This submission responds to the 2013 Victorian Government discussion paper, Towards A More Effective and Sustainable Community Services System.

The discussion paper is part of the Victorian Government Service Sector Reform Project.

Our submission is framed by two contextual considerations:

  • The extent to which poverty and disadvantage in society are the consequence of structural factors that lie beyond the scope of the social service system to address.
  • A focus on function over form is crucial in determining the appropriate model for funding and services: a one-size-fits-all approach fails to recognise that solutions to ‘wicked problems’ must be tailored and premised on the understanding of specific problems.

It recommends that the Victorian Government:

  1. Better acknowledge the role of structural factors and social inequality as key determinants of health and wellbeing, and therefore as drivers of demand
    for community services.
  2. Build an effective and sustainable community service system based on the known strengths of the service system, as well as evidence of what works, with funding and service models tailored and premised on the understanding of specific problems.
  3. Adopt whole-of-person approaches to practice, and strengths based, multidisciplinary, relational approaches, for all services.
  4. Implement any new funding model with careful consideration of its context and impacts: client-directed funding models have potential to increase risks for the most disadvantaged and for the sustainability of the service system.
  5. Incorporate both place- and people-based policies concurrently.
  6. Based on the needs of different citizens and places, extend capacity for collaborative practice, active referrals and networked governance as required by the target problem being addressed.
  7. Pilot innovative models that clearly target places and people (participants and agencies) and extend best practice evidence about successful approaches to people-centred, place-based and collaborative services to tackle deeply entrenched disadvantage.
  8. Ensure models of pooled funding and clearly specified outcomes to enable flexible and creative service delivery that responds to local needs.
  9. At government level, maintain clear program leadership with respect to policy, procedure and workforce capacity that is linked to professional education and training institutions, and which prioritises evidence based practice and evaluation.
  10. Fund services on the basis of the scale of the problem they seek to address and provide flexibility for agencies to more adequately fulfil the potential of their missions.
  11. Ensure service quality and maximise opportunity for innovation by establishing an outcome rubric for agencies to operate within.

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