annual report 2009-2010 cover image

Organisational health and capability

Our success depends on having people with the right skills, abilities and commitment. It also depends on us supporting our people by having the right strategies, structures, policies, systems and resources. Only when all these factors are in place can we consistently deliver the desired outcomes for our clients and for government.

Focusing on services

The Ministry, like the whole of New Zealand, has been affected by the recession. As demand for our services increased, the Ministry responded by redeploying existing staff and recruiting new staff to manage and respond to an increase in client numbers.

In Work and Income and Child, Youth and Family, staff numbers increased in line with the government’s intentions to manage the increased demand. The Government also provided us with $17.2 million, one-off time limited funding so that Work and Income could recruit an extra 303 case managers, work brokers, and contact centre and job call centre staff in Work and Income sites across New Zealand.

Staff numbers in other parts of the Ministry, who are counted in the Government’s cap on public servant numbers, were reduced by eight per cent. This was as a result of initiatives to manage workloads within the Ministry’s baseline while sustaining or improving service quality. For example, StudyLink staff numbers were reduced by 13.7 per cent during the year as a result of initiatives, such as its Call to Action campaign, which saw more applications being made online.

Strong financial management

The Ministry has been committed to delivering value for money as part of our ongoing business strategy since 2005. To ensure we have strong financial management, we regularly review our expenditure and our programmes with the help of a dedicated Finance and Assets Management Governance Committee.

Value for Money
We implemented an ongoing VFM programme to meet identified cost pressures (primarily wage and rental costs) over the four-year period to June 2014. To facilitate this, we have a permanently resourced VFM Programme Unit supported by an externally-chaired Advisory Board. This Advisory Board includes external members from the private and public sector who bring specific expertise and experiences to the Ministry’s VFM approach.

Through its VFM programme, the Ministry is committed to sustaining or improving the quality and effectiveness of its services, while managing cost pressures within its existing baselines. We have adopted seven key strategies to achieve this:

Online service delivery, reducing the costs of service delivery, while improving the reach and convenience to customers and freeing up frontline staff to deal with more complex needs. StudyLink has progressively moved to an online service model and now receives 98 per cent of its Student Loan applications online. Work and Income has implemented a similar model, moving some work away from case managers and customer services representatives to clients who can serve themselves over the web. Work and Income forecasts 40 per cent of its applications will be received online by June 2012.

Improving business processes to streamline, reduce waste, and develop a culture of continuous improvement. The Ministry has adopted the Lean Six Sigma methodology to help improve our customer services, streamline our processes and increase our staff’s satisfaction with work processes. Lean Six Sigma is the combination of two proven business methodologies: Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. These methodologies improve efficiency by removing unnecessary work processes and by identifying the causes of waste such as re-working. They have been successfully used in many private sector service businesses over the last five years.

Actively managing salary increases and ensuring that increases are aligned with productivity. The Ministry is working to ensure future remuneration projections and agreements are financially sustainable and realistic. This means we will continue to pay our people a fair wage for what they do, while ensuring that salary increases reflect increases to the Ministry’s productivity and are tied to service improvements.

Reducing back office and policy staff through more efficient processes and closer alignment of policy work to government priorities. We reduced net staffing levels across the Ministry’s back office and policy staff between June 2009 and June 2010 by 117 staff, while the number of staff engaged in delivering services to clients increased. For example, Child, Youth and Family moved more staff to the frontline to support the opening of the new youth justice residence in Rotorua, and the introduction of new supervised group homes across the country.

The Ministry will continue to take advantage of technology and efficiency gains to actively manage staff numbers without compromising on our service quality or timeliness.

Lower operating costs. The Ministry has actively managed its property portfolio to reduce operating costs, has reduced domestic and international travel, and has decreased its motor vehicle fleet by 12 per cent in the past three years. The Ministry has an ongoing focus on procuring non-staff operating costs, which will continue to deliver benefits.

Shared services. We have been working with other agencies to identify and develop opportunities to reduce costs for both the Ministry and other government agencies by sharing back office functions.

