Community Affairs Legislation Committee - May 31 2012
Senator Richard Di Natale raised concerns about the de-funding of drug and alcohol services
Senator DI NATALE: I have some questions around alcohol and drug program funding. Is that something I can direct here?
Mr Smyth: Yes.
Ms Halton: You certainly can. Whilst you are preparing to do that, and because I know that Senator Furner will be most distressed if I do not do this, I will just give you a little bit of information about the current drugs campaign. We have to have props. We did bring them, because we know that it disappoints otherwise! I do not have a big blue person to have photos taken with today, because that causes security in the building some distress. What I did bring for you are absolutely fantastic. You might know that we ran a T-shirt design competition, ‘Face Facts’ T-shirts, particularly to support the Ecstasy Face Facts campaign. What we did was go through social media channels—we're so modern, it's fantastic, with blogs and Facebook—to ask 15- to 21-year-olds to submit T-shirt designs that they felt best supported the anti-drug message, including the Ecstasy Face Facts work. This is terrific: there were 257 designs uploaded onto this website and over 4,000 members of the public used this to ‘like’. There were six winning designs in three categories that were printed and distributed at Supafest music festival as part of the festival sponsorship and they were incredibly popular. So we thought we would bring you our environmentally friendly paper bag, which has two in it, one small and one large. All I will say is that we will table this—
Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I told you Ms Halton was coming along with large T-shirts.
Ms Halton: Small and large, because I make no value judgment, Senator. What I can suggest is that you can have a little trade around the back of the table as to which one you like and which size fits. We would be happy to table a large bag over there with small bags in it.
CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Halton. We will accept that as a tabled object. Also, if there is a written report out of that program, it would be good to have that tabled with it.
Ms Halton: Yes, we will.
Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: That is the sharp end.
Ms Halton: Yes. I think that, all jokes aside, the important thing about this is actually engaging with youth in the delivery of the drugs message. If we go back to tobacco for a second, the engagement of youth on countering some of the messages around big tobacco is actually an important part of our strategy, because what you do not want is the glamorisation of either illicits or licits amongst young people. In fact, by using the same kind of marketing and messaging approaches to that cohort you actively engage with people. The fact that people have been so engaged with this campaign is really terrific. What you are going to get is an example of the work that young people have done, but it is actually a very serious part of our attack on both licits and illicits.
CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Di Natale, on your question on the funding programs, if that is a matter of funding it could well be taken on notice. Have you got follow-up questions from it?
Senator DI NATALE: The issue I want to discuss is the recent announcement in the budget where 19 drug and alcohol services lost $5 million in funding from the Non-Government Organisation Treatment Grants Program. I understand that funding was restored to 14 of these services, but not to a further five. The five included ISIS Primary Care, Open Family Australia, Buoyancy Foundation and the Bass Coast Community Health Service, and I know that ISIS Primary Care is essentially a group of six community health centres in the west that do terrific work around drug and alcohol counselling. Can the department outline the reasons for its initial decision to withdraw the funding? It appears to have been an error, given that the funding was restored, but can you outline what the initial thinking there was?
Ms Campion: I will just make some comments before I answer the question. There were two funding rounds that were open late last year. They were both for similar purposes. One was the Non-Government Organisation Treatment Grants Program, or NGOTGP. The other was the Substance Misuse Service Delivery Grants fund. As they were dealing with two similar purposes and directed at similar organisations, we have tended to combine our announcements about those. For those two funding purposes we had $186 million available over three years. It was a competitive funding round, so it was open for any eligible organisation to apply.
The first important point is to say we have not withdrawn funding from any organisations. The funding agreements that are currently in existence were due to expire at the end of June this year and we went through the competitive funding round to work out which organisations will be funded for three years from 1 July. The first announcement in relation to the funding was for those organisations that were shortlisted from the funding round. It was a very competitive round. We had 526 applications seeking $526 million in funding. As I mentioned, there was $186 million available. The vast majority of applications were found to be either suitable or highly suitable, so that goes for around 85 per cent of them. That is just an indication of how competitive it was. There were a lot of high-quality applications.
With the announcement around the shortlisting, it was only those applications that were found to be highly suitable that were shortlisted, because there was not enough funding to fund all of the applications that were found to be either highly suitable or suitable. That was the first announcement, as I said. That was 187 applications and they were valued at around $159 million. It was always anticipated, given the competitive nature of the round, that there may be some gaps that could result from currently funded organisations not continuing to receive funding. I should just mention that of the 187 applications that were shortlisted, 157 were from 93 organisations that are currently funded and 30 projects were from 29 organisations that are not currently receiving funding. And 57 currently funded organisations were not shortlisted.
The department then went through a process to determine where there could potentially be gaps and critical service delivery as a result of the shortlisting. We were looking for where services provided by currently funded organisations may not be picked up either by other funded services through, for example, state departments or through services that would be provided from organisations that were shortlisted. As a result of that, the minister decided to extend current projects from 59 organisations. That is for 81 projects with a value of $51 million. All up, we are going to be spending $210 million. So the government has decided to increase the amount of funding available for these services, and we will be funding 154 organisations for 268 projects.
The reasons around the extensions and why some organisations were not extended were as a result of that gap analysis that the department did in deciding whether currently funded services would be provided elsewhere. There was also a requirement that any organisation that was going to be extended had to be performing satisfactorily under the current funding arrangements.
Senator DI NATALE: With regard to, for example, ISIS Primary Care, can you give me a sense as to which of those categories that organisation falls into? Were you concerned that they were not delivering services satisfactorily or do you understand that there were other services available that had been funded?
Ms Campion: My understanding in that situation is that the services that were being provided by that organisation will be picked up through services provided by other funded organisations.
Senator DI NATALE: Can you give me an outline of who those other organisations might be? Ms Campion: I would need to take that on notice. Senator DI NATALE: Okay. I think that is fine for this area.