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Have your say: ComVoices State of the Sector Survey 2018

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ComVoices biennial survey on the state of the community and voluntary sector in New Zealand is now open. First run in 2014 and then again in 2016, the survey has become a key source of information about the wellbeing of community organisations working across a broad range of community issues and interests.

Previous reports show the sector is under increasing strain with reducing or static funding, increasing complexity of client and community issues, and challenges managing the impact of increasing compliance and contracting expectations.

“We are keen to see what has changed in the past two years. How are community organisations faring and what might that mean for the people of New Zealand?” says ComVoices chair Nicola Sutton.

The reports from the first two surveys were widely used by sector organisations and ComVoices to talk to members of parliament and government agencies. Sutton says that ComVoices is dependent on the sector providing the data and so encourages community organisations of all shapes and sizes to complete the survey. “We need data from local groups run by volunteers and local fundraising just as much as we need data from larger organisations with paid staff and government contracts,” says Sutton.

The 2018 ‘State of the Sector’ report, due to be published early 2019, will include comparative data from earlier surveys and a commentary on current issues and trends facing the sector.

ComVoices invites all community sector organisations to add their voice to the Survey, which can be accessed via this link https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ComVoices2018

The survey should take 10 – 13 minutes to complete.

The survey will close 5pm, 19 November 2018

 

Snap, Crackle and Pop – a report on the first of the ComVoices Breakfast series

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The background

Recently, ComVoices hosted the first of a series of breakfast events that aspire to create a new kind of relationship between Parliamentarians and the community sector, through wānanga style breakfasts that explore areas of mutual interest. We hope that through shared learning, we can build a different kind of conversation and relationship between our sector and MPs.

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. Collectively we represent a vast and diverse range services that span Aotearoa’s breadth and support communities across the country. We’re a broad network, and as a network we work to our many strengths, collaborating in the knowledge that we each bring something important from our sphere within the wider sector to the table. We identify issues of common interest, share insights and work to make great things happen.

Late last year we canvased the idea with around 20 Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum. With resounding support from the crew we spoke to at a conceptual level, we planned a first breakfast with a special guest, some evidence about our current state, and some co-design of topics for further events. Poto Williams, a fabulous Assistant Speaker of the House, agreed to host. ComVoices members invited along people who are delivering services on the ground. And early one morning in very late March, with the first real southerly of the year blowing cold round the Beehive, we gathered for kai and kōrero and talked about what awesomeness would look like in the relationship between the sector and Parliament.

What we talked about

People talked about busting silos, more information flowing between the buildings of government and the community sector, relationships rather than transactions. Everyone present wanted a better understanding between decisionmakers and the people delivering on the ground, based on open, honest, trusted and interactive relationships.

There was also a common desire to establish personal and professional connections, and through these connections generate what is needed to permanently change the conditions for New Zealanders for the better- rather than fixes shaped by the electoral cycle. Breakfasters wanted to be equal partners in a cohesive system, for the system to create shared solutions and participatory and accessible modes of communication.

The road map for future breakfasts

Having outlined what awesome would look like, there was even more snap crackle and pop as we designed a road map through topics for exploration at future breakfasts. A collection of these, in no particular order, follow:

  • Taking a community sector topic – like mental health or homelessness – and analysing it from a wellbeing perspective, using the living standards framework that Treasury have published in draft form
  • Creating conversations around ‘tricky’ issues and work it through to the point of action
  • The contracting/commissioning landscape for services across the country
  • What’s the shape of leadership in the sector?
  • Hearing the voices of the sector- being heard
  • A session focused on young people…

This last suggestion is the first one we’ll be picking up – ComVoices are cooking up a special breakfast where young people working in our sector will give their views of the future of our democracy, our economy and our communities.

Watch this space!

MSD review doesn’t resolve the client data problems

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An independent report released today into a recent data breach at MSD shows the problems created by a project with an unrealistic timeframe being imposed on a complex and sensitive area.

ComVoices is pleased to learn that no personal data was mistakenly released but the report details a series of mistakes and inadequacy.

ComVoices chair Brenda Pilott said that these errors were symptomatic of the implementation of this project to require community providers to collect and share personal information with MSD.  “We have said from the outset that this process was being rushed and was not affording MSD time to consider all the issues.  Nor have they engaged well with providers and other experts.”

ComVoices has consistently advised the department and Minister to slow down.  “The timeframe for this project was self-imposed and coincided with a period of major restructuring within MSD.  No wonder mistakes were made”, said Brenda Pilott.