In addition, through the VFM programme we are increasingly looking beyond meeting our own cost pressures to the wider social and government sectors. The Ministry is working closely with other agencies to find efficiency and effectiveness gains through cross-agency projects. Examples of this include:

  • the Servicelink Transformation Project which co-ordinates a number of social sector agencies providing core services to clients through an online portal
  • procurement practices where the Ministry enables other agencies to leverage off its economies of scale.

Reducing client numbers and duration. A critical success measure for the Ministry is when people achieve independence from us. To support the move to independence, the Ministry has a range of strategies providing better outcomes for individuals and communities. These enable the Ministry to reprioritise expenditure to other areas of need.

The Ministry is also looking for VFM opportunities to reduce Crown expenditure. For example, there are opportunities to save Crown spending through increasing investment in the areas of fraud, compliance and debt recovery.

Supporting our staff to gain the skills they need

To provide our staff with the broad skill-sets required for working with a variety of people across the community, we give our staff the opportunity to achieve a range of accredited service and leadership qualifications. These qualifications formalise the broad base of public service knowledge, understanding and skill our staff have. Developing our workforce is increasingly important as we work through more complex situations with clients and families.

Currently, 300 staff are studying towards National Certificate qualifications in public sector service, employment support, contact centre services and modern apprenticeships. Nearly 2,000 staff have graduated from the qualifications programme since it was established five years ago.

The Ministry has piloted a Level Four qualification for the Senior Services Business Unit. The current participants are expected to graduate in November 2010.

At the end of June 2010, 876 Child, Youth and Family staff were registered social workers, 70 per cent of these had a Level Six or higher social work qualification. A further 81 social workers were eligible to become registered, and 328 social workers were working towards competency.

We also developed a dedicated investigator training package for our benefit fraud investigators, to give them the tools they need to carry out their work. This approach is part of the cross-government approach to training our investigators. We teamed up with the Department of Internal Affairs and other enforcement agencies to develop formal qualifications for all investigators.

Developing our future leaders

The Ministry develops and strengthens its leaders. The Ministry’s leadership programme – the Leadership Cascade – identifies and develops potential leaders from within the Ministry. The Ministry provides structured learning through leadership development workshops, secondments, in-house executive coaching, and mentoring programmes.

Māori and Pacific staff also have the opportunity to participate in Te Aka Matua and Te Aratiatia, accelerated development programmes to build the leadership capacity of our Mäori and Pacific staff.

The Emerging Leaders programme offers participants a programme of internal workshops and business change projects over nine to 12 months, to develop their skills and knowledge. Since 2005, 80 staff have successfully completed the Emerging Leaders programme.
The Ministry’s Leadership Team takes an active role in reviewing the development needs of our senior managers. The Ministry’s People Forum was held in April and May 2010 and provided an opportunity for the Leadership Team to discuss our leaders’ developmental progress.

The Leadership Cascade project was recognised by the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards in June 2010. The Ministry won the award for Improving Performance through Leadership Excellence.

Making it easier for our staff to give

Our payroll giving scheme was launched in April 2010. The simple online system allows staff to select their charities and to set up donations automatically within the payroll system. We are increasing the number of donee organisations available to staff. More than 4,000 donee organisations are currently available, including 2,467 schools.

Health and safety

ACC Partnership programme
The health and safety of our employees is important to us and we have focused on improving our health and safety systems over the past four years. This has had positive results, and in December 2009 we moved from the Primary to the Secondary level overall in the ACC Partnership programme. Accredited employers under this programme receive significant discounts on their ACC levies, in exchange for taking responsibility for their employees’ work injury claims.

Over the last two years we have also successfully reduced the average cost of claims by 60 per cent. This has been achieved by better return-to-work outcomes resulting in fewer days away from work, and by improved health and safety initiatives to reduce the seriousness of the claims, such as the Pain and Discomfort programme.

Industrial relations

Public Service Association
Our relationship with the Public Service Association (PSA) has been strengthened with the signing of the Modern, Innovative and Productive Public Services in the Ministry of Social Development agreement. The agreement outlines our shared commitment to working together in a constructive way, with a joint focus on innovation and productivity. This includes working together to support the Value for Money programme. The agreement also outlines the processes for engagement with and the development of our joint work programmes. The Ministry is committed to reviewing the effectiveness of the agreement with the PSA at least every two years.

