Community groups to be defacto arms of Government?

Trevor McGlinchey
Executive Officer
photo of Trevor McGlinchey NZ Council of Christian Social Services

There has been a quiet revolution occurring which will have profound impacts on community-based social services organisations.  This revolution was brought to my attention recently when the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the new style budgeting programme, Building Financial Capability, was released.  Buried in the RFP supplementary information is the requirement to provide Individual Client Level Data, or as it is colloquially known in government circles, ICLD.   This individual data includes the requirement to provide “Client Name, address, gender, date of birth, primary ethnicity, Iwi. Dependents Name, date of birth, relationship to client”.

The latest update to the Community Investment Strategy (http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/community-investment-strategy/#CommunityInvestmentStrategyUpdate2016August2) further spells out; “Starting from July 2016, we will begin collecting individual client level data (client level data) from providers. We will do this progressively over the year, so that we are collecting client level data from all providers by July 2017.” This means that all Community Investment funded service providers will be required to collect and provide to government Individual Client Level Data.

This collection of individual level data is a new contractual requirement that has the potential to move community social services from being able to work with anyone with needs in their communities, to only being able to work with those willing to have their personal details shared with government.  In this way these organisations become similar with Inland Revenue, Work and Income, Ministry of Education and the myriad of other government agencies that will only provide services upon the receipt of the correct, individually identifying information and identification.

I am not aware of any conversations with communities or with community-based social services on introducing this change.  Neither have I seen any assessment of the potential impact of these new requirements on families and individuals who seek support.  I would have thought that such a significant change would be thoroughly consulted on and researched prior to being implemented on an across-system level to all services, all providers and all clients.

We are informed there will be a requirement for all clients to fill out a form providing their permission to have the personal data they provide shared with government.  Will this process stop some of the most at-risk families in our network from seeking the independent support of community organisations?  At this stage we don’t know. However, many of our members feel that those who are most in need of support may be less willing to reveal their needs if they believe that government will have access to this information.

If we are going to feel we are true partners with government agencies in achieving positive change in our communities, we must have greater transparency and more engagement in such important decisions.   These are policy decsions which have the potential to move organisations from being independent community agencies to being arms of government.  It is not good enough to quietly slip these types of requirements into RFPs and contracts. Robust discussion and critique is needed to ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities can access the services they need, and community organisations can continue as independent promoters of civil society and community development.

 

This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices

ComVoices  actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.

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