Family Support Program ‘Closing the Gap'

Indigenous Access Plan and Improvement Target

Introduction

With some limited exceptions1, all Family Support Program (FSP) providers will be required to develop an Indigenous Access Plan (the Plan) by 9 December 2011. The Plan will document the actions to be taken to improve access for Indigenous families and children and set an Indigenous Access Improvement Target (Target).

Background

In 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to six ambitious targets relating to Indigenous life expectancy, health, education and employment.

The Australian Government is committed to a national effort to Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage (see Attachment A).

Through COAG, all governments have agreed to step-up their efforts to ensure mainstream health, education, housing and social services are accessible and appropriate to the needs of the 70 per cent of Indigenous Australians who live in urban and regional areas.

The FSP represents a significant investment by the Australian government to Closing the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage. Indigenous controlled FSP services continue to play a vital role in meeting the needs of Indigenous families. However, government expects all services to be accountable for their contributions to closing the gap.

To ensure an improved effort through the FSP, providers will develop an Indigenous Access Plan (the Plan) as part of their broader requirements to support vulnerable and disadvantaged families.

The challenge for FSP

The key challenge for FSP service providers is responding to the underutilisation of mainstream services by Indigenous Australians in urban and regional Australia.

What does ‘accountability’ for Closing the Gap mean for FSP services?

As a condition of your new funding agreement with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) all FSP services—with some exceptions—will be required to document a Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Client Access Strategy. A template will be provided to all FSP providers.

As part of their Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Client Access Strategy most FSP providers will complete an Indigenous Access Plan (the Plan). The Plan will document what they will do to ensure their service contributes to closing the gap. It will:

  • take into consideration the factors which account for current underutilisation of mainstream services (Attachment A)
  • outline actions consistent with the Service Delivery Principles (Attachment A)

As part of completing the Plan, service providers will set an Indigenous Access Improvement Target.

There will be only one target per funding agreement. Funding agreements which cover services across multiple sites will be required to nominate and justify a Target which identifies expected performance across all sites.

The Target will be a number which represents a percentage increase in the numbers of Indigenous clients registered by the organisation as a proportion of the total client numbers.  The Target is to be calculated from a baseline which is the service provider’s 2010 client numbers (as reported to FaHCSIA)—for example, a planned increase of 100 Indigenous clients where an organisation provided services to 1000 clients in 2010 would be target of 10 per cent. 

Improvement targets are required for the years commencing July 2011 and July 2012 – the target does not need to be the same for each year.

It is expected the Targets will take into consideration a combination of factors relevant to a service’s circumstances, including but are not limited to the:

  • numbers of Indigenous people residing in the service area
  • level of disadvantage in the Indigenous population
  •  numbers of Indigenous clients already assisted by the service. 

If in 2010 the service provider already had a high proportion of Indigenous clients—for example services operating in locations where the population is predominantly Indigenous—growth targets may not be appropriate or needed.

Targets should direct effort. The best outcomes will be achieved through collaboration with all services ensuring their resources and efforts are focused on achieving the best outcomes for the Indigenous children and families.

Where a service provider has multiple sites and they include places with high levels of Indigenous disadvantage, they are required to provide greater detail in the template on these locations. FaHCSIA will advise services if additional information is required.

Obligations

Unless other advised service providers are required to complete Part B of the Client Access Strategy.

A draft Plan and Target must be submitted to FaHCSIA no later than 9 December 2011 – FaHCSIA will notify services if an Indigenous Plan and Target are not required.

FaHCSIA will give providers feedback on the Plan and Target and will provide approval in writing by 30 June 2012.

Assessing Performance

FaHCSIA will review achievement against the Plan after 2011-12 Service Reports are lodged.   The first assessment of performance against the Target will be in September 2012 and it will based on your 2010-11 Indigenous client participation data.  Performance against targets will be reviewed again at the end of 2013-14.

FaHCSIA will rate service providers as having achieved the Target or to have satisfied the Target based on their annual report to FaHCSIA.

