Posts in Social Service Futures
Improving Mental Health Support for Children in the Care of the UK State

There are complex policy and practice issues as well as tensions in where responsibility lies in relation to mental health needs of children in the care of the state in the UK.  Collaboration across many organisations and leadership from key individuals in the system are essential for the needs of these most vulnerable children to be better met. There is a moral imperative and a financial incentive to getting this right. Alison O’Sullivan explores the role of corporate parenting at a time of increased focus on meeting the mental health needs of children in the UK, making the case for improved mental health support for children in the care of the state as an important part of the solution. 

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"Yes, Virginia, there is a thing called Society": Social policy and the voluntary sector 2017

The start of 2017 has been marked by growing tensions between socially disparate forces eager to disentangle from the decades-long pervasiveness of neoliberalism, and the political forces that conspire to maintain the status quo. Social Policy Whisperer Professor Paul Smyth outlines the growing global policy momentum towards 'inclusive growth' and 'shared prosperity', and examines implications for how Australia's voluntary sector might engage in an anything-but-orderly transition.

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The limits of user-choice in specialised health and human services

Specialised health and human services have ‘credence attributes’ that make it difficult for users to discern the quality of care they receive. Thu-Trang Tran from the University of Melbourne argues that recent behavioural economic research and theories on the credence attributes of goods and services fundamentally challenge assumptions underpinning the Productivity Commission’s recommendations for the future of human services and add another layer of important considerations that must be factored into any design of market and regulatory reforms.

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Reality check: is VET really an exemplar for the marketisation agenda?

Some have suggested that vocational education and training in Australia provides an exemplar for the further marketisation they urge within health, community and educational services. But is a reality check in order?

David Freeman has worked on Australian skill reform resources and research since 1993.  He is currently completing a history of its three decades to 2016.

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The Two Faces of Competition: Which is Best for the Social Services Sector?

What impact does competition have on the social services sector? Does it help or hinder our ability to serve the needs of Australia's most vulnerable? Today’s contribution comes from Professor Robyn Keast, who is the Chair of Collaborative Research Network Policy and Planning for Regional Sustainability, and located at the Southern Cross University.

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From Zombie Economics to the Public Interest: the challenge for the voluntary sector

With the Productivity Commission inquiry into human services examining 'competition, contestability and informed user choice', the sector faces further transformation as part of a 'marketisation' agenda. Social Policy Whisperer Prof Paul Smyth argues the time is ripe for a 're-invigoration' of the sector.

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Social Service Futures Dialogue: From marketisation to inclusive governance: Victoria shows the way

According to Victoria’s Secretary of Premier and Cabinet Chris Eccles, Victoria will take a lead in the development of a new social governance model based not on the ‘consumer’ but the ‘citizen’, while leveraging the distinctive value-adds of the three sectors. This post by Social Policy Whisperer Prof Paul Smyth reflects on what now seems the terminal decline of the Treasury-PC’s 1980s-90s governance model and invites speculation on where the Victorian initiative might lead.

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Social Service Futures Dialogue: Issues in market-based reform of human services: lessons from employment services

It has been more than twenty years since the Australian Government opened case management services for the long-term unemployed to the market, laying the foundation for its now fully privatised employment services system. The system is cited as a successful model of outsourced service delivery in the Australian Government’s response to the recommendations of the Competition Policy Review to ramp up competition in the delivery of human services. Yet the employment services system’s measures of success, focused on aggregate outcomes and service delivery costs, mask the adverse impact of its marketisation on ‘hard to place’ jobseekers and on not-for-profit organisations that have traditionally championed those jobseekers (Gallet 2016). 

 

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Social Service Futures: The productivity of what?

In 1979 Amartya Sen addressed scholars and students at Stanford University, giving the coveted annual Tanner Lecture on Human Value. The title of the lecture was, Inequality of what? Here, Sen laid out the basis of his scholarly corpus which would lead to his Nobel Laureate, the Human Development Index and subsequent books and articles that which have underpinned the revival of human development.

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Social Service Futures: Marketization and regulation of vocational education and training

Vocational education and training once held a proud place in Australia’s education system, providing opportunity along a less academically and more practically oriented path. While interest in and need for vocational education and training has not lost currency, the sector has been drawn into a downward reputational spiral. Reforms have been introduced in abundance to reverse the problems of VET, but instead have contributed to loss of status and scandal after scandal. At the heart of the debilitation of the VET sector has been lack of respect for and support for teaching professionalism in the reform process. Industry and government domination over what was to be taught in VET was intended to create opportunity through growth and jobs, but domination is bound to be doomed when the guardians of delivery and quality are not engaged professionally in the process. In these circumstances, a market methodology is likely to attract markets in ‘bads’ that repeatedly dislodge markets in ‘goods’. Regulation also faces a difficult challenge when it is overlayed on a market where there is deep and persistent internal conflict over the values of the sector. Delivery of quality education and training is much touted, but a schism sits below this mantra. The sector divides in its commitment to professional educators and to the aspiration of being a quality education provider in a highly stratified tertiary sector. 

 

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Social Service Futures: Market-driven innovation is a double-edged sword

Manipulation and deception are predictable, yet strangely under acknowledged, features of competitive markets. In their award-winning book Phishing for Phools, economics professors George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller argue that trickery on the part of sellers is not just an occasional nuisance: it's an inherent part of our economic system, a natural consequence of competitive pressure. The upshot is that ' free markets leads us to buy, and to pay too much for, products that we do not need'. This downside of markets is worth pondering as we consider marketizing human services in Australia.

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Social Service Futures Dialogue: Towards an inclusive governance reform agenda (Part Two)

Paul Smyth

Introduction

Part One of this contribution to the SSF Dialogue proposed that we are currently in the midst of an economic policy model change from ‘market efficiency’ to ‘inclusive growth’ that will inevitably impact our thinking on social governance as equal weight is given to fairness and equality alongside market efficiency.  While others are providing much needed SSF discussion of marketization failure in the social services and community sector, I want to look ahead to the principles and practices which might shape up an inclusive governance model.  And it is not as though we have time to waste.  In a year when the Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisers (2016) to the President of the United States begins with ‘Inclusive Growth in the United States’ the idea of an economic model change is not loose talk.  A policy window is opening and we need to be talking right now about the new inclusive governance agenda if we want to influence this policy transition.

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Social Service Futures: The Marketisation of Healthcare Services: when political mantras win out over evidence and patients’ needs

In its November 2015 response to the Harper Competition Policy Review (CPR), the Australian Government stated its intention to commission a Productivity Commission review to explore how competition principles can be applied in practice to the human services sector. This further review has not yet been implemented – it’s not clear if there has even been any consultation with the states and territories on the terms of reference – and it’s unlikely to be put forward as a Liberal National Party (LNP) campaign issue in the looming federal election, but if the Turnbull Government is returned, we can expect to see the topic of the marketisation of healthcare services reappear. 

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