Outcomes based contracting in child protection: what are the pitfalls and what can we do about them?

Stream: Funding and organising service delivery
Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.10 pm


In NSW, the process of transferring the majority of foster care and other forms of care for neglected and abused children from government to the NGO sector commenced in 2012 within a frame of “partnership” and “collaboration” between government and the sector.

Consultative and decision making forums appeared to give NGO peak organisations significant control and influence. This transfer process can be conceptualised as having a number of stages. The most recent phase is characterised by the adoption of outcomes based contracting - the focus of this paper.

As part of an ongoing research project, interviews were conducted with senior NGO representatives, and NSW senior public servants and heads of regulatory agencies. The data to date shows that the experience of NGO sector leaders was that the reform process was not characterised by trust and collaboration but by high levels of control, within a marketised, competitive and highly politicised environment.

This paper particularly focuses on the experiences, over a five year period, of the NGO peak, ACWA. As services are transferred from government, under contract, to NGOs who are effectively placed into competition with one another for market share, the role of an NGO peak such as ACWA becomes ever more complex as it seeks to continue public advocacy for social reform and the interests of children and families. The paper identifies opportunities for a constructive reset of the commissioning relationship between government and the NGO sector, while acknowledging the many challenges facing NGO peaks within a marketised service environment.


Wendy Foote (Presenter), University of Newcastle
Wendy was the former D/CEO ACWA, during the transition of out of home care. In that role she worked with service providers, FaCS, and key stakeholders to identify, monitor and respond to implementation issues, service sector and workforce needs. She undertook sustained advocacy in relation to key areas of policy, practice and outcomes for children. She has a background in child and family service delivery and research, having worked in child welfare, health and legal settings. Wendy gained her PhD from the University of Sydney and has research interests in out of home care, system design and government procurement processes.

Jennifer Mason (Presenter), JPM Advisory
Jennifer is a former Director General of Family and Community Services, and has worked at a senior level in the Attorney General of NSW and the NSW Ombudsman, and not for profit. She was the head of Policy and Research at the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Jennifer has gained a PhD from the University of Sydney and has a research interest in commissioning and contracting in human services.