The ASU recently lodged its submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into introducing greater competition into human services. This inquiry was set up by the Liberal Government just days ahead of the recent election.
The ASU submission focusses on our concerns about the impact of increased competition and marketisation on the quality of community services delivered to vulnerable people, and the impact it will have on community workers’ jobs. The ASU also strongly argued against companies being able to make profits from delivering publicly funded services to vulnerable Australians.
We thank the many ASU members who also lodged submissions, sharing their personal stories and workplace experiences to ensure the Productivity Commission gets a sense of the real world implications of taking community services out of the hands of the not-for-profit sector.
Increased “competition” has become an obsession of many policy makers in recent years, however the ASU has urged the Productivity Commission to carefully consider the evidence and not make assumptions that market mechanisms necessarily yield the best results.
Although this is true of any publicly funded service, we argue that it is particularly the case for social and community services which are essential to support vulnerable people in times of crisis, disadvantage, social dislocation or marginalisation.
Our submission makes the following key recommendations:
- Social and community services are not suited to the introduction of further competition, contestability and user choice.
- Competitive tendering for social and community services is inefficient, expensive and results in less diversity of service provision.
- For-profit organisations shouldn’t be able to tender for community services, because every dollar of Government funding for community services should go to supporting people in need, not distributed as profits for shareholders.
- Social and community services need longer-term secure funding, as the current short-term funding model has a deleterious effect on service providers’ capacity to plan for and provide community services.
- The existing diversity of social and community services (both small and large, generalist and specialist) should be protected.
The ASU will continue to argue in this inquiry and all other forums that quality of service, community connections, cohesion and diversity in service providers are paramount to the delivery of human services, attributes that are difficult if not impossible to deliver via a for-profit scheme.