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More effective social services

The Productivity Commission completed its inquiry into more effective social services and presented our final report to the Government.

A townscape with hills and sea in the background


  • Our brief
    June 2014
  • Consultation and engagement started
  • Issues paper
  • Submissions closed 2 December 2014
  • Draft report
  • Submissions closed 24 June 2015
  • Final report
    15 September 2015
  • Evaluation
    December 2015
  • Government response
    1 May 2017

The inquiry

The Government asked the Commission to investigate how to improve outcomes for New Zealanders from social services funded or otherwise supported by the Government. This included how agencies identify the needs of people who use the services, how they choose organisations to provide the services, and how the contracts between agencies and organisations work.

Social services included health care, social care, education and training, employment services and community services. They also included the services targeted to those whose health, age, socioeconomic or other circumstances means that they have greater needs than others in society.

The inquiry examined how commissioning and purchasing influence the quality and effectiveness of social services, and suggested ways to improve these practices to achieve better outcomes for New Zealanders. Read our brief here.

What did the inquiry find?

Chair of the Productivity Commission Murray Sherwin shares the key findings and recommendations of our inquiry in the following short video.

Key recommendations

The Commission observed that many social services continue to be funded and run in much the same way over decades, with little evaluation of their impact or cost-effectiveness. We also saw a flow of new initiatives that attract much media and political attention but has little impact on New Zealand’s most disadvantaged.

The Commission found that a new approach is required that puts the needs of people and their families at the centre of decision-making. This would require a shift in thinking and structures. 

Early intervention was a central theme of the Commission’s report. We believed that better use of data and analytics would help the government target those most in need early.

Our final report

The Commission made 89 findings and 61 recommendations about how to make social services more responsive, client-focused, accountable and innovative. Find out more, by reading the following documents:

We also completed case studies on employment services, Whānau Ora, services for people with disabilities, and home-based support for older people - see key documents below. 

Government response

In May 2017 the Treasury, in conjunction with the State Services Commission, announced and released the Government Response to the Commission's report. Read the Government responses to the recommendations here.


An independent evaluation of the Commission’s performance was undertaken. Please see 'Evaluation' in the key documents below for the results.


An independent evaluation of the Commission’s performance has been undertaken to understand whether the inquiry had the right focus, the right process, whether the engagement and delivery of message was effective, and analysis, findings and recommendations were of high quality.