Friday, November 27, 2009

The case for reform in Australian public policy – measurement and child welfare

In The case for reform in Australian public policy – introducing measurement I referred to the rise of the modern obession with measurement.

All Government policies and programs now come with cascading and generally very simple numeric perfomance measures. It seems so reasonable: if we don't measure, how can we assess perfomance?

As it happened, yesterday's Age carried an example of  the type of problem that can arise. I quote:

A scathing Ombudsman's report has identified gross deficiencies in Victoria's child protection service, with workers manipulating figures to cover up children neglected by the system.
The problem is that the performance measures become an end in themselves. Where, as is often the case, the figures are simplistic or even unachievable, then manipulation of results to meet targets or conceal the failure to meet targets can and does occur.

To my mind, this has now become something of a cancer eating away at the heart of Australia's system of public administration. Sounds extreme? Perhaps, but there is an increasing volume of evidence to support my position.

Note to readers:

This is one of a month long series on the need for reform in Australia's approach to public policy and administration.

Consider yourself the judge or jury as I present the evidence. Most posts will be short, introductions to other writing. My argument is that we now have a systemic pattern of failure. You have to decide whether or not I am right and, if so, what you think that we should do about it.

If you want to follow the whole series through, you can click reforming Australian public policy on the side bar. This will bring the whole series up. Alternatively, if you want to follow the whole series through from the first post, click here and then click next at the end of each post.


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