“The Privacy Commissioner made four recommendations to MSD and its Minister, of which data security was just one.  The other recommendations have not been addressed yet.  Privacy considerations must be looked at carefully.  Neither we nor MSD can give providers any reassurance that they can provide this sensitive data to MSD with full trust and confidence.”

Brenda Pilott said: “My message to MSD is to slow down and to engage with provider groups in a co-design process.  This is too important to get wrong again.”

For further information, contact Brenda Pilott on 027 430 6016.

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations.

ComVoices.org.nz

 

MSD IT Enquiry Not Enough

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The announcement of an enquiry into the privacy failure of MSD’s online reporting platform for community organisations required to provide individual client data (ICLD) addresses only one of the Privacy Commissioner’s four recommendations, says ComVoices.

“The just announced enquiry is deflecting us from the real question”, said Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson.  “The question at the heart of the enquiry should be why are we collecting data that the Privacy Commissioner has said is ‘…excessive, disproportionate to government’s legitimate needs and therefore inconsistent with the privacy principles’?”.

“The staff of social services organisations have a range of professional bodies which provide ethical guidelines about maintaining the privacy of clients.  Not only will these organisations be breaking these ethical guidelines, they will also be forced to work in direct contravention of the Privacy Commissioner’s findings.”

At the moment service providers have been told they must continue to collect the private data of their clients to provide to MSD at a future date.  They have not been told who will be held to account for breaking the privacy principles set out in the Privacy Act.

“The community sector is waiting for leadership from the Minister and MSD about the important issues raised in the Privacy Commissioner’s report,” says McGlinchey.  “This mass collection of data is inappropriate and will directly affect many New Zealand families. This level of surveillance will cause others not to seek help so that they do not become labelled as ‘vulnerable’ and included as a named statistic on a government database. As always the NGO sector is happy to work alongside MSD to find a more appropriate solution to their data needs.”

ComVoices is calling on the Government to put an immediate hold on this policy while it addresses the issues raised by the Privacy Commissioner.

Contact Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson, phone 027 286 9393

NGOs Disappointed in the Minister’s Response to Privacy Report

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“While there is some relief that after the failure of MSD’s private data portal, Minister Tolley has put the reporting of clients’ private data on hold for a few months, NGOs are very frustrated with the Minister’s response to the Privacy Commissioner’s report on the collection of individual Client Data”, said Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson. “The determination to push ahead with MSD collecting this sensitive data in the face of the Privacy Commissioners Report and the failure of the MSD information portal demonstrate that we should be holding off on implementing this process and a more effective way of demonstrating the value of social services should be developed’.

The Privacy Commissioner recommended that MSD should put consider alternative methods for accomplishing its goals such as having the information collated and analysed by Statistics New Zealand in the Integrated Data Infrastructure.  “The members of the ComVoices networks fully support this proposal and stand ready to work with the Minister, MSD and the Ministry for Children to make this work”.

“We are now in the very difficult position of being expected to sign MSD contracts that are out of step with the Privacy Commissioner’s findings.  It is difficult to see how we can do this in good faith and we have real concerns about the liability we might be opening ourselves up to.”

“We urge the Minister and her officials to match good intentions with good practice and listen and take action on the advice they have been given.”

Contact Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson, phone 027 286 9393

Privacy Commissioner’s Report Welcomed by Social Service Organisations

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“ComVoices welcomes the Privacy Commissioner’s report on Individual Client Level Data and endorses the recommendations, particularly the preferred option that MSD should consider alternative methods for accomplishing its goals”, said Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson. “These recommendations are directly in line with the advice provided by ComVoices members to MSD and to Minister Tolley”.

“It is very important the families and individuals seeking support from community service providers can trust that their rights to privacy will not be breached and that no harm or misuse could result in the use of their personal information. This encourages early access to support and allows vulnerable families to grow into independence rather than being forced to hide their problems for fear that this information will be used against them or publicly shared”.

“Earlier, more direct engagement with providers of social services could have prevented the current situation arising.  We have repeatedly offered to support MSD to develop alternative data gathering systems so they could better understand the high value of social services organisations and how these make a real difference for vulnerable people and communities”.

