29 Apr 2015

Govt to make further social service changes

4:07 pm on 29 April 2015

The Government will make further changes to the way people access social services in next month's budget, Acting Prime Minister Bill English says.

Bill English during caucas run this morning.

Bill English speaks to reporters at Parliament (file) Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

A draft Productivity Commission report says users should be given a greater say in the services they receive, and government departments should take a step back.

It also recommends decentralising services, including insurance-based systems such as the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

Mr English said the commission was giving the government some interesting direction.

"A lot of the thinking is - you've been part of what the government has been doing the last couple of years - so yeah, there'll be a bit more momentum in this year's budget and hopefully through the next 12 months, as they finalise their report, we can pick up more of the ideas and include them in how we do business."

Mr English said everyone, whether in the government or non-government sector, wanted to do a better job for disadvantaged New Zealanders.

Concern at potential changes

The draft report suggests a competitive market based on tendering would encourage providers to offer better services as a means to secure clients.

But one advocacy group said it was not convinced making social services providers compete for government funds would improve clients' experiences.

Hui E Community Aotearoa general manager Peter Glensor said people's needs were complex and competition was not the answer.

"The only way to deal with it is to work together. Now if, at the same time, we're being incentivsed to compete with one another, then you've got a kind of contradiction built into the system, which could be a huge problem."

He said the organisation wanted to see the commission's evidence to support such an approach, and to discuss it further.

Public Service Association (PSA) national secretary Richard Wagstaff said better services did not come without investment.

Mr Wagstaff said the PSA was not against shifting responsibility from the government to providers but the aim should not be purely to reduce cost.

Labour's social development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni said she did not agree with the commission's recommendation there should be more competition between community providers.

She said the Government should work in collaboration with community providers rather than devolve responsibility to them.

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