NSW Opposition leader John Robertson spent an hour talking to community services managers at Katoomba Neighbourhood Centre on Monday, later calling on the O’Farrell Government to guarantee adequate funding is available within the region for the Community Builders Program.
Mr Robertson claimed the NSW Government has slashed that program’s funding pool by an “unprecedented 78 per cent” — a claim strongly denied by Member for Blue Mountains Roza Sage.
The Community Building Program provides fixed term funding to community services based in neighbourhood, youth, family support, women’s health and community legal centres.
Suzie van Opdorp from Blue Mountains Women’s Resource and Health Centre told Mr Robertson the program was “the only source of funding for new projects”.
“I am concerned about its future availability and how this will affect Blue Mountains services,” she said.
Mr Robertson said the program’s current funding was cut “from $8.9 million to $2.1 million”.
“The impact of these cuts has been particularly alarming in the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney, with only two projects funded out of 250 applications that were submitted,” he said.
“In the Blue Mountains, no specific regional program was funded, which is a major blow to the local community.
“The thing that stuck in my mind after today’s meeting was how concerned people are about the funding cuts.
“It is a false economy if people are denied access to services because there will be long term flow-on effects.”
Labor spokesperson for Blue Mountains Trish Doyle said community organisations have long been recognised as those “best placed” to address social exclusion and build community participation.
And upper house MP Helen Westwood added “I am calling on Roza Sage MP to demand that the premier and the minister commit to ongoing funding for local community services.”
Mrs Sage denied the cuts, adding that Mr Robertson had “missed the mark on his regular trek to the Mountains”.
“There have been no cuts to the Community Builders Fixed Term program,” she said.
“In the 2012 funding round there was a very high number of applications (64 per cent) which did not meet the selection criteria, much higher than in previous years. These came from all areas, including South Western and Western Sydney.
“In Western Sydney, the Community Builders Fixed Term program is funding 21 projects this year to the value of $1.6 million — more projects and more money than any other area,” Mrs Sage said.
She said letters had been sent to unsuccessful applicants and applicants who did not meet the eligibility criteria. These applicants had been advised to seek feedback on their application by contacting Family and Community Services.
“FaCS is doing this to achieve the Government’s NSW 2021 State Plan goals, especially those focused on improving child protection, domestic violence, homelessness and disability services.
“FaCS is working with peak organisations to provide feedback on the assessment process and how applicants can improve in the future.
“Whilst I always welcome tourists to the Blue Mountains I do recommend John Robertson and Helen Westwood do a bit of homework next time before using community organisations for their own desperate and heartless political benefit here in Blue Mountains.”