A summary of the first Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) Outcomes Workshop held on 30 January 2015. 

The presenters - Valmae Rose from QCOSS and Judith Rowell from the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services - give an introduction to the purpose of these workshops to the assembled group.

The Outcomes Working Group brings together a diverse mix of government and non-government organisations to draft and test a suite of program level outcomes and measures (standardised and non-standardised).

A series of ten monthly workshops are planned, four of which will be held in regional Queensland. These workshops will be co-facilitated by the Queensland Council of Social Service and the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services and build on an initial session at QCOSS’ 2014 conference.

The workshops aim to establish a suite of outcome measures, tools and guidance for gathering evidence. While the initial focus is on refining a core set of generic outcome measures and tools for use in service agreement negotiation, the work will extend over the year into developing a broader suite of outcome measures which community-based organisations may choose from.

For more information visit the Outcomes Working Group Network Space.


Valmae Rose, Queensland Council of Social Service

My name's Valmae and I'm from QCOSS. If you were at the QCOSS conference session on outcomes last year, in October last year, then you'll know that there's a couple of goals of us working together in co-design with the Department. The first is to actually to get our head around what real co-design is, because I don't think we've had a really good experience of that yet, and this is a great opportunity. But the second is to build a suite of outcomes, a suite of outcome measures and tools at a program level that actually act as an agreed reference point for us.

Now in the first instance, and Judith will explain this, it's about using them as a basis for your new service agreements, but that work will extend to the place where we're looking at organisations being able to use them as a basis for the conversation with clients as they walk through the door.

Outcomes are important. When we talk about outcomes, we're talking about the direct, intended beneficial effect on the stakeholders for interests our work exists to serve. Those outcomes might be hard or soft but they all require measurement using appropriate tools and processes. When we talk about measure - and this is what we're focusing on today - we're talking about a tool or a means of tracking progress toward outcome, over time.

You can work through a series of questions - it doesn't matter whether you tackle one or all seven or in what order. The questions start with:

  • Are these the right measures?
  • Do these measures tell us enough about value for money, both from government and organisational effort perspectives?
  • What might the unintended consequences of measuring progress toward outcome in this way? Some of you have raised those questions already.
  • What evidence, able to be collected, would support those measures?
  • What evidence is already being collected?
  • What tools would assist us to capture that evidence?
  • And what guidance or counting rules or other information are needed to help capture and analyze that data in a systematic way?

Judith Rowell, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services

Judith Rowell's my name, I'm from the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. In terms of government interest it will be no surprise to you that since 2012 the Queensland Government very much has looked at funding in a different way. We call it investment - these aren't just words changes, they're actually significant and symbolic changes - it's a government that's looked at how do we fund, looked at consolidating and rationalising a lot of the funding and investment that goes to services. In the past we didn't even use words like "to do what" or "to purchase services", we talked about providing services.

The first question for us is the investment, so if we're arguing the point of twenty million dollars should go toward this service provision for this benefit, our interest is to be able to agree on some measures and to have the sector partners such as yourselves able to measure progress in those outcomes, so that we can then report back to government - well you made a choice to allocate twenty million dollars for this service for this benefit, this is what we can tell you about the outcomes or the benefits that have been achieved. Sounds simple and I'm just sketching a sense that the interest is there, so we're interested in being able to say what were the outcomes of the investment.

Necessarily and of course we need to be interested on an individual level - what did that mean for that client, that client had an issue or a problem, there was a service that was provided - we want to know what is the benefit for that individual. I'm signalling too, and I think it's of interest again, of mutual interest, is we all want to know how does that aggregate up, what does that mean for that program level investment, and a step up again is that sense of what does mean for some of those really global, high level outcomes for the community that we all work towards.

QCOSS has been very clear to say you're looking at this work around outcome measure development up until December of this year, and that the objective at that point is to have a bank of measures. It won't surprise you to know government's interest and agenda is a little bit shorter than that, and Valmae mentioned that before. The documents that you've got in front of you are some reference documents - we've done some consolidation and rationalising around a number of programs that the Department - and that's community services and child and family services – fund, where we had a proliferation of programs and initiatives. What you have in front of you is the documentation that tries to explain, and again if you were at the conference this would be familiar to you, we've looked at trying to rationalise that into a domain guideline, so there's a guideline that covers the investment across those two areas.

There are nine investment specifications in your packs there, what they try to represent is the totality of social service investment across community services and child and family. Valmae mentioned before that there is a timeframe for us, we're looking at inserting or using those in a contractual sense. We've tried to rearrange our investment in a logical and rational way, we've developed some documentation from that, including draft outcome measures, the purpose today as it was at the QCOSS conference and other occasions to come is to very much mature those measures. There is a desire for us to be able to start using the measures, outcome measures, that we can agree at the end of this process, and I don't mean by the end of today.

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