Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee report
On 15 January 2016 the Australian Government tabled its response to the findings and recommendations presented by the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee in their inquiry into the service quality, efficiency and sustainability of recent Commonwealth community service tendering processes by the Department of Social Services (DSS).
Themes that were presented to the Senate Inquiry by FRSA did feature strongly in the 12 recommendations formed by the Senate Committee in their final report, including in relation to:
- consultation prior to the commencement of the Funding Round;
- responding to local need;
- supporting collaborative practice;
- eligibility for Funding and Terms of Funding Agreements;
- communication and consultation;
- resources required;
- quality of DSS documentation and processes;
- risk and proportionality;
- communication subsequent to the Funding Round;
- policy changes and Impact on Services; and
- suggestions for next time.
In its formal response the Government agreed to or provided an ‘agreement in principle’ response, to four Recommendations. And that is a positive. Whilst FRSA is able to acknowledge the ‘sensitivity and confidentiality angle from the Government’s perspective, it is still disappointing that continued calls by the sector (and the Senate Committee) for greater transparency regarding the Department’s own gap analysis will not be made available. Knowing where the gaps are is still an important resource for helping share an informed discussion of a strategy that ensures vulnerable people are properly supported right across Australia with no gaps. This has been a constant message in our conversations with the Department and we still hold out hope that there is still scope for a gap analysis into the future.
This topic also features in the Government’s ‘noted’ responses to one of the remaining seven recommendations as tabled by the Senate Committee. And, as always, FRSA would be happy to assist the Government in any gap analysis project it may look to undertake into the future. In moving forward, it is also important that we retain an understanding of the past and we would also be hoping that some of the other ‘noted’ responses relating to how future funding rounds might be better improved, how services can be appropriately and adequately funded and how we can ensure that services are meeting community need are always primary considerations for Government in working with the sector. We look forward to continued conversations with the Department and the Government on these issues.