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Improving the effectiveness of social services : the challenge for public administration Len Cook, Families Commissioner

By: Cook, Len.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: Wellington, New Zealand : Superu, 2017Description: electronic document (27 pages) ; PDF file.Subject(s): CHANGE MANAGEMENT | EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICE | ORGANISATIONAL SYSTEMS | SOCIAL POLICY | SOCIAL SERVICES | NEW ZEALANDOnline resources: Click here to access online Summary: "Social services involve interactions with people that can be fraught and complex, are often based on partial knowledge of conditions, and may involve many partners and inadequate responses. The quality of social services delivery is a vital and undervalued consideration in the selection of social policy choices. A series of recent reviews not only repeat what is now well known about the low standard and underuse of well accepted evaluation methods but also point to systemic underuse of basic management practices including continuous improvement and operations research. Politicians encourage citizens to have an idealised view of what is achievable and this discourages the public sector from evaluation, continuous improvement and review that might suggest otherwise. Free and frank advice is generally seen as referring to policy, but this paper suggests that until operational practices are subject to more open review and challenge, that improvements in policy analysis and design will be hampered by delivery failings. The social investment approach is based on embedding in public administration practices which recognise the breadth of evidence that could be drawn on to provide an objective basis for citizens to have confidence in service delivery, and a constructive basis for come-at-ability. Alignment of processes in the social services necessitates greater co-ordination within agencies as well as between them. Where public services are activities of last resort, such as child protection and incarceration, we need to be open about the likelihood of having only a limited ability to effect change, with sufficient independent oversight to ensure that system inadequacies cannot damage people more when they are vulnerable." (Author's abstract). Record #5683
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Presented at the Family & Relationship Services Australia conference; “Measuring Success in the Family & Relationship Services Sector”, Canberra, 1 December 2016. Revised 13 September 2017.

"Social services involve interactions with people that can be fraught and complex, are often based on partial knowledge of conditions, and may involve many partners and inadequate responses. The quality of social services delivery is a vital and undervalued consideration in the selection of social policy choices. A series of recent reviews not only repeat what is now well known about the low standard and underuse of well accepted evaluation methods but also point to systemic underuse of basic management practices including continuous improvement and operations research. Politicians encourage citizens to have an idealised view of what is achievable and this discourages the public sector from evaluation, continuous improvement and review that might suggest otherwise. Free and frank advice is generally seen as referring to policy, but this paper suggests that until operational practices are subject to more open review and challenge, that improvements in policy analysis and design will be hampered by delivery failings. The social investment approach is based on embedding in public administration practices which recognise the breadth of evidence that could be drawn on to provide an objective basis for citizens to have confidence in service delivery, and a constructive basis for come-at-ability. Alignment of processes in the social services necessitates greater co-ordination within agencies as well as between them. Where public services are activities of last resort, such as child protection and incarceration, we need to be open about the likelihood of having only a limited ability to effect change, with sufficient independent oversight to ensure that system inadequacies cannot damage people more when they are vulnerable." (Author's abstract). Record #5683