Part 1: Introduction

Ministry of Social Development: Using a case management approach to service delivery.

In this Part, we explain:

  • why we carried out our audit;
  • the structure of this report;
  • the scope of our audit;
  • our audit expectations; and
  • how we carried out our audit.

Why we carried out our audit

Our 2013/14 work programme has a Service delivery theme. Some entities deliver public services through “client-based management” and similar approaches. We decided to carry out performance audits to see how well entities were delivering customer-focused services that were effective and efficient and that met people’s different needs.

We decided to look at how two entities use case management and deal with complaints: the Ministry and the Accident Compensation Corporation. This was because large numbers of people rely on their services, which involve large sums of public money. The Ministry pays benefits to about 294,000 working-age people (called “clients”) each week.

Our audit also delivers on a commitment we made in an earlier report to “look again at how cases are managed” within the Ministry. We made that commitment in a report on aspects of the case management of sickness and invalids’ benefits we published in October 2009.

Throughout this report, we refer to the Ministry because it is the entity we audited. However, our findings are about services the Ministry provides through its Work and Income business unit.

Structure of this report

In Part 2, we describe, at a high level, what the Ministry is trying to achieve. It sets the context for why the Ministry needed to implement work-focused case management, and Work and Income’s role in delivering it.

In Part 3, we assess how the Ministry designed and implemented its new service delivery model.

In Part 4, we assess whether the Ministry has the right case management capability and capacity.

In Part 5, we look at how well the Ministry collects and uses performance information, and how it is using early results of the new service delivery model to improve its case management approach.

In Part 6, we share the views of clients, and those who advocate for them, about their experiences of how the Ministry uses case management.

Scope of our audit

Our audit considered the services provided by case managers within Work and Income. We describe what case managers do in paragraphs 2.32-2.35. We did not look at the services provided by work-search support, work brokers, labour market specialists, or services contracted out to third-party providers.

The types of case management we looked at are:

  • work-focused case management – general; integrated; and health conditions, injury, or disability; and
  • general case management.

Our audit mainly focused on case management for people who receive a benefit with work obligations.3 That is, we focused on people with full-time or part-time work obligations, with work preparation obligations, and with deferred work obligations.

The Government’s policies, labour markets, the welfare reforms, and the Ministry’s investment approach provide important context for our audit. We have not audited government policies because that is outside our mandate. Our starting point is that the Government has given the Ministry a job to do, so we looked at how well it is doing it. We consider whether the Ministry’s implementation of its new service delivery model – and case management approach – is consistent with those policies. To get the expected results for both taxpayers and the Ministry’s clients, successful implementation is important.

We got the valuation figures we use for the future liabilities of the welfare system from the Ministry and actuarial valuation reports. We did not audit these figures.

Our audit expectations

We expected that the Ministry would be able to show that:

  • it had a clear and evidence-based approach to the design and operation of a case management system that was consistent with government policy and the law;
  • its case management approach focused on clients’ needs and was effective and efficient;
  • it had the capability and capacity to deliver the welfare reform agenda, and support case managers to do their jobs; and
  • it used performance information, including the experiences of clients, to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its case management practice.

How we carried out our audit

To carry out our audit, we visited the Ministry’s regional offices and service centres in Nelson, Greymouth, Wellington, Porirua, Auckland, Manukau, and Three Kings.4 We spoke with front-line staff and regional managers at the regional offices and service centres we visited, to see how service centres run. We also interviewed staff at the Ministry’s national office in Wellington.

For our work on clients’ perspectives, we met with representatives from beneficiary advocacy groups. We contracted Colmar Brunton to carry out 12 detailed interviews with case-managed clients to hear about their experiences of dealing with the Ministry. We used information from our Colmar Brunton survey of, and interviews with, Ministry clients who have complained to the Ministry.5 We also reviewed a small sample of 20 client files, selected randomly from the case management streams and offices and service centres we visited.

We also:

  • reviewed and analysed documents, including Cabinet papers, business cases, plans, policies, procedures, staff guidance, and performance information;
  • tested the computer applications that Ministry staff use in their day-to-day work; and
  • collected and analysed information about the Ministry’s case management costs.

1: The three reports we have published – Ministry of Social Development: How it deals with complaints, Accident Compensation Corporation: How it deals with complaints, and Accident Compensation Corporation: Using a case management approach to rehabilitation – are available on our website at

2: Public entities’ progress in implementing the Auditor-General’s recommendations 2012, available on our website at

3: Obligations are expectations people have to meet in return for ongoing payment of benefits. See Appendix 1 for more details.

4: We selected these offices and service centres to cover rural and urban locations, big and small offices, and a range of locations with differing economic conditions.

5: We discuss the survey and interviews in our 2014 report, Ministry of Social Development: How it deals with complaints.

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