Development of Indigenous Access Strategy – resources

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care Inc’s paper—Working and Walking Together – Supporting Family Relationship Services to Work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families and Organisations— was developed to support non-Indigenous Family Relationship Services to develop culturally appropriate services for Indigenous families.  It provides ideas, information, tools, practical tips and encouragement to assist non-Indigenous organisations and their non-Indigenous staff to strengthen their relationships with Indigenous people and organisations. Other good practice information can be found at the Communities and Families Clearing house

FaHCSIA’s Closing the Gap paper—Toolkit for Indigenous Service Provision—provides advice on how to ensure Indigenous people have equitable access to your service. The Toolkit suggests some practical steps to address common barriers that Indigenous people may experience in accessing mainstream services.

The Council of Australian Governments’ National Indigenous Reform Agreement provides an integrated framework for the task of Closing the Gap, based on the seven building blocks. It is a living document that sets out the policy principles, objectives and performance indicators underpinning Closing the Gap and the specific steps governments are taking to meet the targets.

Attachment A

Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage

Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage is a commitment by all Australian governments to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians – in particular providing a better future for Indigenous children.

The very high level of disadvantage in remote communities is well documented – in recent years governments have committed significant resources to addressing service and infrastructure deficits in these communities.

Three quarters of Indigenous people now live in cities and towns and that proportion is growing. Within cities and towns, Indigenous Australians are significantly over represented in disadvantaged areas. In 2006, 45 per cent of Indigenous children and young adults (0-18 years) lived in locations classified by the ABS as highly disadvantaged areas.

Indigenous children face significantly greater risk of long term disadvantage. In 2008–092:

  • the rate of Indigenous children on care and protection orders was more than eight times the rate of non-Indigenous children
  • the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care was just over nine times the rate of non-Indigenous children
  • Indigenous children were 7.5 times as likely to be the subject of substantiations as non-Indigenous children.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) identified the following as factors that contribute to the underutilisation of mainstream services:

  • structural factors – such as poor planning and co-ordination across government resulting in gaps, overlapping services and lack of clear roles and responsibilities between mainstream providers and Indigenous community service organisations; Indigenous organisations and clients having to deal with multiple programs and agencies; up‑front costs; lack of infrastructure and transport issues
  • service provider staffing issues – ranging from difficulties in recruiting and maintaining staff, the challenges in securing skills and competencies required to manage complex issues (including lack of culturally aware staff and Indigenous staff) and inappropriate staff attitudes
  • Indigenous people’s reticence to use government services and
  • ineffective engagement by service providers with Indigenous communities.

Service Delivery Principles

Governments are committed to a range of actions including reforming service delivery systems to ensure government investments:

  • deliver effective and accessible services that are taken up by Indigenous people in urban and regional locations
  • deliver culturally competent services that achieve good outcomes for Indigenous Australians
  • maximise linkages between Indigenous-specific and mainstream services and
  • deliver service models that respond to high levels of mobility amongst Indigenous Australians.

COAG has agreed the framework in which priorities are set and our progress is measured. The COAG Closing the Gap Service Delivery Principles3 set expectations about how government agencies and their contracted services providers should behave. The Principles below are relevant to the way FSP providers play their part in closing the gap:

  • Indigenous engagement principle: Engagement with Indigenous men, women and children and communities should be central to the design and delivery of programs and services.
  • Access principle: Programs and services should be physically and culturally accessible to Indigenous people recognising the diversity of urban, regional and remote needs.
  • Integration principle: There should be collaboration between and within government at all levels and their agencies to effectively coordinate programs and services.
  • Accountability principle: Programs and services should have regular and transparent performance monitoring, review and evaluation.
  1. Services with a per annum funding agreement value of $80,000 or less. All services operating in discrete remote Indigenous communities; mainstream services which predominantly support Indigenous families; Family Relationship Services for Humanitarian Entrants Services. Where a service provider considers they should be exempt for these reasons, they should request an exemption
  2. Child Protection Australia 2008–09, AIHW 2010
  3. COAG has agreed the framework in which priorities are set and our progress is measured and has set expectations about how government agencies and their contracted services providers should behave
Content Updated: 26 September 2013