The Spotlight on... series focuses on some of the leading figures in Queensland's community services sector and related agencies. We ask them to talk about the work they are doing and how they see the future of the sector.

Mark Henley is the CEO of the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS). He talks about the role of QCOSS in working with community service organisations and government, as well as the key issues he sees as critical for the sector, moving into the future.

QCOSS is the peak state-wide body for individuals and organisations working in the social and community service sector.

QCOSS works towards a more just and equitable society by advocating on issues around social justice and equity to government, providing support and training to organisations to maintain a strong and vibrant sector and undertaking research and policy analysis on critical issues such as the impacts of poverty on Queenslanders.


Question: What is the role of the Queensland Council of Social Service?

Mark: We work right across the breadth of the community services sector, right across the breadth of government, three levels of government, because people experiencing poverty and disadvantage experience issues around employment or economic participation in relation to education, health, housing and their broader community and also families and children. So it’s an important part of the role about how do we actually represent a voice right across that broad spectrum and influence better outcomes for people.

Question: How does QCOSS work to eliminate poverty and disadvantage?

Mark: We engage with the sector a lot, about what are the needs from service provisions, to see significant change which will provide better outcomes, looking for evidence of good practice, how we can share that with the broader sector but also in influencing government policy, how government might invest, how government engages and everything is going to be always focused about elimination of poverty and disadvantage.

Question: What one thing should Queensland be doing to reduce poverty and disadvantage?

Mark: A key focus for us as an organisation is around universal services, or if you want to refer to as prevention / early intervention. We need to make sure that universal services such as areas around employment, health, education, investing in families and communities that there's a strong investment in those areas where all people across the community are better supported. What we don't need is the people who don't fit within the universal services fall through the cracks, they end up in crisis and that's where it costs those individuals, the community and government socially and economically. It costs enormously to all of those groups.

Question: What are you working on that will make a big difference in the sector?

Mark: There's a lot of conversation at the moment about co-design, getting really clear about the co-design, which means engaging people who are experiencing poverty disadvantage, service providers at the table with government, designing service delivery and supports which will better meet people's needs.

Question: What are the challenges of the co-design and renewal process?

This is something we're having lots of conversations with government about. What are the program outcomes that need to be delivered on while government is talking about reform agendas at the federal and state and local level if we can understand what are the program outcomes that will drive those population outcomes this will assist enormously. It will assist enormously about where the investment and where the resources need to be directed.

Question: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the future of the community services sector?

What does success look like as a state, as local communities but also for individuals and if we can have that data available at the local level it provides the opportunity for strong place based responses. Once a particular community or a place understands the data and the outcomes that will drive success for them it's much easier for them to respond to their own local needs and every place across this state is very very different and there needs to be different responses we also need to have the right structures in place to allow communities to get on with making decisions which drive their own futures.

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