The Federal Government has handed down its 2014-15 Budget, which is set to deliver cost savings of more than $36 billion.
With many areas in the firing line, the Funding Centre has collated the major changes that impact the not-for-profit sector, particularly regarding the future of grant funding.
The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has expressed disappointment that the Budget “failed to address the ongoing crisis for Australians needing legal assistance”. As the Funding Centre reported late last year, the Federal Government announced funding cuts to the Community Legal Service program of $19.6 million over four years.
“Despite strong evidence and increasing demand, this Budget has not reversed these cuts,” NACLC national convenor Michael Smith said. “These cuts will impact on Australians needing legal help when they most need it.”
The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) is disappointed that the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) has been frozen for the next three years – a move which will see more than $925 million in funding lost to local governments over the next four years.
"These grants are used to maintain a great range of infrastructure including local roads, bridges, parks, swimming pools, libraries and community halls as well as services to the young, the elderly and community groups of all kinds,” ALGA president Felicity-ann Lewis said.
“Decisions will be made at a local level about how these funds are used, and clearly some services will suffer."
A statement from Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews said the Federal Government will invest $6 million over four years to re-establish the Community Business Partnership “to promote a culture of giving and volunteering in Australia”.
However, the statement also reaffirms that the Government “will deliver on its commitment to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission, which created unnecessary and duplicative red-tape burden for a charitable and not-for-profit sector that is already highly regulated by government”.
This is despite the fact the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, which held an inquiry into the ACNC Repeal Bill and received almost 150 submissions, is yet to hand down its recommendations. The inquiry will report back on June 16.
Many peak bodies worried about the certainty of funding for services beyond June 2014 had been calling on the Federal Government to provide an interim funding agreement for 12 months. Under the Budget, many not-for-profit service providers with grant funding due to expire on or before June 30, including national and state volunteer peak bodies, are being offered funding extensions of between six and 12 months. Others may be offered five year funding.
The community radio sector was a rare winner in the Budget, with the Federal Government not acting on Commission of Audit recommendations that $17.5 million in funding for community radio and television be scrapped. Community Broadcasting Association of Australia president Adrian Basso said it meant community radio was safe, for now.
More than $500 million will be cut from Indigenous programs, by replacing more than 150 programs, grants and activities with the Federal Government's new Indigenous Advancement Strategy. More than $160 million of the cuts will come from Indigenous health programs.
The Federal Government has slashed funding for community Landcare grants in the Budget, with uncertainty surrounding how groups can apply for remaining funds. The Budget has established a new National Landcare Program - a merger of the former Landcare program, which delivered funding to grassroots community and volunteer groups, and the Caring For Our Country program.
The new program has been allocated $1 billion, but has lost almost $500 million, mostly in funding which had been earmarked for future grassroots grants.
Landcare Australia chief executive Tessa Jakszewicz said budget cuts to the National Landcare Program were disappointing, but Landcare Australia would "continue to work harder than ever to secure non-government funding for Landcare".
The Federal Government is set to save up to $240 million over four years by reforming discretionary grant programs administered by the Department of Social Services. The changes mean existing grants will be changed to “create more efficient and effective programs, which will reduce red tape for service providers and remove the duplication of funding and services”.
The nation’s peak arts organisation, the Australia Council, has had its funding cut by $7 million a year over four years – with fears of a possible reduction in arts grants. The Australia Council typically makes grants of $200 million to arts companies and artists every year. According to Crikey, the Council is likely to be forced “to make cuts within its own organisation; to cut individual and project grants which will affect small to medium arts; or do both”.
Almost $6.5 million of funding for initiatives to encourage private sector support of the arts was also included in the Budget.
A number of research programs have been cut, with the CSIRO expected to lose more than 500 jobs. Cooperative Research Centres, which fund industry led research partnerships between publicly funded researchers, business and the community, will have their funding cut by $80 million over the next four years.
The Australian Research Council, which funds basic research, will also have its funding cut by $75 million over the same period.
However, the Federal Government has announced the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund, at a cost of $20 billion. Proceeds from the new $7 GP co-payment will be invested in the fund, and once it reaches $20 billion, the profits will be spent on medical research, particularly the National Health and Medical Research Council - one of the largest grant providers in the sector.
The Federal Government has committed $1.3 billion to a new National Stronger Regions Fund, which is set to provide $200 million a year from July 2015 to community projects that create jobs and support economic growth in regional Australia.
“From mid next year, the fund will enable councils and community groups to apply for grants between $20,000 and $10 million, to meet up to half the cost of suitable community building projects,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said.
The commitment includes funds allocated to local projects by the Coalition during the election campaign, some of which were unsigned regional development grants promised by its Labor predecessors it initially said it would not honour.
The statement said almost 300 projects would be funded through the Community Development Grants Program, such as men's sheds, neighbourhood centres, sports facilities, museums and town centre revitalisations.
For full details of what's coming (and what's going) in your sector, visit the Federal Budget 2014-15 website.
State budgets are also in the process of being rolled out. To find out more, click on your state below:
Victoria - handed down on May 6
Western Australia - handed down on May 8
Northern Territory - handed down on May 13
Australian Capital Territory - to be released on June 3
Queensland - to be released on June 3
New South Wales - to be released on June 17
South Australia - to be released on June 19
Tasmania - to be released on August 28
Of course, any new grant opportunities arising from any of the Federal or State Budgets will be loaded onto the Funding Centre database as details come to hand.