Update on social sector commissioning

Wed 02 Sep 2020

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children have jointly published a paper on work related to social sector commissioning.

MSD, Oranga Tamariki, the Social Wellbeing Agency and other government agencies have been working with representatives of non-government organisations and the philanthropic sector to look at how commissioning in the social sector could be improved.

The paper, Social Sector Commissioning: Principles, Progress and Next Steps (2020) outlines work so far and what's next. It defines commissioning as the activities that need to be done through third-party providers to ensure people, whānau and communities who need support, get the support they need. Those activities can include planning, engagement, funding, procurement, monitoring and evaluation.

The paper outlines six principles for social sector commissioning:

  • Individuals, families, whānau and communities exercise choice
  • Māori-Crown partnerships are at the heart of effective commissioning
  • The sector works together locally, regionally and nationally
  • The sector is sustainable
  • Decisions and actions are taken transparently
  • The sector is always learning and improving

For each principle, the paper provides an overview and identifies what the principle means for providers and communities as well as government. It also gives a brief overview of good practice at different stages in the commissioning process.

It concludes with 10 key actions that will be progressed in the short term:

"1. Develop a coherent government and other funders response to social sector organisations facing financial difficulties (e.g. lost income) as a result of COVID-19. This means recognising that many organisations are reliant on multiple income streams, including philanthropic funding, and aiming for responses that are strategic rather than narrow and reactive.

2. Begin work with the sector to develop a joint understanding of current and future demand for social services. While Budget commitments have made progress in many areas on funding for currently contracted levels of demand, work is needed to clarify demand levels and government objectives, and to prepare to respond to anticipated increases in demand as a result of COVID-19.

3. Develop and publish joint funding principles and consistent methodologies for costing services across agencies, and consistent criteria for cost sharing between government and other funders.

4. Review pricing for services where funding or quality gaps may continue to exist and seek additional or reprioritised investment to address these. 

5. Increase transparency on contracted funding and how funding decisions are made, in the short-term by publishing consistent annual contract data for all Social Sector Agencies – the Ministries of Social Development, Justice, Health and Education, Oranga Tamariki and the Department of Corrections, with information about how funding levels were determined. Strengthen local, regional and Māori-Crown partnerships to ensure social services are better joined up and responsive to community priorities.

7. Ensuring the service design for the implementation of Budget 2020 and COVID-19 Response and Recovery investments provides clients and communities with a voice in the design, planning and delivery of services. Learning from and potentially extending existing approaches, for example the holistic whānau-led support of Whānau Ora.

8. Begin work to maximise contractual flexibility for partners to meet local needs where this is appropriate and to develop the right level of continuous learning, communities of learning, two-way data sharing and quality assurance needed to support this.

9. Identify opportunities to join up and rationalise monitoring, assurance, evaluation and data collection efforts across the Ministries of Social Development and Justice, Oranga Tamariki and the Department of Corrections contracts.

10. Enhance Social Service Accreditation operating model to support capability building in the sector, especially to increase the number of Māori organisations, Pacific and other community-specific providers."

Ang Jury, Chief Executive of Women's Refuge, and Brenda Pilott, National Manager of Social Service Providers Aotearoa, participated in the development of this work. In the foreword to the paper, they write:

"We know that challenges facing the social sector remain. We do not gloss over the significant issues facing non-government and community organisations, especially around capability, capacity, pay equity and reporting. But we also know that we cannot begin to address the entrenched issues without first addressing the commissioning arrangements that underpin them.

The extent to which we successfully address these challenges is in no small part down to how we as a community of organisations across the sector engage with each other. The release of this report provides us with the opportunity over the next few months for the robust discussions we as a sector need to have about how best to engage with government over this work.

We encourage everyone across the community sector to engage closely with this project and to bring your knowledge, experience, ideas and innovation to the table."

The recent edition of the MSD e-newsletter Kotahitanga, noted that questions about the social sector commissioning work can be sent Community_Information@msd.govt.nz.

Related news

Aide Memoire: NGO Cost Pressure Funding Budget 2020 (Reference: T2019/4150) was published in July as part of the Treasury's Budget 2020 Information Release. It notes:

"Our overall assessment of the NGO cost pressure bids is that there are genuine cost pressures faced by these services. This is primarily due to the significant increases in the numbers of clients who are accessing the services and the increasing complexity of hardship faced by clients. Many of these services have received no (or very little) funding increases for around a decade."

It goes on to note some services are experiencing more significant cost pressures including family violence services and disability services. It specifically highlights:

"In addition, for many years family violence agencies have been dealing with presenting demand by increasing caseloads (to what MSD considers unsafe levels), which reduces the support that can be provided to each client or through carrying waiting lists (which is highly unsatisfactory where there is actual harm occurring or high risk it will). Although demand is projected to continue to grow over the forecast period, the cost pressure bids do not seek funding to cover this."

See our related articles below for more information about cost pressures for non-government organisations.

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