Feds Flag Social Services Merger
Tuesday, 14th January 2014 at 11:50 am
Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has flagged a plan to merge the Social Services and Human Services Departments into a mega community agency.
The proposal is ostensibly to avoid what the Government calls “duplication and waste”.
According to a spokeswoman for the Minister the merger is part of a “backroom” plan and would not affect frontline staff. She said at this stage the merger was only an option to avoid “duplication and waste” and the plan would not include the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.
In a news report in The Australian, Minister Andrews warned bureaucrats that “change is inevitable” when asked whether the move would lead to redundancies.
"There is obviously an option to bring those two (departments) together," he said in the article.
"It depends on whether the commonwealth wants to have just one department which is service delivery or do you say, 'Look, frankly, you could save a huge amount, particularly in the back office, by having one system rather than two, one set of corporate people within the department rather than two’.”
"There would obviously be, maybe not immediately but over the medium term … savings by bringing the two together so that's clearly an option," he told the newspaper.
The Minister’s spokeswoman said the proposal has yet to go to the Cabinet, however according to The Australian’s report the proposal is being considered alongside the National Commission of Audit, announced last October, that will assess the role and scope of Government.
National Welfare Rights Network released a statement saying there was often an "artificial divide" between formulating social policy and delivering it.
"Merging the departments of Human Services and Social Services is attractive from an efficiency point of view, but if budgetary considerations are the prime motive for merging then it is the wrong course of action," the Network said.
"This artificial divide between service delivery and policy can create unnecessary problems for those who need support and, in an ideal world, policy and service delivery should work together."
The National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) is the peak community organisation in the area of social security law, policy and administration.
"Historically, social security policy and service delivery have operated under the one agency, and this can work well. People who rely on Centrelink services face major challenges, with people waiting six months or more for a review, more than two million overpayments a year, and long wait times in the office and on the telephone," the Network said.
"It would be difficult to justify a merger if it could not address these problems and improve services for the community."