How practice governance can drive quality improvement
Updated September 2023
Practice Governance Frameworks (PGF) are set to be a hot topic for the child and family services sector in 2023. Earlier this year, we hosted an invitation-only roundtable event, which was so well received that we decided to offer the wider sector the opportunity to join us in a free webinar to hear more about this new approach to improving outcomes.
We see practice governance as a key driver of practice quality improvement efforts – they can no longer be seen as just the responsibility of individual practitioners but as a key organisational endeavour.
At the March 2023 event, Life Without Barriers’ Gillian Calvert AO (Deputy Chair), and Rob Ryan (Executive Lead, Strategic Partnerships and External Engagement (Child, Youth and Family)) presented on their PGF, a journey we are proud to have undertaken with them. Gillian and Rob shared their account of Life Without Barriers’ path to practice governance and the partnership between the Board, Executive and operations. Gillian spoke about how a well-implemented PGF can support practice visibility, through good quality data, as well as high-level board and executive engagement and understanding.
In our September 2023 event, we partnered with ACWA and Fams, with invited speakers from Life Without Barriers and AbSec, to explore practice governance, and how it can help boards have line of sight to and better stewardship of practice in their organisations, while providing a clear pathway to implement quality in practice, thus improving child and family outcomes.
The need for practice governance
There are external drivers for improved practice governance. Practice leaders in community service organisations and their boards are under growing scrutiny about their accountability for the quality of the care they provide to the people they support. A series of Royal Commissions in Australia has highlighted the failure of boards to have a focus on their clients.
As a result, we are seeing growth in the number of practice governance committees, but at a slow rate. A recent survey by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) found that only 12% of social services organisations have care committees, with health and residential aged care providers at 16%.
This is driving interest in how organisations can engage in effective practice governance, since clinical governance models that have been well established in the health sector don’t always translate well into community services.
Our interest in practice governance frameworks
The key to effective practice governance is to create a line of sight from practice to outcomes across the whole organisation. This requires recognition of the central importance of the interface between practitioners and clients, and a willingness to put practice at the heart of everything an organisation does.
Life Without Barriers’ practice governance committee launched its first practice governance framework in 2018, to enable its board to understand quality in practice. PRC has had the opportunity to work closely with Life Without Barriers’ executive team and Practice Governance Committee to progress their approach to practice governance.
This work involved a comprehensive examination of contemporary approaches to practice governance, leading to a refresh of the LWB Practice Governance Framework. More recently, our team has been involved in the planning of a wider organisational implementation of this Framework.
It has been exciting to explore ways to shift our focus from service planning to enhancing and supporting best practice. The introduction of data-driven decision-making to underpin the framework creates a practical way of achieving evidence-based practice in community service settings.
We believe what we are learning has applicability across our sector.
Life Without Barriers’ approach
Life Without Barriers CEO Claire Robbs is quoted in an article by the Australian Institute of Company Directors: “Practice quality is a central board concern and ought to be a primary lens the board applies across its governance functions, including strategy, finance and risk. It is the domain of the board and management – all of us have a role to play, and we need to do that in partnership.”
- Learn more about our approach to Practice Frameworks