BENDIGO Volunteer Resource Centre will be using cash reserves to remain open while the City of Greater Bendigo decides whether to award a $25,000 a year grant on which the not-for-profit service has relied each year to pay for infrastructure costs.
The council has ignored a submission by the service for more than funding.
It has asked the centre to apply for a community grant, a change from the partnership grants through which it has been providing funding.
But apart from the uncertainty of not knowing until at least October if annual maximum $25,000 council funding will be successful, the centre has also had forewarning from the federal government its funding may finish in three years.
That means support from local businesses and services will become the centre’s only reliable source of funding in the future.
BVRC chairman Julie Rivendell said the centre’s staff members were already on the lowest pay for their occupation in the state and cutting staff hours to save money had eaten further into their earnings.
But their volunteer referral work over the years had been used as the template for other volunteer management services across the Victoria, including in the way it screens participants.
“BVRC also assists many locals who want to volunteer their time, including disadvantaged people who remarkably want to give something back to the community despite their circumstances,” Ms Rivendell said.
“One such volunteer was homeless and a victim of domestic violence before she offered her services to BVRC.
“She in now working and volunteering her services in other organisations across Bendigo.”
In the last financial year, the centre assisted almost 3500 people, trained more than 760 volunteers and linked more than 817 people and organisations with volunteering,
Board member James Breene said it was a tremendous resource, “one that is being jeopardised for a relatively small amount of money and although the council says we can apply for a mix of grants later this year, the service needs to stay open and the council needs to support us”.
“I call on the council to rethink its decision on this funding, to give volunteers and those who receive their services certainty for the future,” Mr Breene said.
Ms Rivendell said the council referred people to the centre which had the expertise to deal with complex referrals.
The council said it had made the centre aware of funding changes after the 2018-19 budget was adopted on June 21.
Acting corporate performance dirctor Steven Abbott said the centre’s submission was considered alongside 18 other public submissions and that it is not possible to fund them all.
“The BVRC was receiving council funding through a three-year grant,” Mr Abbott said.
“This grant was provided through the competitive Partnership Grants Program and applied from to 2015-2016 to 2017-2018.
“The partnership grant has a strong emphasis on the need for recipients to build sustainable funding models over the three-year period.
“It is considered important that community groups shouldn’t rely on ongoing council funding for operations.”