Rethinking a contemporary social justice in government

If the public sector is to achieve the task of innovation, integration and improvement in social services, we must learn from our social policy experience, writes Dr Pradeep Philip, secretary of the new Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, and his chief of staff, Dr Vishaal Kishore.

The Victorian government has signalled a time of ‘mega-departments’, of service integration, and of radical innovation in our policy approaches.

The new Department of Health and Human Services sits across service systems that on many metrics rival Toyota in size. We are charged with:

  • tackling some of the thorniest problems in public policy, of individual wellbeing, active living, socio-economic participation, and vulnerability;
  • integrating social services for Victorians, building on functions and relationships with private and community sectors that have over time rendered extensive service to the public; and
  • overcoming — simultaneously — some of the known barriers and dis-locations that have plagued our systems, to the detriment of our populations.

As we strive towards these goals, we have a timely moment to consider afresh, on the one hand, abstract but profound questions of social justice — of inclusion and equality, of participation and of flourishing — and, on the other hand, of intensely practical and urgent problems of social services — their quality, their effectiveness, their connectedness, and their focus.

Systems and governments across the globe are grappling with similar challenges, but it is fair to say that the nut has yet to be cracked — health and human services remain areas in which new models and ways of thinking are demanded, but have not yet clearly emerged.

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