This submission by Jesuit Social Services considers competition principles as they relate to human services, and was made to the Competition Policy Review.
The submission opposes the Panel’s view that further commodification of existing human services and exposure to rigours of the market is required.
It contends that this view dangerously oversimplifies the role played by human services in creating a strong community and participating in the necessary processes of public debate and co-production of solutions to social problems.
Our submission argues that, in practice, human services often have a significant social change dimension that is fundamentally at odds with the commodification and competition that the panel endorses.
We believe that genuine diversity, choice and innovation in human service provision are possible and desirable.
We argue that this requires collaboration and partnership between organisations that are driven by a strong sense of civic mission, as well as a genuine commitment to building relationships and networks that empower people and communities.
We call on the Panel to contribute to achieving this vision of human services by:
- Ensuring that competition policy does not erode the wider role of human services in building individual capabilities, cohesive communities, and a more civil society.
- Reinforcing the important role played by government and human services together in addressing complex and dynamic social problems that rely on robust civic dialogue for continual improvement.
- Recognising that community organisations should not be seen, nor should they view themselves, simply as government service delivery arms, but as co-producers of solutions and key participants in civic dialogue.
- Recognising that the role of government must be greater than that of a service purchasing agency. Indeed, in some circumstances government will be best placed to deliver services.
- Promoting genuine choice as opposed to choice between different services offering the same thing. Within services there must also be a strong focus on promoting agency and empowering service users.
- Taking greater account of the very mixed experience of competition and for-profit provision in human services, including that it has not necessarily improved the quality of human services, and promised gains in efficiency, quality, adaptability and innovation have not been realised.
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