This report was sent to Government on 27 October 2017 and publicly released on 26 March 2018.
The Commission has made recommendations on how to apply increased competition, contestability and informed user choice to the human services that were identified in the first stage study report to improve outcomes for users, and the community as a whole.
The Australian Government’s 2015 Competition Policy Review recommended that governments should, wherever possible, put user choice at the heart of human services delivery. In its response to the Review, the Australian Government asked the Commission to undertake this inquiry to examine policy options that apply the principles of informed user choice, competition and contestability to the provision of human services. Desirable though they may be, applying these principles has proven to be neither simple nor without cost.
This inquiry is about finding ways to put the people who use human services at the heart of service provision. This matters because everyone will access human services in their lifetime, including children, the elderly, people facing hardship or harm, and people who require treatment for acute or chronic health conditions. People who use human services can lose their autonomy, and with it their dignity, if they have too little control over decisions that affect them. Reforms to the way human services are provided are needed to enable and support people and their families to have a stronger voice in shaping the services they receive, and who provides them.
Human services are essential for the wellbeing of individuals and their families, and underpin economic and social participation. Ensuring that everyone, regardless of their means or circumstances, has access to a minimum level of high-quality human services promotes equity and social cohesion, which in turn contributes to the welfare of the community as a whole.
The number of services provided each year in Australia is considerable, for example, there were more than 10 million admissions to public and private hospitals in 2015. Other services, such as homelessness services and social housing, are each used by hundreds of thousands of people every year. Public and private expenditure on human services is significant — over $300 billion in 2014-15 — with demand for services projected to grow as more people live longer, incomes grow and technological advances increase the types of services that can improve a person’s quality of life.