Media Releases

ComVoices calls for pause on Government demand for personal information

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From July 2017 Community Organisations provider contracts with Government are to include the requirement to gather and share identifiable data about clients accessing services.

ComVoices Chair, Brenda Pilott says: “We think that the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) is on the wrong track and our members are worried that the MInistry is pressing ahead with this work when so many issues are unresolved.

“We have written to the Prime Minister and other Ministers asking them to stop the current work, and work with community organisations to develop an information system that delivers the big picture information being sought, respects individual privacy and is sustainable for providers who will have to gather the information.”

A letter and a proposal suggesting a different way forward has been sent to Ministers.

View the full document here

 

The holes are getting bigger in the safety net provided by the Community Sector

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View the full document here

“The second ComVoices State of the Sector Survey of the Community Sector shows that stresses on our organisations are increasing” says Scott Miller, Chair of ComVoices.

“We are facing greater demand for our services, are dealing with greater complexity with less funding from government, and have a greater reliance on alternative funding sources to support the delivery of services.

“The crisis in the sector is worsening and despite discussions with government and its agencies no one appears to be listening” he says.

Tess Casey, convenor of the Survey Working Group, says that the issues of cost, complexity and compliance were repeatedly highlighted in the survey.

“The survey shows that the financial pressures on our organisations are huge. Part of the issue is that most Government agencies do not pay the full cost of the services they contract from community organisations”  says Ms Casey.  “As well, many service delivery groups have had no dollar increases in contracts for the same or larger output  targets for between six and ten years.

Of the over 280 organisations that responded to the survey, six are facing closure, 42% are worried about their financial viability and almost half are using their reserves to help fund their service delivery.

Compounding this is the increasing complexity of needs in the clients and communities that organisations are working with.

“Government compliance requirements have also increased.   The organisations that responded to the survey mentioned having to work with new and more complex financial reporting regulations, more frequent external reporting and outcome reporting requirements, new data collection requirements, and new health and safety regulations.  Regrettably, there are no funding increases to cover this” says Ms Casey.

Community organisations said that they are coping by constantly restructuring, reducing staff hours, not increasing staff wages and/or increasingly relying on volunteers.

“This is not a sustainable way for organisations to operate,” Mr Miller says. “The Community sector underpins much of the social service delivery to New Zealand communities, and the government relies on us to be there as the safety net for families and communities.  If government really wants the sector to continue to do this work then it must urgently address the issues of “cost, complexity and compliance”.

 

Sticking-Plaster Solution to a Problem with Charities Legislation

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MEDIA RELEASE, issued Friday 3 July 2015.

Government has decided on changes to the tax regime instead of dealing with the real issue, which is a problem with the Charities Act.

The announcement that special tax provisions for charitable providers of community housing will be put through Parliament is like putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg and hoping it will go away, says Dave Henderson, Chair of the ComVoices group of community organisations and external relations manager for Hui E! Community Aotearoa.

“It’s ironic that it was National Party MPs who first said there would be problems with the Charities Act, when it was put through Parliament more than 10 years ago”, said Mr Henderson. “Perhaps they don’t remember, but they extracted a promise from the then Labour Government that the Act would be reviewed after 5 years. Under various Ministers since then the review has been postponed, rescheduled, postponed again and then cancelled.”

Now we have an acknowledgement from Ministers that some community housing providers, who have been providing valuable services for years in support of vulnerable people in our communities, within the Charities Act, may lose their charitable status because of the way that Act is being interpreted.

This government has spent large amounts of taxpayer funds on fighting charities in court about the interpretation of the Act, and now a whole lot more is being spent on public servants’ and lawyers’ time, and on Parliament’s time, to create a fix for a situation that should have been addressed 5 years ago.

There is a continuing strong call from across the charitable sector for the Charities Act to be reviewed, but now we have to ask whether this sticking plaster approach is going to be used for Sports, for Health, Disability, etc. Does the government plan to address each sector’s problem with its own special separate piece of  legislation? Why not address the real problem?

“There are some aspects of the proposal government has come up with that are positive for families that need assistance to get into suitable housing, and the Community Housing Aotearoa network has helped create those policies” said Dave Henderson. “That’s great, but it does not solve the underlying issue for charities. Many other groups that also generate value for communities could also be affected.”

Being registered as a charity is increasingly necessary for organisations providing support services in the community, to be able to receive philanthropic funding. If government pushes these changes through there will be significant upheaval in the finances of the organisations affected. There are risks it will undermine the banking arrangements they need to be able to build the necessary houses, and will delay the help that families need.

Contact for further comments:

Dave Henderson: Chair of ComVoices, and External Relations Manager for Hui E! Community Aotearoa
Email:  dave.henderson@huie.org.nz
Mobile:   +64 (0)27 4848 165

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