Dear Minister Ruston,
I am writing about the 2019-20 Volunteer Grants program.
The response from our local community has been very strong, with expressions of interest exceeding the $66,000 set aside for Canberra by the Government.
This is not unexpected, given the Department of Social Services has confirmed that 70 per cent of grant applicants have missed out in previous rounds.
In previous years, the Department of Social Services assessed volunteer grants against criteria to decide which organisations would receive support. However, a change the Government has made to the program this year means only those organisations nominated by Members of Parliament will be invited to apply for a grant.
There are many organisations in our local community worthy of support. Rather than trying to select from so many high-quality proposals, I have nominated all organisations which have expressed an interest. It is important there is transparency, and the community has full confidence in the way decisions about local grants are made.
Given the high number of local grants, I request that you review and increase the level of funding for the program so that it meets the needs of our local community. It takes time and effort for volunteer organisations to prepare applications, and it it important that quality applications are supported.
I am concerned that the Government intends to assess grant applications in the order they are received, rather than assessing the merit of local proposals. This has the potential to disadvantage small, community organisations which do not have the capacity to quickly prepare grant applications.
I am also concerned that some local volunteer organisations might not have expressed an interest to me but could benefit from the program. I encourage you to make sure the program is also open to these organisations.
I look forward to your consideration of increased investment in our local community and to working with you to support the important work of volunteers.
Member for Canberra