Labor has promised a ‘historic reform plan’ for the non-profit sector which it says will reshape the way the Australian Government regulates, supports and funds this sector in Australia.

A central component of the reforms is the establishment of an Office for the Non-Profit Sector within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet whose role would be to drive and coordinate the policy reform agenda, supported by a new Non-Profit Sector Reform Council. 

The policy was announced yesterday by Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry and Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector, Senator Ursula Stephens.

According to the announcement, the package of reforms aims to achieve smarter regulation, reduce red tape and improve the transparency and accountability of the sector.  

Toward this end, a Gillard government would commence a scoping study to determine the role and design options for a national ‘one-stop-shop’ regulator for the non-profit sector, to remove the complex regulatory arrangements currently in place and streamline reporting arrangements.  The scoping study would be finalised early in 2011 and would guide the reform program.

How this set of reforms would impact upon reforms already being proposed and discussed across the wider aged care sector is not clear.

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO, Greg Mundy, says a discussion needs to be had about the scope of the reforms both within non-profit organisations and across the different government programs involved.  

“It’s an interesting question. The majority of service provision in aged care is done by charities so it is not a question that can be ducked.  

“There needs to be a conversation between our members and the government.

Maybe some of the principles and spirit of the overall non-profit reforms need to be incorporated into the DoHA aged care relationship as a minimum,” he said.

Director of Services Sustainability for Uniting Care Australia, Joe Zabar, said

the most obvious benefit of the proposed reforms to the aged care sector is the principle that it offers.  

“The principle is about simplifying the processes and interactions between the non-profit sector and the government sector to minimise the cost of administration and enable more funding to go directly to frontline services,” said Mr Zabar.

“This is a big deal for us.  We have been working with government for some time to make sure this goes ahead.  From an aged care perspective, most of the reforms will be felt across the whole sector; not just the non-profits, because simplified acquittal processes will be quite useful for everyone,” Mr Zabar said.

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