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You are here: Home / UrbanGrowth, SMDA & RWA Plans & Activities / Human Services Plans / Human Services Plan Phase 2 / South Sydney Consortium response to RWA HSP Phase 2 / South Sydney Cconsortium - General Comments on Consultation Process

South Sydney Cconsortium - General Comments on Consultation Process

Below are some general comments on the RWA consultation process and Issues Papers for Phase 2 of the Human Services Plan. Further comments are being developed and will be posted separately. Prepared by Faye Williams for the Consortium.

Consultation Process

The consultation process being used for Phase 2 of the Human Services Plan seems to be more about how to control input that to get a genuine and open expression of what local services and residents think and need. The consultation process for the Partnership Project and RWA’s Human Services Plan Phase 1 had flaws that have been documented, but was reasonably extensive. This does not mean Phase 2 should have an inadequate consultation process. A different group of people and concerns are being considered in Phase 2 - aged people, people with disabilities, homeless people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) over 45 years and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD).

The language in the invitation letter to attend the consultations, gives the impression that the process is about controlling input, rather than seeking useful input. There are also a couple of terms that demonstrate either a lack of understanding of the existing service system or a determination to operate independently. Either way, they introduce a barrier to consultation. Please note the use of the term ‘migrant’ has a particular use in multicultural programs and is not in present usage when referring to people from a multicultural background. The term ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ (CALD) is the accepted one.

The biggest concern about consultation is the lack of input from consumers. Local residents, who are aged, have a disability, are culturally and linguistically diverse, or homeless and are the people least able to advocate for themselves. The RWA should demonstrate the good practice it requires from local services and make an additional effort to ensure these disadvantaged residents have adequate input. Community service providers take additional and special measures to ensure they have input from consumers. This includes:

  • Providing transport
  • Organising carers to accompany them
  • Making the information clear
  • Providing translations
  • Going to where they are, rather than expecting them to access a formal process.

This lack of adequate support for disadvantaged people to have input into an RWA consultation was also raised at the Built Environment Consultation. The lack of consideration and effort to get input from these disadvantaged people, compromises any findings from the consultations. It also points to a tendency of government and the RWA towards a policy of not engaging with consumers. The lack of a strong and representative consumers voice on the Human Services Advisory Committee confirms that approach.

As is common practise in government consultations, the amount of time offered to the community to provide input is inadequate. Just because the practise is widespread, does not make it acceptable. The total span of time for consultation is usually sufficient, but the response time offered to the community is usually squeezed into a few weeks. This demonstrates either a lack of understanding that community processes are inherently slower, or that good quality community response is not valued. Adequate time should be factored into the process from the beginning. In this case community services in the area would have liked to bring consumers together, but we did not have time.

Late distribution of resource material

Finally the hold up of the distribution of the background papers has added to the firm impression that the intention is to keep the process tight and controlled. We suspect that we are going through the process so the consultation ‘box’ can be ticked, while government officers make the decisions behind closed doors.

Changing the Service System

Local community services in Redfern and Waterloo find it difficult to understand why the RWA wants to change existing services that work hard in a difficult environment and provide services valued by the local people. We have found a concept from the theory of Place Management that the RWA Human Services reform is based on that may offer an explanation. The Smith Family Research and Advocacy Briefing Paper – From Welfare to Place Management: Challenges and Developments for Service Delivery in the Community Sector by Vanessa Green and Gianni Zappela says that the Place Management model sets out to “dismantle the current system of service delivery by adopting a radically different approach – a shift from inputs to outcomes. The place manager defines the outcomes of the place and then buys in the services needed to translate those outcomes into action”. Stewart Weekes 1998 – 3-5.

Are the RWA plans then, not about helping local services do a better job, but about changing the current system, no matter whether it is a working well or not. This would help explain why the RWA is not making a large effort to find out what local services are currently doing, but are happy to decide what should happen internally and impose the new system. This would also explain the apparent lack of deep interest in consultation results.

