PC News - March 2016
Using the Report on Government Services to monitor the performance of government service delivery: Early Childhood Education and Care
The Report on Government Services (RoGS) - produced by the Productivity Commission for the Intergovernmental Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision - provides transparency of comprehensive, quality information on the performance of services to improve government service delivery and increase accountability.1 The latest issue was released over a two-week period commencing 27 January 2016. This article provides a high-level snapshot of some results in one service area - early childhood education and care services (ECEC) - to illustrate how the RoGS can be used.
How can the RoGS inform improved service delivery?
Performance reporting enables governments and the public to see which jurisdictions are performing well over time across which service areas, as well as identifying those where performance may lag. This in turn provides an evidence base for asking what is working (or not working) and why. More information on the approach to performance reporting in the RoGS can be found on the PC website
The 16 service areas reported in the 2016 RoGS account for $192 billion in government recurrent expenditure - around 12 per cent of GDP
Services covered in the 2016 RoGS
- Child care, education and training (Vol B)
- Early childhood, education and care
- School education
- Vocational education and training
- Justice (Vol C)
- Police services
- Corrective services
- Emergency management (Vol D)
- Fire and ambulance services
- Health (Vol E)
- Primary and community health
- Public hospitals
- Mental health management
- Community services (Vol F)
- Aged care services
- Services for people with disability
- Child protection services
- Youth justice services
- Housing and homelessness (Vol G)
- Social housing
- Homelessness services
- Child care, education and training (Vol B)
Stepping through the reporting … ECEC as an example
A subset of national level results for early childhood education and care services - selected on the basis that they are comparable over time and the most recent year of data are no more than two years old - provides insights into effectiveness, efficiency and equity.
1. What are the objectives of ECEC services?
The shared objectives for ECEC services, endorsed by the Steering Committee, are to:
- meet the education and care needs of all children in developmentally appropriate ways, in a safe and nurturing environment
- provide quality services across a range of settings delivered in an equitable and efficient manner, meeting individual need.
The approach to performance reporting is comprehensive, focusing on the extent that each shared objective for a service has been met. The Report's framework gives equal prominence to effectiveness, efficiency and equity as the three overarching dimensions of performance in meeting objectives.
2. How effective are the services in meeting the agreed objectives?
Effectiveness indicators measure how well the outputs of a service reflect the stated objectives of that service. The RoGS framework groups effectiveness indicators according to characteristics that are considered important to the service. For ECEC services, reporting focuses on access and quality, including service usage, service affordability, staff quality, standards and health and safety. A selection of results is below.
Selected measures National results Access: Children 0-12 years using child care Increasing over time to 30.6% in 2015. Access: Enrolment in preschool in year before school Increasing over time to 95.1% of 4yos in 2014. Access: Median weekly cost for 50 hrs long day care Increasing since 2011 to $400 in 2015. Access: Median hourly cost for preschool program (after subsidies) Increasing since 2012 to $2.20 in 2014. Quality: Proportion of workers delivering preschool programs at least 3-year university trained in early childhood field 40.5% in 2014. Decrease from 41.6% in 2012. Quality: Proportion of teachers delivering preschool programs at least 3-year university trained in early childhood field 88.2% in 2014. New indicator - no time series reported. Quality: Proportion of National Quality Framework (NQF) approved services that met/exceeded National Quality Standards (NQS) Increasing from 62.3% in 2014 to 66.5% in 2015.
3. Is the service delivery efficient?
Reporting on efficiency for ECEC services focuses on technical efficiency - that is, how well services use their resources (inputs) to produce outputs to achieve their desired outcomes. They also focus on the system-wide cost of services relative to the targeted population. These efficiency indicators are limited measures as only government expenditure is included - non-government expenditure is not captured. In addition, while high or increasing costs per child can reflect deteriorating efficiency, they can also reflect increases in the quality of a service provided. Similarly, low or declining costs per child can reflect improving efficiency or lower quality. Therefore, these data should be interpreted with care.
Selected measures National results Government recurrent expenditure on ECEC per child aged 0-12 years $1824 per child in 2014-15. Up from $1244 in 2010-11. Australian Government recurrent expenditure per child aged 0-12 years attending CCB approved child care $5951 per child in 2014-15. Up from $4806 in 2010-11.
4. Is there equitable access for users?
Equity indicators in the RoGS measure how well a service is meeting the needs of particular groups that have special needs or difficulties in accessing government services.
Selected measures National results Representation of children 0-12 years in childcare compared to their representation in the community Lower for children from NESB, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with disability and children in regional/remote areas. Higher for children from low income families. Representation of children 3-5 years in preschool compared to their representation in the community Lower for children from NESB, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with disability and children in remote areas. Higher for children in regional areas.
5. What are outcomes from these services?
Outcomes provide information on the impact of the service on an individual or group. Data should be interpreted with caution as, by their nature, outcomes are often influenced by factors external to the service.
Selected measures National results Proportion of children aged 0-12 years for whom additional formal child care or preschool was required (note: this should not be interpreted as unmet demand) 10.0% in 2014. Increase from 5.5% in 2011. Proportion of weekly disposable income that families spent on one child in 30 hours per week long day care (after subsidies) 4.5-6.0% in 2015. New measure - no time series. Proportion of weekly disposable income that families spent on one child in 50 hours per week long day care (after subsidies) 7.6-11.1% in 2015. Similar to 2014.
The RoGS has an outcomes focus, but its comprehensive approach recognises that outcomes need to be considered within a framework that looks holistically at the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of the services. For example, improvements in quality may result in an increase in expenditure and an overall increase in unit costs (decrease in efficiency).
At a national level, the above results indicate increasing service use (for child care and preschool), with a greater rate of increase for expenditure, resulting in (real terms) increasing unit costs. There is evidence of increasing quality over time with increasing proportions of services meeting NQS standards (though staff qualification information is difficult to interpret until we have a time series reported for preschool teachers).
Comparative assessment across all jurisdictions on each aspect of the framework assists in building the evidence base to channel further analysis for what works (or doesn't work) in a jurisdiction. ECEC data by jurisdiction is available on the Commission's website.
Report on Government Services 2016
- Steering Committee for the Review of Government Services Provision
- Read the Report released 27 January - 4 February 2016
1The RoGS was commissioned in 1993 by Heads of Governments (now COAG), with the first report produced in 1995. The Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision comprises senior representatives from the central agencies of each of the Australian, State and Territory governments and is chaired by the Chairman of the Productivity Commission.Return to footnote 1