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​​Social services procurement

​When buying or procuring social services, focus on delivering good social outcomes for people living in New Zealand.

Social services procurement means all aspects of acquiring and delivering public services for the benefit of the community, such as welfare, housing, health, education, child wellbeing, justice, and disability support services.

To deliver good social outcomes, we need to:

  • work together to improve our skills
  • share information on current contracting activities to reduce duplication of contract management activities
  • collaborate across government to identify opportunities for better contracting outcomes
  • share tools to support effective contracting of social services between government and social service providers.

Competency framework

We’ve designed a framework for people working in social services procurement in the New Zealand public sector.

Social services procurement competency framework

Guide to social service procurement

While most of the three stages of the procurement process are similar for the social services sector and market-driven sectors, there are some areas where they differ.

Relationships with providers are managed differently

Social services are provided by a mix of commercial and not-for-profit entities like NGOs. NGOs often have different operating models and motivations than other types of providers – their primary goal is to improve outcomes for New Zealanders, not to make a profit. This means they might need a different relationship management style than other sectors.

Some NGOs advocate for, and promote the rights of, members of their community. That advocacy role can be an important value for a provider, and a core part of why they exist. Agencies purchasing services from NGOs should not use the contractual relationship to prevent the NGO commenting on public policy matters, including funding issues.

The Kia Tūtahi Relationship Accord sets out the way government agencies and communities should work together. The Accord is an important commitment between the government and communities to engage effectively to achieve social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes. It should inform how you engage and manage relationships with social service providers.

Kia Tūtahi Relationship Accord

Greater focus on outcomes

When you procure social services, your focus is on outcomes. This means measuring things that make a difference, particularly improvement in client outcomes, as well as simply measuring the activity.

For example, you might want to procure a service to improve the mental health of the long-term unemployed. Your ultimate goal, and therefore the focus for measurement, is improving the mental health of the target population. The wellbeing of the clients after receiving the service is more important than the number of sessions delivered.

Greater focus on customer-centric approach

The clients of social services often have complex needs. They may be accessing services from multiple service providers for a variety of reasons. Some clients may be highly vulnerable, such as children or young persons in care.

When procuring social services for such groups, you need to keep the complexity of needs and client capability uppermost in your decision making. This may mean involving clients in decision making about services.

Some services, such as public health information, are for all, rather than a discrete group.

Reduce red tape and improve consistency

The way you procure can improve the consistency and reduce the duplication in monitoring, reporting and auditing requirements for social services across government. Reduced duplication and increased consistency will lower compliance costs for social service providers and improve efficiencies across government.

Procurement is often the result of a commissioning process

Commissioning is a broader concept than procurement and is defined as “a set of inter-related tasks…to turn policy objectives into effective social services”. Commissioning may, but need not, lead to the procurement of services. Social sector procurement will increasingly take place within a broader commissioning framework.

In the Guide to procurement section of our website, you'll find detailed information on the three stages of the procurement process for all government procurements.

Guide to procurement

Here you'll find information on the parts of each process that are specific to social services only.