The Productivity Commission posted a 4-corner chart in its latest research paper, More effective social services, out yesterday, showing how those at the bottom of the economic pile can’t help themselves up: “Complex needs but can’t navigate the system to co-ordinate services”.
In a section called A new deal for the most disadvantaged New Zealanders, the commission said the Government should create a new model to target these people with integrated services.
The Government agreed, though the 2 ministers who commented were talking less radical change.
Finance Minister Bill English & State Services Minister Paula Bennett said in a joint release: “The Government agrees with the commission’s analysis of the weakness in our current social delivery systems. These issues are why the Government has an ongoing programme of social services reform which focuses on better understanding customers with complex needs and changing public services & accountability to improve their lives.
“The introduction of national standards in schools, health targets, the investment approach in welfare, better public service results and more recently the social housing reform programme are all focused on getting better results from largescale social spending.
“We asked the commission to undertake this review because we expect the public sector to continually do better in supporting the most vulnerable in our society. It is clear that further, ongoing change is needed. These aren’t easy issues to deal with, so the Government will be carefully considering the commission’s recommendations. But this report provides a useful road map to drive further improvement.”
The commission said in the shortest version of its report: “A relatively small proportion of people fall into group D (the most at-risk group), but they experience consistently poor results across health, education, welfare dependency & crime. This can create a cycle of disadvantage that persists across generations. This is unsatisfactory for all of us – those in need, those tasked with helping & New Zealand society generally. We have the opportunity to do better.
“For these people & their families, just making the current system work better is not enough. They need an adaptive, client-centred approach to service design. They need ‘navigators’ who can engage with them & their family, understand their situation and support them to access the services they need.
“Yet the current funding & delivery of services through administrative silos makes this difficult. Navigator services work better if they, and agencies that commission services, have responsibility for improving outcomes for a defined population. Service decisions & a dedicated budget should be close to the clients and reflect their needs. Better information on navigator & provider performance, and clients’ needs & outcomes, will be required to guide funding & service decisions.
“The Government should assess & implement an appropriate model with the features required for successful integrated services targeted at the most disadvantaged. Whanau Ora is an important, but incomplete, step towards such a model. Our report outlines 2 candidate models with the required features – a Better Lives agency and district health & social boards. Implementing a new model will require a major shift in thinking & structures. It is both achievable & realistic, but putting it into practice will take time & persistence.”
Attribution: Commission report & ministerial release.