Collective agreements
The Ministry has been negotiating with the PSA to update four collective agreements which cover 4,000 staff. In the renewal of these agreements our focus has been on ensuring continued industrial stability, as well as on setting the foundation for enabling key business transformation.

We kept the State Services Commission fully informed throughout the negotiations to ensure the terms aligned with the Government’s Expectations for Pay and Employment Conditions in the State Sector.

Staff engagement

Measuring employee engagement lets managers know how things are going for their staff, improves team working environments and, subsequently, lifts productivity, efficiency and client satisfaction.

Part of our approach to employee engagement includes a formal programme. This has four steps: the Engagement survey; the rollout of survey results to teams; action planning by teams; and work to keep action planning on track.

This year we completed the Gallup Engagement survey for the second time (the first time for Child, Youth and Family). The 2010 Engagement survey included every service line and business group across the Ministry. Our final response rate of 85 per cent exceeded the average response rate across the New Zealand State sector and worldwide. Our managers are now working with their teams to identify the areas where they need to take action and to develop plans to do this.

Equal employment opportunity

All employees, regardless of their gender, age or ethnicity receive opportunities for training, development and appointment. We aim to have a diverse workforce that reflects the whole community.

The Ministry’s demographic profile reflects that of the New Zealand population and of our client base:

  • two-thirds of our managers, and over half of all the Ministry’s senior managers, are female
  • 23 per cent of our staff identify as Mäori, 12 per cent as Pacific peoples and seven per cent as Asian.

To contribute to demographic diversity, our staff with the potential to be Mäori and Pacific leaders are selected to participate in our Te Aratiatia programme. The programme is designed to prepare them for management roles and has been very successful. Since it started in 2002, almost 80 per cent of participants have been appointed to managerial or more senior roles. Twelve high-potential Ministry staff successfully completed the programme this year. As part of our joined-up approach to sharing resources and expertise across the State sector, two Inland Revenue staff members also participated in and successfully completed the programme.

Our technology

Our technology underpins our ability to connect with clients, and them with us, to achieve results.

We are continuously improving our technology to ensure we are in the best position to deliver better services to New Zealanders for less. The uptake of our online services shows many people prefer to help themselves, with online tools designed to provide information and resources for effective self management and decision making. The use of online services frees up our frontline staff so they can work more intensively with clients who have complex needs.

During the year we successfully re-platformed and modernised our benefit assessment and payment system. We added extra features to make the system more user friendly for our frontline staff. The new environment is more cost effective and provides us with a range of options to progressively enhance the system’s functionality over time.

In 2009, we released two phases of our Voice Enabled Technology (VET) initiatives into the Work and Income call centre environment and we expect to deliver a third by the end of 2010. VET allows our clients to articulate their needs up-front and to be connected to a specialised customer service representative who can resolve their query quickly. VET is already delivering results – with the automated voice system resulting in a saving of 28 seconds of average call time for clients who use the service. So far, 60 per cent of callers have taken advantage of this service.

In November 2009, we implemented an electronic Payment Card which has significantly simplified the processing of one-off hardship assistance (Special Needs Grants). The average time being saved per application is five minutes, which translates into approximately 1,377,860 case management hours saved from November 2009 to the end of June 2010.

Every year:

  • our payment systems process over 45 million transactions totaling $13 billion
  • our call centres receive over 10 million calls
  • our websites receive more than 70 million hits.

Our property

The Ministry operates out of about 300 locations. This means we have a presence in nearly every community across New Zealand. Around 80 per cent of our staff deliver frontline services, which enables us to provide a broad range of social services to New Zealanders. To ensure our clients have easy access to our range of services, we co-located our Work and Income and Child, Youth and Family services in 30 communities, with sites in Whangarei, Westgate, Orewa and Pukehohe merging in the last year.

We’re continuing to provide opportunities for other agencies to share our facilities, and enhancing our services through the progressive rollout of Community Link Centres across the country.

annual report 2009-2010 cover image

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