“The reported breakdown of the system proposed by MSD to collect the private information of social service clients illustrates the need for a more effective and better protected data system. It is evident that good governance and principles need to be developed across the public sector to support a coherent approach to the collection and analysis of relevant data. Community and iwi social services providers want to demonstrate the  value and effectiveness of their services to all stakeholders, but not to the detriment of their clients.  We welcome the support shown by the Privacy Commissioner for the expertise of Statistics NZ, which protects individual data within both legislative and ethical frameworks whilst delivering valuable data for analytics and research”.

“The establishment of the Ministry of Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki means a large proportion of government funded community services move to this new Ministry, however many services stay with MSD and Work and Income . The new Ministry is committed to working in partnership with community social service providers,  we see this as an opportunity for a fresh start. Social services want to work collaboratively with government to support them to understand the huge value of the services they receive for their $330million a year investment”.

“ComVoices looks forward to engaging with the Minister of Children, social sector government ministries, the office of the Privacy Commission and the Government Chief Information Officer to develop ethical, high trust systems that respect an individual’s choice in sharing their personal data and can report on the effectiveness of social services”.

Contact Trevor McGlinchey, ComVoices Spokesperson, phone 0272 286 9393

ComVoices calls for pause on Government demand for personal information

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From July 2017 Community Organisations provider contracts with Government are to include the requirement to gather and share identifiable data about clients accessing services.

ComVoices Chair, Brenda Pilott says: “We think that the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) is on the wrong track and our members are worried that the MInistry is pressing ahead with this work when so many issues are unresolved.

“We have written to the Prime Minister and other Ministers asking them to stop the current work, and work with community organisations to develop an information system that delivers the big picture information being sought, respects individual privacy and is sustainable for providers who will have to gather the information.”

A letter and a proposal suggesting a different way forward has been sent to Ministers.

View the full document here

 

The holes are getting bigger in the safety net provided by the Community Sector

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View the full document here

“The second ComVoices State of the Sector Survey of the Community Sector shows that stresses on our organisations are increasing” says Scott Miller, Chair of ComVoices.

“We are facing greater demand for our services, are dealing with greater complexity with less funding from government, and have a greater reliance on alternative funding sources to support the delivery of services.

“The crisis in the sector is worsening and despite discussions with government and its agencies no one appears to be listening” he says.

Tess Casey, convenor of the Survey Working Group, says that the issues of cost, complexity and compliance were repeatedly highlighted in the survey.

“The survey shows that the financial pressures on our organisations are huge. Part of the issue is that most Government agencies do not pay the full cost of the services they contract from community organisations”  says Ms Casey.  “As well, many service delivery groups have had no dollar increases in contracts for the same or larger output  targets for between six and ten years.

Of the over 280 organisations that responded to the survey, six are facing closure, 42% are worried about their financial viability and almost half are using their reserves to help fund their service delivery.

Compounding this is the increasing complexity of needs in the clients and communities that organisations are working with.

“Government compliance requirements have also increased.   The organisations that responded to the survey mentioned having to work with new and more complex financial reporting regulations, more frequent external reporting and outcome reporting requirements, new data collection requirements, and new health and safety regulations.  Regrettably, there are no funding increases to cover this” says Ms Casey.

Community organisations said that they are coping by constantly restructuring, reducing staff hours, not increasing staff wages and/or increasingly relying on volunteers.

“This is not a sustainable way for organisations to operate,” Mr Miller says. “The Community sector underpins much of the social service delivery to New Zealand communities, and the government relies on us to be there as the safety net for families and communities.  If government really wants the sector to continue to do this work then it must urgently address the issues of “cost, complexity and compliance”.

 

Meeting with James Shaw Greens Co-Leader

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ComVoices briefed James Shaw on key issues from the State of the Sector Survey 2016.  He was told that the sector is not averse to change, streamlining, identifying  need and demonstrating outcomes, but the sector is finding it difficult to engage with Government – the rhetoric is separate from the reality. In the lead –up to the general election, James said that the Greens will be focussing on inequality, the environment and structural elements in the economy.  James’ view was that people don’t vote on policy, and so the Greens will be focussing on the Green’s vision, values and social identity.

Parliamentary Breakfast

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Parliamentary Breakfast – Shreya Basu, Open Government Partnership Regional Civil Society coordinator for Asia Pacific

Grant Robertson, MP for Wellington Central hosted this parliamentary breakfast for guest speaker Shreya Basu. Her topic was NZ and the Open Government Partnership – what should you know, and why should you care?  More than 80 people attended the event which was generously sponsored by the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University (IGPS).