Do more with no more

The NSW government has made a decision not to “buy in” any additional services for Redfern and Waterloo, but to re-organise existing ones or make them do more with no more resources. To achieve this result, services would have to leave some work they are doing and pick up the work that is required by the RWA. Either that or do more work with no more money. If services change what they do, there will be some other necessary activity not undertaken and services not wholly in Redfern and Waterloo would have to split their projects. Government also falsely believes that if services were more efficient they could do lots more work. This is a claim, not a proven fact. Services are not so incompetent that if we are restructured, co-ordinated and make back-office savings, we will be able to meet the huge unmet needs in Redfern and Waterloo.

Existing Contracts

All existing HACC services have been monitored and validated –some very recently under the new Integrated Monitoring Framework. Other services have monitoring, service specifications and quality imposed by their funding body. Is the RWA saying the funding bodies have got it wrong? The RWA process would have to relieve services from their existing contracts with their funding bodies, so how can they drop their present activities and take up new ones required by the RWA?

Services are flat out and full

There is no spare capacity in any community services in Redfern and Waterloo. Services that cover a wider area than Redfern/Waterloo find resources being pulled into the locality due to high need. A large number of identified problems such as access, co-operation, case management, lack of flexibility, ethno specific support and Dementia are the result of services having no spare capacity and stretching existing resources to meet the most needy people. The capacity to do more intervention, prevention, innovation and flexible service provision are hampered by insufficient resources.

National and State Issues

Many of the problems besetting services in Redfern/Waterloo are a result of service design, interface with other sectors and government departments, as well as inadequate funding over a long period of time. The ACOSS study Indicators for Capacity Building of the Community Sector Services show the pressures on community services are national. They are not the fault of community services in Redfern and Waterloo.

Government services

Many of the services needed in Redfern and Waterloo are government services, especially health and housing as well as police, children’s services, transport and legal. Improving the delivery of direct government services and their integration with community services would make a real difference and would be a sensible use of the RWA’s authority. Government departments could also make improvements in their planning of services and administration of grants, especially DADHC getting new money out and DIMIA’s use of data to assess needs.

Lack of knowledge and appreciation of community services

The HACC service system that provides services to frail aged people and people with disabilities is well developed and fairly complex. Many of the actions in the Issues Paper recommend work that has already been attempted over many years. A period of familiarisation by the RWA of existing services would have been beneficial. Many of the actions are the province of huge national and statewide programs and the capacity of local services and the RWA that covers two suburbs to change this is limited. Many of the actions proposed are dependant on and impacted on by other issues like new housing initiatives, mental health funding, transport and drug and alcohol.

The RWA demonstrates a poor concept of community development, including concepts such as:

  • Open communication
  • Respectful consultation
  • Empowerment of disadvantaged people
  • Assisting people to seek solutions to their problems
  • Action –based research
  • Power to -not power over

RWA Issues Paper changes

The welfare issues that the RWA has identified are largely correct. They require serious, long-term, well-funded actions to make a difference. Many of the actions identified by the RWA in the Issues Paper are not sufficiently rigorous to have an impact on problems and are often about service design, rather than practical on-the-ground actions eg .

The 10 issues chosen to highlight in the paper are not the only or main issues. ‘Better Service Delivery’ is the same name as an existing IT project and is very confusing. Can it be changed to ‘Provision of Services’. Dementia support needs to be placed with service delivery as most organisations and actions are common. Intergenerational issues are not a major issue and could be placed with Social Isolation.

Suggesting action that are already happening, show a lack of knowledge of the aged and disability service system and how it is implemented in Redfern and Waterloo. Many action items are attempting to fix problems that are either a structural problem within a service type that many people have been trying to fix for some time or are already being worked on. It is annoying that the RWA has listed an action plan that we are already doing. Either the RWA does not know about it or thinks we are not doing it properly. If the proposed actions refer to some service providers, not all, this should be stated in the paper.

Mapping existing services

If the RWA/Partnership Project t had carried out a mapping of services and resources in the area as initially promised, the RWA would have a better idea of the service system and gaps in service, plus what is needed to improve outcomes.