Culture of partnership to culture of contract : child and family support services contracting with the New Zealand Community Funding Agency : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work at Massey University
In recent years major changes have taken place in the relationship between the
state and the voluntary sector in the provision of social services in New Zealand.
Services are now being purchased by means of contract, rather than agencies
being subsidised by means of grants, and this has been accompanied by a shift
from state provision to non-government agency provision in certain service areas.
Support for these changes came from a variety of very different ideological and
interest group positions in the 1980s. State sector reform and legislative changes
provided the structure within which the contracting system has been developed.
This thesis examines the relationships between five non-government social
service agencies, providing Child and Family Support Services, and the New
Zealand Community Funding Agency, the unit of the Department of Social
Welfare which contracts them to provide services. Small scale qualitative research
has been conducted, involving interviews with managers of the agencies and with
Community Funding Agency staff, collecting information about their perceptions
and beliefs about the relationship between the funder and the providers, the
impact of the contracting system, and the proper roles of the state and nongovernment
agencies in the provision of social services. Central to the study is a
consideration of the complex interplay between ideologies and social realities in
shaping the way the participants in changing, social and political relationships
think about those relationships.
The literature suggests that the nature of the relationship between the state and the
voluntary sector has changed, such that the voluntary sector has lost some
autonomy and become more an agent of the state; that a contract culture has
emerged with its own values; that process difficulties persist even in settings
where contracting has been in use for many years and agencies develop various
strategies for managing these; and that agencies vary in the extent to which they
are affected by the contracting system.
This research is limited by the small size of the sample. However, it indicates that
while most participants in the contracting system believe it has advantages over
other systems they have experienced, there is a high level of frustration with the
details of implementation. Survival in this funding environment appears to depend
very largely on access to independent sources of funds, or at least the support of a
larger organisation through times of cash flow crises. In the absence of these,
agencies survive on the back-up of volunteers and the personal altruism of staff
and committees. Newer, smaller, stand alone agencies, which include Maori and
Pacific Island social services, do not generally have access to independent income
and may face the greatest struggle surviving in the contract regime.
The thesis concludes that a change is taking place in discourse about the voluntary
sector and the state. The commercial values and assumptions of contracting are
replacing a culture which emphasised the value of partnership between state and
community. The everyday demands of managing in the contract regime mean that
agencies in the voluntary sector are themselves participants in this new
While support came from ideological positions which ranged from economic
liberalism aiming to minimise the role of the state, to radical reformism and
biculturalism seeking empowerment and self-determination for communities, a
major impact of the changes has in fact been to increase the level of control which
the state exercises over the voluntary sector. Smaller, newer organisations,
despite their own strong philosophies of self determination, may in fact be the
most vulnerable to state control once they have entered the contracting system.