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The NSW social services sector, which employs more than 230,000 people, and provides care to more than 1 million people per year, has reached a crossroads according to an alarming new report.
The report from Equity Economics, commissioned by NCOSS and other NSW peak bodies with sponsorship from HESTA, identifies the job creation potential of the sector, with another 62,000 employees needed by 2030 to cater to increased demand.
It highlights that an investment of one billion dollars will yield a return of $10 billion in additional jobs and through the increased participation in the labour market of people currently providing informal care.
While the report “The NSW Social Sector: Capitalising on the potential for growth” underlines the opportunities arising from investing in the sector, it points to rising demand and unmet need as disturbing trends impacting the workforce, service quality and outcomes, and future capability if left unaddressed.
According to the report, in 2019/20:
Concerningly, workforce shortages are already emerging, with vacancies in key occupations including care and welfare workers increasing by over 260 per cent in regional NSW over the past five years.
Additionally, low wages, insecure work and lack of career paths for the largely female workforce, combined with a stressful work environment, are impacting wellbeing and the ability to attract and retain staff.
NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said the report was a defining moment for the social services sector in NSW.
“This report outlines the right path for the NSW social services sector to grow in response to demand and contribute to our state’s economic recovery at a time when we have high unemployment and a need to create jobs,” Ms Quilty said.
“In a nutshell, the NSW Government can invest and obtain a ten-fold multiplier in terms of jobs and productive capacity, or not invest and risk a sub-standard service system for the growing population who will require support into the future.
“We need to reimagine the social services sector and see it for what it really is: a vital industry that is crucial to our economic prosperity and social wellbeing.
“Governments regularly stand with other industries to champion their contribution and support their development through industry plans, roadmaps and investment, we now need our elected leaders to champion the social services sector and the essential role that it plays.”
Homelessness NSW CEO, Katherine McKernan said: “Our sector does the heavy lifting across NSW – ensuring the most vulnerable are supported, helping people get back on their feet, contributing to both economic and social wellbeing.
“We are calling on the NSW Government to reform the planning and funding mechanism for the social services sector so that it takes a population-based approach that reflects underlying demand.”
DVNSW CEO, Delia Donovan said: “Without decent and considered investment into the social services sector we will see more vulnerable people slip through the net, worsening social and economic outcomes.
“The impacts on the workforce’s mental health are significant as it is. They simply cannot keep up at this pace.
“We can’t keep shifting service delivery from the public service onto NGOs, not provide sufficient resources and then expect positive outcomes for all those in need.”
Ms Quilty said: “The outcomes of under-resourcing and systemic neglect were clear to see in the devastating findings of the Aged Care Royal Commission and continue to play out in the Disability Royal Commission. Sticking with ‘business-as-usual’ means we will see further such royal commissions unless we act now.
To seize these opportunities and prevent a potentially catastrophic failure of care, the report recommends that:
Other key findings of the report include:
Media contact: Nick Trainor 0407 078 138 (NCOSS)
August 31, 2021
The COVID-19 situation continues to unfold in Western NSW, across largely Aboriginal populations. Aboriginal people are identified as a clearly vulnerable community to COVID 19. Such vulnerability stems from chronic health conditions experience by Aboriginal people and under-resourced health services in regional and remote NSW.