Inquiry to social service provision should be a genuine evaluation says PSA


The Public Service Association says that the Productivity Commission’s inquiry on more effective social services is a chance to genuinely evaluate what currently works and what doesn’t.

The commission is looking at ways to improve how government agencies commission and purchase social services and the PSA believes that it should start by identifying existing successful arrangements and design systems around those.
“There are some NGOs doing great work out there but we also know that there are some aspects of the current commission and purchase of services that need fixing, and in fixing them there could be some real productivity gains to be had before we start messing around with alternative contracting arrangements.” says Richard Wagstaff, PSA national secretary.
“We’ve seen NGOs, in many cases the natural champion for service users, being effectively gagged because of the funding arrangements in place.  It’s hard to be an advocate and vocal critic of the government when they hold the power in terms of awarding the next contract”.
The PSA says that the Productivity Commission must look at workforce standards and appropriate funding levels in its inquiry.
“Fair pay and conditions remain out of reach for many support workers as providers either struggle to deliver services year-after-year without funding increases, or when there are funding increases, providers refuse to pass them on to workers. These support workers are among the lowest paid workers in New Zealand.”
The PSA doesn’t want the exercise to just be about cutting costs, instead it wants its focus to be based on achieving better outcomes for social service users.
“What we want to see is an inquiry that results in supporting organisations that want to provide good services to New Zealanders.  The last thing New Zealand needs is a race to the bottom when it comes to funding and providing social services. We’ve seen outsourcing failures here and overseas and we don’t need in inquiry to learn from those mistakes.”
The PSA will be making a submission to the Productivity Commission on behalf of its 58,000 members, many of who work in social service provision.