However the four service delivery areas regularly reviewed their quality plans. The nine business areas each had suitable governance oversight arrangements in place such as quality forums, executive committees and project boards.
Of the two program areas, one had long-standing quality assurance checks within its online system, and the other newer program area was in the process of developing more robust and automated quality checking processes. The other five areas were generally not familiar with the standards. All nine business areas had issues management arrangements in place that were effective in capturing and reporting on issues.
Issues management arrangements included methodical processes embedded in ICT and project systems, SharePoint databases, shared email inboxes, helpdesks and spreadsheets. Three of the service delivery business areas also captured issues through the quality processes embedded in the Centrelink and Medicare payments processing systems. All nine business areas each had sufficient learning and development opportunities aimed at ensuring staff are capable of undertaking their roles and understand the importance of quality assurance. All nine business areas could demonstrate a quality culture, reflecting the high alignment with the other five elements of quality in the Framework.
The payment processing systems for the social security, health, aged care and child support programs have embedded quality assurance mechanisms, and most were in place prior to the introduction of the Quality Framework. Each of the business areas had either a National Manager or Executive Level 2 officer whose key role was quality assurance and to lead a culture of quality within their area. All areas demonstrated a range of reports, learning and development and communications that were available to staff. The four service areas in particular had specific quality and performance communications and resources available to staff.
Understanding, Managing and Implementing Quality : Frameworks, Techniques and Cases
Service delivery areas produced performance reports at a local level, or used the reports prepared for them by the Quality Management Section. The other five business areas achieved this alignment largely irrespective of the Framework. It also indicates that the Framework itself is not meeting the original intent of applying to the whole department, regardless of whether a business area has or does not have a service delivery function. Since the introduction of the Framework, there have been various changes to the implementation approach as discussed earlier in this chapter.
One of the pivotal changes was the move to integrating quality assurance elements and activities in the annual business and risk planning cycle. In order to develop a business as usual approach to quality, business areas should identify and include quality initiatives in business planning, including any actions rolled over from the initial Quality Strategy Plan.
Business and risk plans are mandated at the group level and divisions and branches have the option of developing their own plans cascading down from the group plan. The business and risk plans for the service delivery areas most clearly included quality elements, noting these plans were based on the group-level plan which contained very clear quality measures.
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The development of this guidance would ideally coincide with a review of the Quality Framework and Guidelines. This chapter examines whether the Department of Human Services Human Services effectively monitors and reports on the achievements of the Quality Framework the Framework. The chapter also examines whether Human Services effectively manages issues and uses the results of quality initiatives under the Framework to continuously improve its products and services.
The ANAO has recommended that Human Services assesses whether to retain the Framework in its current form, and if so how to more fully implement it across the department paragraph 4. The ANAO has also suggested that Human Services: reassesses the feasibility of developing a departmental-level reporting mechanism on quality paragraph 4. These have been sound processes, although fewer internal reviews have been conducted than intended five of 12 , there has been little reporting to the Human Services executive of the effectiveness of the Framework, and a department-wide Performance and Quality Scorecard has not been developed as proposed under the Framework.
The number of reviews undertaken and a summary of the outcomes was to be reported to the Quality Advisory Group on an ongoing basis. Culture was assessed as the most mature element of the Framework. Reporting was the least mature. An action item was that the Quality Management Section drafts a proposal for a revised approach to conducting the reviews, however, this has not occurred.
The Annual Assessment of the Quality Framework Policy outlines the expectations in regards to conducting annual assessments. As outlined in the policy, the assessment focuses on implementation, strategy, policies, guidelines, procedures, tools, templates, resources and the Quality Management Hub discussed in Chapter 2. The and annual assessments were approved by the Director, Quality Management Section and the assessment was approved by the National Manager, Business Processing Branch. All four reports were published on the Quality Management Hub.
These include the introduction of improved governance arrangements around quality, deployment of a new IT system to support quality activities, establishment of the Quality Call Framework, and creation of guidance and other material. Prior to that time, one internal quality framework review and one annual assessment were completed but the results were not presented to the Quality Advisory Group.
Reporting was based around the number of business areas that were at various stages of implementation.
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At the time of the introduction of the Framework, Human Services had a range of performance reports such as scorecards and performance snapshots in place. The Framework proposed the development of a department-wide Performance and Quality Scorecard that reported systemic issues, strategies and timelines for improvement. As such, there is no regular consolidated reporting on quality to the quality governance bodies Quality Council, Quality Advisory Group and Customer Committee and the Executive Committee.
