on that in the coming years. It is crucial that the relationship remains strong, that we continuously improve how we work together, and that the NGO sector is supported to remain ready to help our community. This is the foundation of a strong social compact.

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