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Lessons from recommissioning in Victoria’s AoD sector: VAADA

This guest post from VAADA, examines an evaluation they commissioned of the processes employed by the then Department of Health in the reform of Victoria’s alcohol and other drug (AOD) sector between 2011 and 2014.

In 2014, the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) commissioned the Drug Policy Modelling Program (DPMP) to undertake an evaluation of the processes employed by the then Department of Health in the reform of Victoria’s alcohol and other drug (AOD) sector.

The reform process commenced in 2011, soon after the release of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) report Managing Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment Services, which highlighted some significant system issues in the AOD treatment sector.

The DPMP report, The process of Reform in Victoria’s Alcohol and Other Drug Sector, 2011-2014, was completed in February 2015 and launched at the recent VAADA conference. This report covers the reform process from 2011, to when the new arrangements commenced, in September 2014.

In developing the report the DPMP reviewed a range of government and sector documents and undertook group interviews with CEOs and senior management from 18 alcohol and other drug services.

The report breaks down the three year process into three stages; pre-commissioning, recommissioning and transition. The pre-commissioning stage commenced soon after the release of the VAGO report within the context of broader service sector reform. This stage included the establishment of advisory groups on core areas of the system. However there was some ambiguity regarding the purpose of these groups.

The Government promoted notions of co-design of the new system, however the sector identified that the consultation process was not meaningful.

The recommissioning stage was largely viewed as a rushed process as agencies responded within the limited timeframe to the call for submissions.

There was an emphasis on consortia which elicited additional complexities.

After the call for submissions and interview processes, shortlisted organisations were asked to prepare Higher Level Delivery Plans. Many organisations reported having to make significant changes to their original proposals. In preparing these Higher Level Delivery Plans, agencies were often forced to very quickly grapple with service planning and operational issues with a reduced future budget.

The transition stage, even though twice extended, was still very short. There was a significant amount of work for agencies transitioning to the new arrangements, including addressing infrastructure needs, referral pathways and workforce issues (such as redundancies and recruitment). There were also adverse relational issues between agencies as a consequence of the competitive tendering process.

Key issues identified in the report are as follows:

  • Major changes were proposed without additional resourcing and with limited timeframes. This includes the forming of consortias based on limited data
  • Fragmented communication from Department of Health, a lack of clarity on service specifications and a funding model that does not address the concerns identified by VAGO have all contributed to organisations not being adequately prepared
  • Delays in the announcement of approved providers, in conjunction with workforce uncertainty, led to a lack of information for service users as to what services would be provided to them and by which organisation.

The Processes of Reform in Victoria’s Alcohol and other Drug Sector, 2011-2014 can be accessed from the VAADA website.