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New super-department streamlines citizen-centric services

by Jack Le Guay •
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The move in New South Wales to streamline and enhance citizen services has been taken to a new level, with the Berejiklian government announcing a new Department of Customer Service as part of a series of Machinery of Government (MoG) changes following the election. 

The MoG changes will also facilitate information-sharing, with the creation of a combined Department of Family and Community Services and Justice (FACSJ).

Department of Customer Service

The new department succeeds the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation’s Whole-of-Government (WofG) digital transformation function, found in the Office of the Government Chief Information and Digital Officer (GCIDO). Victor Dominello, who has championed digital transformation and the use of data analytics to guide policy and measure outcomes in the state, will remain as minister for the new department.

The department has also picked up several functions from other agencies to support the government’s vision of a digitally-enabled and Customer Experience-guided approach to the provision of services. These include the Data Analytics Centre (formerly in Treasury), the Behavioural Insights Unit and the Office of the Customer Service Commissioner (formerly in Department of Premier and Cabinet).

The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) and Liquor & Gaming NSW have also been transferred to the department. This may improve the way that births, deaths and marriages are managed from a citizen experience perspective. Although Service NSW provides the customer facing portal to register a birth, citizens are taken to the former Department of Justice’s Births, Deaths and Marriages website. The state’s digital strategy supports the migration and seamless integration of all transactional services to Service NSW.

The addition of the births, deaths and marriages function into the Department of Customer Service indicates the importance NSW is placing on life journey mapping. Life journey mapping has emerged in D5 jurisdictions such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom as a means of providing services through adopting user experience (UX) and human-centred design principles which identify key and difficult points in a citizen’s life. These include the birth of a child or the death of a loved one. Life journey mapping attempts to provide services, information and updates along the ‘journey’ through a seamless online experience informed by a single source of truth and tailorable to specific circumstances like indigeneity.

Prior to the MoG changes, Justice was developing an Online Birth Registration System to streamline the process.

Department of Family and Community Services and Justice

One of the largest MoG changes is the creation of the Department of Family and Community Services and Justice (FACSJ).

The former Family and Community Services (FACS) has strived to improve services using ICT over the last few years, including the creation of the ChildStory platform which corroborates a number of information sources to support real-time collaboration between relevant agencies around a client-centric care model.

Information sharing between agencies and jurisdictions is recognised as key to intervening in critical moments for justice and community services agencies nationwide.

Siloing of agency information in the community services sector has often ended in tragic results, including in the Victorian case of the murder of Luke Batty by his father in 2014. A coronial inquest into Batty’s death resulted in the establishment of information sharing reforms, including the linkage of data from the Victorian Department of Human Services, Court Services, Corrections and the Police.

Another addition to the FACSJ department is the transfer of the NSW Telecommunications Authority from the former DFSI. It is likely this is to enable closer collaboration with the Police and Emergency Services portfolio as the Authority has been responsible for the delivery of the Critical Communications Enhancement Program which will expand emergency communications capabilities across the state.

NSW’s history of consolidation and rationalisation of departments kicked off in 2009 when 20 departments were consolidated into 13 ‘clusters’ by then Labor Premier Nathan Rees. The incoming O’Farrell Coalition Government of 2011 further reduced this number down to nine.

Big winners from these MoG changes are typically providers of systems integration and ERP software.

Other jurisdictions who have previously embarked on significant MoG changes include Western Australia. WA Premier McGowan pledged to cut the number of departments by 40 per cent in his first time after he was elected in 2017.

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