Human Services should reassess the feasibility and usefulness of developing a departmental-level reporting mechanism on quality, and update the Framework accordingly. All nine business areas reviewed for this audit undertook regular monitoring and reporting in relation to quality. Face-to-Face Services Division, for example, has recently established a Performance Reporting Framework and now produces a monthly Executive Dashboard that includes reporting on quality. This occurred in the —14 Annual Report 40 after the initial release of the Framework, but has not occurred since.
Human Services advised that quality achievements are reported in the annual assessments of the Framework rather than the Annual Report. There are 36 performance measures in its Portfolio Budget Statements. Some of these quality processes are associated with those business areas that have comprehensively implemented the Framework such as service delivery areas, and some are from areas that have not. Accordingly, there is mixed and unclear attribution of the reporting of quality-related performance measures to the Quality Framework.
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Table 4. Support economic and social participation of Indigenous Australian through the timely delivery of appropriate departmental payments and services: Centrelink: delivery of correct payments for Indigenous Australians. Achievement of payment quality standards: Medicare: delivery of accurate medical benefits and services. In this sense, the Framework was designed to assist the department to meet its service commitments. The annual assessment of the Framework found that work to define issues management processes was ongoing and Human Services was considering how to improve the development and use of an issues management register template.
This approach recognises the individual needs of business areas. These approaches included issues registers, meetings to discuss risks and issues, issues management mailboxes, governance, and issues management reporting. Although a template was developed, the take-up by business areas was optional.
In the three service zones the ANAO reviewed, each had a different format for their issues management registers. Face-to-Face Services Division which encompasses the service zones would get the greatest benefit of having a consolidated issues register due to the common functions it undertakes. The Smart Centres area 44 is currently implementing branch level issues registers which will be stored on a divisional SharePoint site. Figure 4. There are 22 tools to support the application of the DMAIC methodology including planning documents, analytical tools, process mapping guidance and post implementation review templates.
The introduction to process improvement techniques course aims to introduce staff to the DMAIC continuous improvement techniques.
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Human Services advised the need for an intermediate course will be assessed following the completion of a review of the introductory course. These initiatives had not been completed at the time of audit fieldwork. Six of the nine business areas interviewed for the audit had a continuous improvement approach in place and five identified examples of continuous improvement activities. Those examples indicated the Framework and its underpinning theme of continuous improvement may have contributed to assisting business areas to improve processes, products and service delivery.
The Quality Council considered this a good practice example of how issues of this nature should be addressed. Given the low number of issues that have been escalated to the Quality Council, the ANAO suggests that Human Services ensures quality forums understand the role of the Quality Council and clear process are in place for escalating or reporting issues.
An issue in relation to confirming the identity of customers was identified by the service zones. The Service Zone Quality Forum had been monitoring the issue and it was investigated using a taskforce approach. The taskforce included three forum members from across zones and was assisted by the Quality Management Section. This assisted in identifying the root causes of the issue and established that the issue was systemic across service zones. It was escalated to the Quality Council because of the systemic nature of the issue.
There is difficulty in attributing quality improvements and outcomes to the Framework, separate from prevailing business-as-usual quality processes.
Part of the review should be to determine whether the Framework continues to be applied throughout the department in its current form or whether to scale back the integration objectives and allow the prevailing fit-for-purpose quality arrangements to operate separately. If the Framework is to be retained in a similar form, guidance needs to be revised to better support the non-service delivery areas in the department.
A decision on the ongoing design, implementation, governance and reporting arrangements will be made based on the outcomes of the review. Human Services provides telephone and processing services through Smart Centres, previously referred to as call centres. Smart Centres are responsible for delivering telephony and processing services and are located in many locations around Australia.
Calls are managed and distributed nationally through a virtual network. In addition to the general Smart Centres that provide Centrelink services, specific smart centres and divisions provide services for targeted groups.
Understanding and Implementing Quality
These include Medicare, child support, multilingual, rural, remote, health professionals, aged care organisations and small business. The two key requirements of Smart Centres are accurate advice and correct processing. To ensure accuracy and correctness, quality mechanisms are embedded in processes, systems and training. As discussed in Chapter 1 paragraph 1. The main aim of QoL is to ensure payments are correct before they are processed.
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Feedback on errors is communicated to service officers in daily reports. Team leaders are required to have feedback monitoring processes in place to ensure feedback and errors are actioned. The checking process also provides training opportunities and the ability to prevent incorrect decisions.