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Giving effect to our vision (described in section 3.6) will require a significant focus on primary and community care, with an important role for the NGO sector.151 We already rely heavily on the NGO sector to deliver many mental health and addiction services as well as other social supports, and we expect this reliance will increase. The NGO sector initially grew out of charitable organisations and strong community-spirited people responding to unmet needs. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a shift from primarily grants-based funding to NGOs and charities to deliver services that supplemented those provided by government. Over time, the government sector contracted with the NGO sector for particular services on the basis of partial funding. Today, the NGO sector is much more highly developed, often delivering core services supported by government via competitive and formal contracting processes.152

The broader picture is one of increased contracting out of services by government over the last few decades. This was part of a deliberate policy to separate the purchase (funding) and the provision of services, based on the belief that making providers compete for resources would encourage greater efficiency, responsiveness and innovation.

NGOs, including Whānau Ora and Pacific providers, are widely seen to be closer to the communities they serve than government agencies or the private sector and are able to deliver a more holistic response to people who access their services. NGOs can often respond more effectively to diversity and provide services that are better aligned to the needs of Māori, Pacific and diverse communities than are government-provided services.

The net result is that the NGO sector is an increasingly important contributor in the delivery of government-funded social services, including those relevant to mental health and addiction. However, we heard from NGOs about the challenges many of them face. We need a sound platform for the NGO sector’s development and sustainability.

151  We note that we have included Kaupapa Māori and Pacific services within our definition of NGOs where they are recipients of government funding.

152  For example, see Productivity Commission. 2015. More Effective Social Services. Wellington: New Zealand Productivity Commission. www.productivity.govt.nz/inquiry-report/more-effective-social-services-final-report(external link) and H Stace and J Cumming. 2006. Contracting between government and the voluntary sector: Where to from here? Policy Quarterly 2(4): 13–20. https://ojs.victoria.ac.nz/pq/issue/view/501(external link).

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