Charities to get more say over how they spend funds
COMMUNITY organisations tasked with tackling social disadvantage will be given unprecedented new powers through cuts to red tape and more funding for frontline services, under reforms ordered by Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews.

The minister has asked his department for radical changes to its approach to funding and demanded that charities and organisations that receive government money to run programs be given much more control.

The minister's office confirmed new agreements starting mid next year would be altered significantly, with millions of dollars of funding to be affected.

The keys to the new approach will be less onerous reporting requirements and the ability of organisations that apply for money to use it without having to go through bureaucratic hurdles.

The government believes this will allow organisations to slash the number of finance and administration staff they must employ and increase frontline staff.

At the instigation of Prime Minister David Cameron, the Conservatives in Britain embraced the concept of the Big Society: the idea that government should step back to allow charity more room to help the needy.

Mr Andrews is embarking on a different version of that concept. A spokesman for the minister said the government had already instructed the changes be made.

"The government is committed to easing the administrative burden on civil society," the spokesman said. "Labor did nothing to help the sector; in fact they did the opposite and created a new regulator. We remain committed to scrapping the ACNC (Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission)".

Coalition frontbenchers, including Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, held meetings with the Big Society's philosophical architect, Phillip Blond, during his Australian visit last year.

The minister has also asked his department to re-establish a community business partnership to advise government on encouraging a culture of philanthropy in an effort to create alternative sources of funding to invest in social needs. The partnership will encourage prominent Australians to work together for the benefit of the community.

Mr Andrews has told the welfare sector it has nothing to fear from the Coalition's new approach. Instead he has told his department the new approach will recognise and support the work of the "institutions of civil society".

Mission Australia has been pushing the Big Society approach used in Britain, which is enlisting charities to take over the delivery of government services.

A senior government source said Australia could no longer afford to continue with a "one-size-fits-all" approach to social services and the new system would give greater autonomy to organisations outside government.

Under the new system, not-for-profit organisations would be allowed to work with local communities to find innovative solutions to issues of poverty.

They would also be asked to develop more flexible funding systems.

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24 Feb 13, Pidyon Shvuyim; Redeeming Captives

Sara**, a young Jewish American lady, travelled to Queensland, met up with a gentile, and a baby girl was born.

Sara moved to Melbourne, and had to battle with her ex-partner for custody of her daughter. Unfortunately, as she is not an Australian citizen, she was not entitled to government benefits or assistance.

Sara developed psychological issues, and was not able to pay the rent. With nowhere else in Melbourne to turn to, Sara approached the Melbourne Jewish Community Charity Fund (MJCF).

Obviously MJCF helped. With MJCF assistance Sara was able to secure permanent residence, get well and successfully challenge for the custody of her daughter.

The following is an extract from an email received by MJCF from the Women's Community Services organisation that was looking out for Sara:

"I thought you might like to know that Sara** was granted full custody of her daughter yesterday, through the children's court.

Your kindness and generosity throughout this stressful time for Sara was more beneficial than you could know. It meant Sara could focus her energy and efforts on getting her daughter back - she was vindicated by the psychiatrists and psychologists DHS made her attend, who all said that keeping the child from the mother, in this instance, was the wrong decision.

Without your financial assistance Sara would have remained homeless and this alone would have been cause enough for DHS to continue denying Sara her daughter.

From Sara and myself, I would like to say a very big thank you. Your gift made an enormous difference."
18 Dec 12, Homeless women, young people most in need

Homelessness is the worst case of the home affordability crisis and is not helped by the Australian government's preference for spending on foreign aid and asylum seekers....

Almost 230,000 Australians used a homeless service in the past year and 99,000 of those were children or young people under 24, a report has found. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found an average of 19,000 people slept in a government-supported accommodation each night during the 2011-12 financial year.... Brendan O'Connor says the report shows that the Government's investment is working.... He said the Government was negotiating an agreement with the states about homeless aid, and that the corporate and not-for-profit sectors would also play a part.
27 Nov 12, Hard-up mothers told to try charities

Patricia Karvelus reports in The Australian about planned cuts to CENTRELINK payments to single mothers

CENTRELINK officers are advising single mothers who say they will not be able to cope when they lose welfare money under a budget savings initiative that begins in January to contact charities for help.

The government has come under fire, including from some Labor backbenchers, after passing laws to move single parents on to Newstart payments when their youngest child turns eight.

The changes will save the government $728 million over four years and will cost single parents up to $223 a fortnight.

Welfare organisations have told The Australian they have received many reports of single mothers being told they should go to charities such as St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army if they find it too hard over January.

Single mothers have been telling Centrelink they will default on their rent and mortgages and will not be able to pay bills or afford groceries.
30 Apr 12, MyCause includes MJCF to its list of sponsored Jewish charitable funds

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Surge in demand for help with back-to-school costs
Jan 01, 12, WELFARE groups are expecting record demand for help this month as families struggle with basic back-to-school costs, including school uniforms and shoes. The charities cite rising living, and particularly utility, expenses and the increasing cost of school clothing and equipment as the key reasons for the surge in demand. David Schmidt, chief executive of State Schools' Relief, a charity that assists families with school clothes, told The Sunday Age there was a 26 per cent increase in requests for assistance last financial year, and he expected that trend to continue.

''We have already received record applications for the start of the school year,'' Mr Schmidt said. Requests for help from State Schools' Relief are made through school principals, and last financial year the fund assisted more than 10,600 Victorian students. All uniforms and shoes are new, and Mr Schmidt said that increased demand would mean that the fund may have to increase the co-payment that in some cases is required from parents. For example, if a school jumper costs $80, the fund might contribute $50 towards it, leaving $30 for the parents to pay.
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