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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1360

Senator ELSTOB —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. It concerns Commonwealth funding of private welfare organisations. Is the Government satisfied with the present methods of funding welfare organisations and the programs and management accountability of groups funded? Does the Minister foresee more rigid methods of accountability being introduced? To what extent does the Department of Social Security, when allocating funding, co- ordinate the range and balance of services to be provided by funded groups?

Senator GRIMES —I think I can say that in general the Government is satisfied with the present method of funding welfare organisations, particularly in the case of children's services and aged persons' accommodation and in the area of handicapped people. We have got away as much as possible or are in the process of getting away from relying almost entirely on the submission model and we are looking at a planning model of distribution of funds. In other words, we are looking at where services are needed and where regions or districts are short of services rather than relying almost entirely on submissions which come from those areas.

Secondly, as to the methods of accountability, in general one cannot be absolutely satisfied with the accountability for the many millions of dollars by the many hundreds of thousands of organisations which are funded by the Federal Government. Every now and again, no matter which Government is in power, organisations will not satisfy the accountability provisions that we have. We should bear in mind also that in some cases organisations, through lack of experience, lack of knowledge and sometimes lack of care, do not handle public funds as well as they could. To this purpose we have established in this year's Budget an appropriation whereby we will set up a body which will assist organisations receiving Commonwealth funds to be more efficient managers of those funds and of the functions which they perform.

Finally, because we are moving more towards a planning model, one of the things that we take into account before allocating public funds is the existence of services already provided by other voluntary organisations, by State governments and, indeed, by Commonwealth bodies in the various districts to ensure as much as possible that there is no duplication and that we are fulfilling the needs that are there. I would like to see as much as possible the priorities for funding and for establishing these community services in various districts to be the decision of the local communities themselves, taking into account national standards and national parameters. I believe we can best develop a more comprehensive system of community services-although we will more and more take into account the range of services present and, therefore, indirectly co- ordinate the services that are available-by co-operation with State governments, local governments and non-government organisations rather than by edicts from Canberra.