Over the past year, the Deloitte Social Impact Practice has been researching and comparing different social service models to improve wellbeing for families at risk or in crisis. For a small, yet significant minority of families that are at risk or in crisis, the current system is difficult to navigate, and fails to take a holistic view of the family and their complex needs.

We’ve already explored this in our State of the State article series, looking at a family-by-family approach, and have continued to develop our research. We have interviewed leaders across the social sector about the different social service models; to test our initial hypotheses on what might work in New Zealand, learn more on what is already working, and assess the challenges and barriers to be addressed.

We heard about initiatives across the social sector that are achieving meaningful, positive change for families at risk or in crisis, including Manaaki Tairāwhiti’s Fifty Families initiative, Wesley Community Action’s community development initiatives and the many individual staff members within agencies who work tirelessly on a daily basis to support families in their communities.

There was broad consensus that whānau by whānau support, community-led development, and strengths-based approaches are the pathway to success for social outcomes and wellbeing, which echoes the findings of the Whānau Ora Review Panel. However, it was also clear that success today happens in spite of the current system settings – not because of them. The current system is structured in such a way as to concentrate power, resources and accountabilities within organisational silos that are removed from communities.

The opportunity is to address systemic barriers while continuing to invest in the localised, place-based and whānau-based social service delivery models that work best for communities.

Based on the discussions with social sector leaders across all models, we have identified five recommendations to scale and systematise success:

  1. A common understanding and aligned approach to delivering outcomes: Use a systems mapping approach to bring together an understanding of the social service landscape, the levers for change and develop a common theory of change. Establish organisational accountability models and KPIs to support this theory of change.
  2. Ease of navigation: Implement changes within and between social sector agencies to make it easier for staff and families to navigate between organisations. This could include a navigator or coach role, physical co-location, simplifying entitlements, and navigation support for staff.
  3. Incentivise collaboration: Reform system settings, by exploring new organisational structures to not just enable, but incentivise collaboration across government social sector agencies, and invest in a change-making network to activate change leadership across the sector.
  4. Invest in relationships: Shift frontline service delivery for families at risk or in crisis toward a relationship-based service, building on existing relationships held with the family in the community.
  5. Invest in communities: Invest in community capability and capacity building to reveal local evidence-based solutions to the challenges faced by families at risk or in crisis, supported by sophisticated commissioning approaches.

Achieving the step change so sorely needed in wellbeing outcomes for New Zealand families at risk or in crisis requires reform at all levels of the system – from government leadership to community providers. Such reform requires a clear mandate and strong leadership at all levels of the sector. This is by no means an impossible task, and is in many respects a more readily attainable goal than having the needs of families at risk met by the current system.

For an expanded look at this topic, you can find our full article on building family resilience and wellbeing here.

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