Credit where ac(credit) is due

The Ministry of Social Development on behalf of a partnership of multiple agencies

Social sector service providers need accreditation, often from multiple government agencies. This accreditation gives them access to funding to offer their subsidised services to those that need it most.

Gaining this accreditation from multiple agencies can be a time consuming, confusing and frustrating experience. Often the exact same information has to be provided to different agencies for their own accreditation process.

This opportunity will explore how the accreditation process can be simplified for these social sector service providers. These providers can spend a significant effort preparing the different application forms for each agency and answering questions that may arise from each agency.

Having a single accreditation function across the social sector will streamline this process.

Tama’s experience

As manager of a marae-based service provider, Tama’s team provide a range of services to the community including residential care for children, social work support, family support, supervised access, Kohanga Reo, sexual health – to name a few. To provide these services, the organisation obtains funding from a range of sources and government agencies.

Because of this, Tama has to accommodate a lot of different accreditation activities. These events take time – staff need to be available to talk to assessors; documents and records have to be supplied. They made one office into a permanent ‘audit’ room to keep all the paperwork ready in the hope it would speed the process up and limit the time spent in preparation.

Tama gets it. Accreditation is necessary to be sure that their processes are up to scratch and the site is safe. He just doesn’t understand why there are so many site visits and audits – sometimes from the same government agency, just a different business group. Why can’t they talk to each other? Share the information that his team has supplied a month ago – or even a week ago!

It’s frustrating to spend all this time (which, of course, is money!) and effort when it could be better spent directly with the community or working on strategies for improving the services they offer – especially when sometimes they have recently has the same or similar audit previously. This happened last month, in fact; all that time and effort and, then another team came in not two weeks later and the whole process was repeated. The team were so disheartened.

Problems experienced

Social sector providers:

  • Currently have to apply to each agency separately which is a waste of time, effort and funding.
  • There is no way to see the progress of the application.
  • Audits from different agencies all looking at similar things distract from service provision.
  • Differing processes for each agency make it complex and confusing.

Government Agencies:

  • Duplication of effort between agencies gathering and verifying the same information
  • Lack of consistency between agencies means sharing information is difficult
  • Inconsistent information may exist in different agencies for the same provider if accreditation dates vary

Citizens dependent on service providers:

  • Services may be delayed whilst accreditation is being sought
  • Funding currently directed to seeking the accreditation has a direct bearing on the services provider to the clients

Why is this the right time?

Social service providers have raised their compliance burden with Ministers and asked for something to be done. The result of this is that agencies have been directed by the Minister of Finance and the Social Services Procurement Committee (SSPC) to achieve ‘one accreditation function across the social sector’. Chief Executives from eight participating agencies have endorsed this directive.

While work has been done and there are operating models for Inter-Agency Accreditation assessments, without an easy way to share information between agencies, identify what other agencies are accrediting a provider for and what has been checked and not checked recently, government’s ability to implement Inter-Agency Accreditation is limited.

Because the Inter-Agency Accreditation project has identified the lack of sharing of accreditation information as a key barrier for implementing ‘one accreditation function across the social sector’, funding has been allocated for the project to investigate and tackle this issue.

What does success look like

A successful solution would affect both the agencies and the social service providers (and indirectly the client of those providers).

Social sector providers are able to demonstrate a significant reduction in effort and cost in gaining their accreditation, allowing them to direct more of their funding into the frontline delivery of their core services.

Agencies will be able to share the accreditation information collected and spend less time verifying that information. The number of on-site audits will reduce as consistency is introduced.

A solution to this problem would:

  • Have a single source of accreditation information
  • Reuse and expand on the existing Inter-Agency Accreditation Project run out of MSD
  • Reuse and expand on the Cross-Government Accreditation Register (CGAR)