Whilst organisations must have policy so they comply with legislative and contractual requirements, clear, concise and readable policy is also critical in supporting customers and staff in a sector undergoing transformational change.
Policy supports mission
Customers accessing disability, mental health and aged care services are more empowered and more informed than ever. Individualised funding has increased individual purchasing power. Many are, quite rightly, looking at governance and policy as they seek out good experiences and high-quality outcomes from value-for-money services. It is in this context that contemporary policy can showcase organisational beliefs and can illustrate how they drive services and support good practice. When policy is available in plain English, people can use policy in a meaningful way to inform their decisions. It’s articulates the organisations principles and governance and supports customers to compare market offerings on the basis of quality. In end to end marketing, policy communicates to internal and external stakeholders what you intend and why. It is one of the tools organisations can use to embed their mission in all they do and all they say.
Policy as a road map
Good policy can also act as a road map for employees that helps staff to reset their personal GPS and head down the right path as they navigate the changes occurring in the community sector and within their workplace. Without good policy, procedures and practice are more likely to be subject to the best judgement and the work habits of individual staff. Some will be fantastic and future ready; however, others will require clear boundaries and formal direction on what is now expected and why they must adapt to the changed human service landscape. Contemporary, person centred policy provides surety about what an organisation means and what it intends. It is critical component of risk management as it is the measure by which practice may be judged.
Policy is not optional
Finally, if outlining what you believe and what you expect in order to support your customer’s choice or your staff performance doesn’t motivate you, then think about your funders. Compliance is the third reason why strong policy is needed particularly in human services that support vulnerable or marginalised people. Funding bodies want to see the systems and processes that organisations have in place to govern their organisation and ensure compliance with duty of care obligations arising from legislation, regulation and standards frameworks. This includes granting bodies. Auditors and evaluators must also pay attention to policy. It provides the standards for service management, quality and continuous improvement. All procedures flow from a policy position. Localised work instructions flow from procedures. Organisations need to align their policy suite to their legal requirements and also to their value set. It sets the stage to turn principles into practice and its that systemic approach that evaluators and funders want to see.
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