New research explores a decade of reforms in the community services sector

The Centre for Social Impact UNSW (CSI UNSW) and the Community Services Industry Alliance (CSIA) explore a decade of reform recommendations for the community services sector.

The recent partnership explores how the government has sought to reshape and reform the community services industry over the past 10 years.

It examined a decade of reforms from the Productivity Commission, the Royal Commissions and Senate Enquiries, and the way they position the Community Services Industry, and found that these bodies have been making the same recommendations, year after year. This suggests that the government is caught in a continuous cycle of reviews, without fully enacting or implementing recommendations after each review.

The report Moving the Conversation Forward: A Decade of Reform Recommendations for the Community Services Sector asks the question: how does the sector move forward in calling for change?

Professor Gemma Carey, report author and CSI UNSW Academic Director, said that the report plays an important part in moving the conversation forward rather than repeating the same mistakes and expecting a different outcome:

“We can see recommendations consistently emerge as four key themes: Integrated working, competition and contestability, government as steward, and workforce reform. In each of these areas, we know the debates inside out, but substantive changes are just not happening.”

The report comprehensively looks at over 92 Commonwealth-level reviews into the role of community organisations and provides a summary of the themes that have emerged over time.

CSIA will use this report to support a proactive and deeper analysis of these themes and their effectiveness. In particular, CSIA is urging the participation of senior leaders and board directors of organisations to map out a new way forward.

With CSIA’s understanding of the intersection between policymaking and reform, and the influence of “change agenda”, this report has stemmed from the recognition that its time find new approaches to working with government.

Specifically, CSIA are looking to highlight areas of successful reform and break the pattern of community organisations finding themselves in the same position while calling for change and consistently reverting back to reviewing the problem.

Belinda Drew, CEO of Community Services Industry Alliance, stated: “We see this as an opportunity to change our approach to policy reform… to find more efficient and effective ways to work together.”

The report will provide readers with a review of how the community services industry has been positioned by through major reform initiatives, with the aim to provide insight into how industry is understood and approached by governments. The review spans from 2008-present, identifying key themes of successive inquiries and tracking developments in the space.

The themes analysed throughout the report indicate that the big issues impacting the industry are long-running and require refreshed collective leadership to shift the dial.