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Dyson: Social Services Providers Association

Hon Ruth Dyson
Minister for Social Development & Employment
Minister for Senior Citizens
Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector
Minister for Disability Issues

September 18, 12:30pm 2008
Otago Museum Speech Notes

Social Services Providers Association of Aotearoa Conference

Rau rangatira maa,
tenei te mihi ki a koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ra.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Distinguished guests, greetings to you gathered here for this purpose today. Greetings to you all.

Thank you for the welcome. It is my pleasure to be speaking here today. I would like to acknowledge the hard work done by everyone involved in today’s conference; the convenor Nicola and the other speakers. I would also like to acknowledge the leadership provided by Jocelyn Wilson. Not only does she head up the Association, but she is also on the Pathway to Partnership Steering Group.

You might say that I am bit of a regular fixture at this conference and I have looked back at what I spoke about in 2006. At that time I outlined about the merger of Child, Youth and Family into the Ministry of Social Development and the establishment of Family and Community Services. I said that these developments would enable us to place a stronger focus on children, young people and families.

Since then, there has been an increased awareness in the community that family violence, and that the abuse and neglect of children and young people is not OK. This has resulted in the increase in the number of notifications we receive. We welcome this. And through Differential Responses, Child, Youth and Family are working more closely with others who also support families and young people.

The number of children and young people in care is reducing. And there has been a consistent increase in the number of family/whanau placements compared to other placement types.

A big part of this improvement, I think, is responding differently to the needs of families and the realisation that one agency can’t do it alone.

Today I would like to talk about how the relationship between government and the NGO sector will enable a focus on children, young people and families to continue.

I would like to talk about Labour’s vision for the future. A vision that aligns with the theme of today’s conference: Soar for the future – resilient families, healthy communities.

Vision

Since Labour came into office in December 1999 we have made a concerted effort to ensure that government and the NGO sector could work more closely together. We recognise that we both want the same things, and so we are committed to finding ways that we can apply our resources and expertise to make a bigger difference. Working together towards a common goal leads to innovation and efficiency, and better lives for all New Zealanders.

I am sure I don’t have to tell you that the huge investment in the community and voluntary sector through Pathway to Partnership is currently taking us to the next level in building strong families and communities. Pathway to Partnership has cemented our close working relationship, and given us a framework to further expand upon on it.

It’s realising a vision that I have had for the sector for a long time. A vision that, over the years, has been informed by the people who work in the sector, and importantly the people who use the essential services your organisations provide. I’m really excited about this approach which I believe will give children and families the support they need to be happy, healthy and thrive.

This shift in the way that the government relates to the social services sector is part of Labour’s vision for a New Zealand where families and children are part of a supportive community. It’s part of our vision for a country where New Zealanders can easily identify and hook into the services they need to live up to their potential.

The very nature of your work means this is also your vision – it’s what motivates you to constantly find better and more efficient ways to deliver excellent services to our communities.

In the last decade, the Labour-led government has shifted from a position where we placed the most resources into dealing with problems, to investing more in prevention and intervention. Often these services are best delivered by a strong NGO sector.

It is often community-based services that play an important role in supporting families and making sure children get the best start in life. The groups providing these services know what their community needs. They know where the gaps are, and what can be done to make sure families, children and young people are taken care of. More often than not, they are the people in the community that vulnerable families go to first for help.

You are the early intervention people who, by being involved in the lives of vulnerable families and young people sooner rather than later, can prevent problems from growing.

Investment

In February the Prime Minister announced an increased investment in community based services by $446 million over the next four years. That’s a big number. But what does it really mean for you?

This funding gives us the ability to provide you with the full cost of providing essential services. Work that would otherwise fall on government organisations to undertake. I think that a number of people still can’t quite believe that their services will be fully funded by 2012, but I can assure you that’s the plan.

Essential child, youth and family services will be shifted to full funding over the next four years and will receive annual cost adjustment payments to reflect inflation. There’s funding to enable us to reflect changes in volume where demand for services has changed. And there’s money to support organisations to work more closely together.

The funding increases build on work that has already started - like making the funding and contracting processes simpler, moving some services from contracts to grants to reduce their compliance costs, and providing multi-year funding to give providers more security.

By 2012, these increases will almost double our investment in your services. This includes those that support parents, help them develop good parenting skills and succeed as a family. Those that help children get the best start in life, those that support at risk teenagers and those that help put a stop to family violence, child abuse and neglect.

Focus on outcomes

But what’s the catch? There is only one. Pathway to Partnership isn’t just about making more money available. It’s also about getting better results.

Pathway to Partnership will demand that we all focus more on achieving outcomes and less on outputs or programmes. It will demand that organisations work together to reduce duplication, share ideas about what works and get more resources into what really makes a difference.

