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A decade of reviews with little social progress in between, new report reveals

14 December 2020 at 7:24 pm
Maggie Coggan
Experts say the community sector must take the cycle of inaction into their own hands

Maggie Coggan | 14 December 2020 at 7:24 pm


A decade of reviews with little social progress in between, new report reveals
14 December 2020 at 7:24 pm

Experts say the community sector must take the cycle of inaction into their own hands

For nearly a decade the government has been making the same recommendations for community sector reform, suggesting little progress has been made in that time, a new report has found. 

The research, published by the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) and the Community Services Industry Alliance (CSIA), reviews how the community services sector has been positioned by major governing bodies – such as the Productivity Commission, royal commissions and Senate inquiries.

Researchers examined 92 Commonwealth-level reviews, finding recommendations consistently concentrated around four key themes of integrated working, competition and and contestability, government as steward, and workforce reform. 

“In each of these areas, debates concerning the sector are long-running, with changes to language – but not substantive issues – changing over time,” the report said. 

The report said that this suggests the government is caught in a continuous cycle of reviews, without fully enacting or implementing recommendations after each review. 

Professor Gemma Carey, report author and CSI UNSW academic director, told Pro Bono News that while reviews were meant to address large-scale problems, it was clear that the government or the community sector were not getting to the heart of fixing them.  

“We all would have guessed it would have been some repetition, but we were shocked at the amount of repetition and lack of movement,” Carey said. 

“It just means that really, all we are doing is window dressing.”

Community services to take matter into their own hands 

Researchers also found that across all the reports examined, the responsibility for enacting change is placed on government, while the community sector is framed as a “passive-recipient of change”. 

“We suggest this raises questions for the sector in terms of its own agency,” the report said. 

Carey said it was important for the community sector to start asking how it can break the cycle of inaction

“Hopefully this [report] gives the sector the information it needs to figure out how [it] can change the situation [itself]… because it’s [the change is] obviously not going to come from government,” she said. 

CSIA will use the report to support a proactive and deeper analysis of these themes and their effectiveness, and is urging senior leaders and board directors of community organisations to map out a new way forward.

Belinda Drew, the CEO of CSIA, said it was an opportunity to change the way the community sector approached policy reform for good. 

“We want to find more efficient and effective ways to work together,” Drew said. 

 See a full copy of the report here. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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