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Better data; stronger community sector workforce

The people who work in Victoria’s community sector are passionate, skilled and from a variety of backgrounds. We know, because we see them in action every day, helping Victorians to escape family violence, find a home or recover from mental illness.

But where is the evidence?

Despite employing more than 160,000 people and being one of the state’s largest industries, in reality we don’t know much about the workforce at all. We don’t know the skills and qualifications mix, or why people leave and where they go. We don’t know how much of the workforce is comprised of Aboriginal people, or people born overseas or with a disability.

Data we have about the community services industry workforce is piecemeal and inconsistent. It comes from surveys and data collections that only cover part of the workforce and are not comparable – e.g. the specialist family violence sector, or the alcohol and drug sector. But many workers in the community services industry move between organisations and parts of the sector, building their skills and experience and reflecting the often casual and contractual nature of the industry.

Better workforce data would help us plan for the future and give us a stronger platform to advocate strengthening and growing the community sector workforce.

While the Family Violence Workforce Census is a strong initiative about workers’ family violence capability, we need to ensure we have long-term and consistent data across the entire community services industry. The data can be used to track change over time, qualifications and skills gaps, demographic characteristics and for workforce planning and development in local communities.

In this Budget, VCOSS is calling on the state government to fund full implementation of the 10-year Community Services Industry Plan. To meet its recommendation of a “robust, accessible industry-wide dataset” we look to the UK National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC) as a guide. The introduction of the UK NMDS-SC transformed the industry from a ‘data desert’ to a clearly depicted and understood sector.

Key stats from the UK NMDS-SC:

  • The workforce has grown by 21% over the past nine years
  • An additional 650,000 jobs will be required by 2035 to meet demands of an ageing population
  • The sector turnover rate is 30.7%; approximately two-thirds of these workers stay in the sector
  • Eight years is the average years of work experience.