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Sector Says Human Service Provision Needs Overhaul to Empower the Consumer

18 July 2017 at 4:30 pm
Rachel McFadden
A peak body for the community sector is calling for a “complete” overhaul of human services provision.

Rachel McFadden | 18 July 2017 at 4:30 pm


Sector Says Human Service Provision Needs Overhaul to Empower the Consumer
18 July 2017 at 4:30 pm

A peak body for the community sector is calling for a “complete” overhaul of human services provision.

In its submission on the “game-changing” draft report from the Productivity Commission into human services provision, the Community Council of Australia (CCA) said while it welcomed the focus on consumer choice the road to reform was “complex”.

Representing more than 65 charities and not for profits, CCA said that reform was paramount as within the current system “illness is rewarded while wellness is ignored”.

CCA CEO David Crosbie told Pro Bono News the major reform needed in human services was “a complete change to the way governments and others contract services”.

“The unfortunate reality is that in most areas of human services, the government rewards activity, not outcomes,” Crosbie said.

“For instance, a GP does not get paid to make people well or reduce illness. In fact, the more often a GP sees a patient, the more patients they see, the higher the payment from government for their services.”

Crosbie said within the current system a “measurement vacuum” existed between policy goals and what was actually being achieved.

“The policy goal of human service programs are often lost in the translation into government funded programs and services. There is a lack of any meaningful measures about whether the policy goal is being achieved,” Crosbie said.

“This measurement vacuum tends to be filled in an ad hoc way by both providers and managers of government contracts resulting in a confused mess of half reported indicators about the effectiveness of human services programs.”

Crosbie said that the key to empowering the consumer was about providing accurate outcome-based measurements and the government was a fair way off from delivering that.

“If you don’t measure people’s experience of care, how do you compare? There is no consumer choice in that,” he said.

“There is a lot of rhetoric about how government is going to move to measurement-outcomes. But I don’t see major reform in how the government is using measurements, it’s more like spot fires.”

Crosbie said despite the “long and difficult road ahead” there were many significant initiatives in the draft report.

“We support the whole notion that consumers are driving this and it is what they want that really matters,” Crosbie said.

“Some of the proposals, like giving people the right if they get a specialist referral to use that with any specialist providers, are a good example of consumer-choice empowering measures [and] are really welcome.

“But there is still a long way to go before the introduction of greater competitiveness in human services can do much more than diminish collaboration, reduce innovation and undermine longer term support for effective services.”

Crosbie encouraged the social sector to work with the Productivity Commission to pave the way for reform.

“Fundamentally the Productivity Commission are our friends, they are friends of the charities, they want to see better outcomes for communities in human services and I think it is a real opportunity to work with the commission to help us make the changes we need,” he said.

Crosbie encouraged interested parties to attend public hearings on the draft report to further discuss issues with the commissioners.

The public hearings will be held in Sydney on 24 July, Canberra 25 July, Melbourne 27 July, and Perth 31 July.

The draft Productivity Commission report, Introducing Competition and Informed User Choice into Human Services: Reforms to Human Services , can be found here and submissions will accepted until Friday 14 July.

The final report will be handed to the Australian government in October 2017.


Rachel McFadden  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Rachel is a journalist specialising in the social sector.

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