The sustainable funding model will provide providers like you with more certainty. You can spend less time worrying about paying the bills. That means more time focusing on the outcomes that you deliver.

It will enable you to plan ahead, attract and retain qualified staff. Not just to make your lives easier, although I hope that it will, but so that you can improve your service effectiveness and achieve good outcomes for New Zealand families.

While additional investment is a key component, Pathway to Partnership is more importantly about changing the way we work together and work with families.

Progress so far

The move to full funding will be a four year process. I know that you’re all impatient and keen to get going. You may already be seeing some positive changes in your organisations as you receive your first larger payments. But as you all know, this is only Year One.

The first step involved a 3.4% inflation adjustment and the continuation of last year’s one-off cost pressure payment. This resulted in an additional $9 million being offered to over 850 providers during July and August.

802 of our social service providers are delivering essential services that will move to full funding over the next four years. This year the focus has been on stabilising the sector by targeting small organisations and those groups funded at less than 60% of their costs.

Many of you will have confirmed further increases for 2008/09. On average providers going through this process are receiving increases of around $30,000. At least 100 providers have had their funding doubled.

The aim from these first increases is to get money flowing out, and at the same time beginning conversations about how the investment will make a difference for services and the families who use them.

Many of you have told me that this year’s increases will begin to make a real difference for your organisations. You have told me that it gives you some surety, and stability, and the confidence to plan for the future.

Next steps
As we move into the next phase of Pathway to Partnership, there will be even more focus on how we work together to achieve results for our communities.

There will be further changes over the next three years to support the funding changes. For example, planning, funding and reporting cycles will be brought together. The transformation we are seeking will not come overnight, nor will change be made in isolation from the communities and community groups that we work with. Working closely with providers and other funders will be fundamental.

One of the most significant changes will be a move to using Results Based Accountability. This is an easily understood model that has been widely used around the world to promote a collaborative approach to identifying needs, planning services and measuring results. Over the next few months the Ministry of Social Development will be offering joint training opportunities on the Results Based Accountability model for their staff, and for your staff.

This will be just one of many opportunities to talk about your goals and how you will know when you have achieved them - both at the overall population level and at the regional and service delivery level.

There will be regional priorities for action – based on local conversations and locally shared goals. Regional governance groups will lead this process. And they will have a set of tools to help them do it well.

There are already a number of collaborative initiatives in place that clearly demonstrate the benefits of working together. The Strengthening Families and family violence networks bring various groups’ expertise and resources together to wrap a range of services around vulnerable families.
There are also many groups already successfully sharing infrastructure - like the Early Years Hubs, which provide a central point where families can access a range of services including antenatal care, Well Child health checks and immunisation programmes. Heartlands Services, which bring a range of government service information together in rural and small centres, also have experience of sharing infrastructure to deliver good service to their communities.

When looking at opportunities for working together under Pathway to Partnership we will look to examples like these, building on the work that has already been done. We will reward innovation, and help small providers who might want to join up to deliver similar or complementary services. We will be investing in shared infrastructure proposals where there is good evidence that the initiative will draw more services together, reduce duplication and result in better results for families.

It is an exciting time for the social services sector. Pathway to Partnership has opened up a whole new way for government and non-government to work together.

It has also opened up opportunities for government and philanthropic organisations to work together. Yesterday, I held a forum with philanthropic funders to discuss this very question - how could we work better together in the future to best support the provision of community development. We looked at some of the issues, some of the opportunities, and what needed to happen to ensure that funding was distributed effectively to reach communities.

It is only the first year, which means we have much to learn, and many ways to grow. Recognising our common goals will help us work more efficiently and innovatively together.


The future

As I’ve been speaking I know some of you will be thinking ‘that’s all good but what will happen to all of this after 8 November?’ For me it is simple. You can trust in Labour to continue this work. We have committed to this huge investment in you and your organisations, and we will continue to deliver this change by working in partnership with you.

The policy of the National party is, typically, a little more slippery.

Last year, when John Key talked about funding for the community sector, he spoke about allowing you to include costs when putting together competitive bids for contracts. He said that it was unrealistic to talk about partnership in what was essential a contractual relationship. John Key’s language is the language of big business; it is the language of competition, of markets, profits and privatisation.

Since Helen Clark announced the Labour-led government’s investment in a sustainable model based on partnership, collaboration and communities, the National party have been suspiciously quiet. One thing that is clear – you can’t trust what direction they would take the sector.

I don’t believe that the idea of partnership is unrealistic. I don’t believe that competitive contracting is the way to build a sustainable sector that can deliver effective services to children and families. I don't believe that one large corporation can meet local community needs. I don't believe in a one size fits all solution.

I do believe that we can work together to make a difference in the lives of all New Zealanders. And I know that you can trust in Labour to invest in you, in your work and in your communities.


ENDS

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