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HomePoliticalHow Covid-19 Impacted NZ’s Community Sector

How Covid-19 Impacted NZ’s Community Sector


As New Zealand’s community and voluntary sector played
a street-by-street, home-by-home role in our COVID-19
response, the sector came under more pressure than ever
before.

Growing threats to the sector’s
sustainability, and new insights on how Government can
respond, are laid bare in the findings of 2020’s ‘State
of the Sector’ survey, released by national network
ComVoices.

With 80% of the sector battling increasing
demand without corresponding resources and active volunteer
numbers steadily decreasing, ComVoices Chair Rochelle
Stewart-Allen says that New Zealand faces a stark choice –
to build on the learnings of Covid-19 or risk the sector’s
eventual downfall.

“The longer-term challenge for
the community sector and New Zealand is becoming
increasingly evident and urgent. While the pandemic dialed
up the crisis – it also showed us how the Government’s
response can best support a more stable, viable sector – to
benefit all New Zealand communities.”

The sector
contributes $12.1 billion to the national economy, of which
$4 billion is attributable to volunteer labour. But in 2020,
the community sector continued a long-term trend of doing
more with less. 80% of surveyed organisations saw ongoing,
increased demands in workload without corresponding funding
– and 80% of those with government contracts were forced to
over-deliver on the services and programmes they were funded
to provide.

As a result, over 45% needed to increase
their paid staff to meet demand. At the same time, the
pandemic impacted their fundraising, donations and
availability of volunteers, with 54% of organisations
reporting reduced income and 46% reporting increased
costs.

But under this unprecedented pressure
innovation thrived, with 88% of organisations seeing a rapid
uptake of new technologies, 75% reporting innovation when
delivering their programmes, and new ways of working and
collaborating becoming widespread.

And crucially, the
community sector’s partnerships with Government became
more responsive, flexible and sustainable than for many
years before. 40% of organisations saw the value of
government contracts increase, and greater flexibility in
contact requirements, faster decision-making, and greater
partnership was widely reported.

More community
organisations also reported an increase in financial
viability than in previous surveys, with fewer surviving on
reserves. And they also felt more confident in their
partnerships with Government, with the measure of
organisations that were reluctant to speak publicly on
issues, declining from 60% in 2014 to only 22% in
2020.

“Building on this sustainability is vital for
New Zealand’s future” says Rochelle Stewart-Allen.
“Fairer contracts, greater flexibility and a genuine sense
of partnership has created significant and immediate impacts
– but our longer-term threats remain.”

This view is
echoed by economist Shamubeel Eaqub: “The community sector
provided essential services to our most vulnerable during
the pandemic. As a nation we rely on community and volunteer
services to do things we value – in many cases filling
gaps in public services. But we need to fund them properly,
and not exploit the kindness, generosity and goodwill of
those involved – or I fear at the next crisis the sector
will not be strong enough to keep doing their good
work”.

The 2020 State of the Sector Report and
Summary can be found at www.comvoices.org.nz.

© Scoop Media

 



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