Uniting Communities has made a contribution to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Introducing Competition and Informed User Choice into Human Services through our peak UnitingCare Australia.



Submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Introducing Competition and Informed User Choice into Human Services

UnitingCare Australia has long believed that reforms increasing user choice are positive as stated in our submission to the Competition Policy Review Panel in December 20141. There is demand from consumers their families and our providers for more flexibility and a greater degree of user direction. We continue to support reforms enabling the market to increase supply to better meet demand. These reforms should include increased transparency around cost of delivery and freedom to recover costs according to capacity of consumers to pay.

Our extensive network of service providers delivers a range of human services. We are one of the country’s largest providers of aged care, disability supports, children’s and family services and housing and homelessness services for men, women, young people, and families. We operate in every state and territory in metropolitan, rural and remote locations. Our first-hand knowledge of consumer issues, needs and concerns provides the basis for this submission.

The level and nature of competition, contestability and user choice vary across services. This submission aims to highlight emerging issues across these services, and considerations for reform.

It is critical that any reforms be introduced with strong consideration given to consumer protections, especially for the most vulnerable, and access to affordable quality services for all users regardless of background or location.

Key observations for the successful introduction of competition and informed user choice into human services:

  1. The consumer’s wellbeing and protection are at the forefront of all thinking, planning and delivery.
  2. Close external monitoring must be built-in to ensure consumers are not being short-changed or abused in a competitive market.
  3. All reforms must concurrently consider the interactions between competition, contestability and user choice as related, but distinct, characteristics of the market place.
  4. Consumers must be educated about how to make the choice(s) that best suits their needs.
  5. Consumers are entitled to receive the service(s) and benefits for which they have paid, as is the case in any other sound market based system.
  6. Cooperation and collaboration between providers that directly benefits consumers is to be encouraged.
  7. No consumer with an incapacity to pay or reduced capacity to pay for services will be disadvantaged. No consumer will be disadvantaged due to their location or situation.
  8. The long term success of a Customer Directed Care (CDC) model is heavily reliant on the existence of a dedicated and well trained workforce. Therefore savings in areas that will impact on the quality of care, for example staff training, are to be avoided.