Family Support Program Reform e-News - Issue 1

Issue 1 - March 2011 

Keeping stakeholders up-to-date with news of the Family Support Program

Welcome from Julie Collins

Welcome to the first edition of the Family Support Program (FSP) reform e-Newsletter. This e-Newsletter is the first in a series providing you with information over coming months as we implement the FSP reforms.

As part of my role as Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services, I’ve been asked by the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin MP, to monitor the FSP reforms and ensure the transition to the new FSP, beginning 1 July 2011, is as smooth as possible.

Julie CollinsLate last year, I attended a number of FSP consultations around the country and I have appreciated your feedback on the reform process.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel to all states to speak with community service providers and visit a number of organisations to see first-hand the work you deliver on the ground.

In late January I also visited service providers in Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba to gain an understanding of how providers were responding to the recovery effort in flood-affected Queensland.

Engaging with you regularly is a high priority so the first edition of e-News covers information on the new FSP and includes your messages from the stakeholder consultations, how the FSP supports the Closing the Gap strategy and important dates to note.

The valuable contribution that you and your staff make to ensure Australian families and children are supported is appreciated and I look forward to working with you throughout the reform process and into the future.

I encourage you to contact the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs if you have any concerns or would like further information on the FSP reforms.

Julie Collins MP
Parliamentary Secretary for
Community Services

The new FSP – overview

The new FSP commencing on 1 July 2011 will provide greater flexibility and collaboration in the delivery of family support services. FSP services will focus on the best interests of children and will take a whole of family approach.

Many services already provide this type of support. However, some may need to work more closely with other services to support vulnerable families or adjust service orientation to ensure they are meeting the needs of the children as well as the adults, for example.

Providers will also be required to ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families have priority. This means that providers might have to take their service to where families live or link it to other support such as community centres. The Department will work with services to help them transition to the new arrangements.image of family

There will not be any re-tendering, major tender rounds, or significant shifts in funding as a result of these FSP reforms commencing on 1 July 2011.

Streamlining services

From 1 July, the FSP will comprise two core streams:

  • Family and Children’s services (see below for the structure from 1 July 2011); and
  • Family Law Services (the structure of these activities will not change on 1 July 2011).

More than 20 service types under Family and Children’s services have been streamlined into four:

  1. Communities for Children Services: including Indigenous Parenting Support Services to provide prevention and early intervention services to families with children up to age 12 and who are at risk of disadvantage;
  2. Family and Relationship Services dealing with adult relationship issues, counselling for young people and children and broader parenting support;
  3. Specialist Services: which have particular knowledge and skills for dealing with vulnerable families affected by issues such as drugs, violence and trauma; and
  4. Community Playgroups: to support parents with young children.

National services such as the Family Relationship Advice Line and Mensline will work alongside existing services to ensure families across Australia have access to more integrated services, especially during critical life events. image of children playing

Family Relationships Online and the Raising Children Network are national online websites that enhance awareness of locally available services and resources assisting families.

Flexibility in service provision

The streamlining of Family and Children’s services will provide more flexible funding for services delivered in the same location.

Service providers will be able to work more flexibly and creatively, and adapt their work to meet the needs of children and families.

They will be able to offer a broader range of services for the activities they are funded to deliver.

This more efficient model is aimed at enabling service providers to work more flexibly to meet the local needs of children and families.

Reducing red tape

Service providers have lobbied hard for less paperwork. Under the FSP reforms, funding agreements will be streamlined and there will be one annual funding acquittal for most providers.

This change will provide greater funding flexibility for service providers who currently receive separate funding under multiple funding agreements.

Collaboration

From 1 July, a collaborative service delivery system will be a key component of the new FSP.

Evidence suggests that multiple and complex issues faced by many vulnerable and disadvantaged families do not fit neatly into traditional service models and requires a multifaceted response. Collaboration will be particularly important to support vulnerable families with complex issues.

Service providers will be required to link to each other and to the broader service system to provide a more integrated suite of services.image of child on swing with adult

Many providers told us that they are already working collaboratively with other services and are positive about supporting vulnerable families through joined-up service delivery. FaHCSIA will work with service providers to implement this approach.

Assistance with establishing and managing longer-term joint working relationships and collaborative efforts is also available on the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth website.

Early intervention & prevention services

Early intervention and prevention services remain an important part of the FSP service mix.  However, providing support such as pre-marriage education couple counselling cannot be the sole focus, especially where it is not reaching families that may be disadvantaged or vulnerable.

The FSP will therefore require adult-targeted services, such as the existing Family Relationship Education and Skills Training (FREST) services, to make sure families are connected with services including parenting and child-focused services, and reach out to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged families and children. 

image of boy at schoolProviders, particularly large organisations, need to demonstrate they can deliver the range of services, either in-house or through collaborative relationships with other providers, to enable a comprehensive service offer to all clients. 

Most current FREST providers are already delivering broader parenting and child-focused services, or have indicated in recent discussions with the Department that they are willing and able to make the broader connections with these services.

The Department will work with service providers and stakeholders to address issues and shape services to meet community need.

 

Stakeholder consultations 2010

On 9 November 2010, the Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services, Julie Collins MP and staff from FaHCSIA met with national stakeholders including peak bodies and major service providers.image of mother and child

Meetings in every state and territory followed throughout November and early December 2010.

Feedback from the consultations provided broad endorsement for the direction of the program and has contributed valuable input into the implementation of the FSP. 

Discussion centred around funding, the performance outcomes framework and collaboration aspects of the FSP reform. 

Feedback was also received around the funding agreements, program design, service delivery areas and issues, organisational capability and stakeholder representation.  

More detail on each of these issues raised at the consultations is available online at the FaHCSIA website.

Ensuring a smooth implementation

Service providers’ first hand experiences have been at the heart of the program reform process.

To obtain input to the changes to performance measurement and the new funding agreement, FaHCSIA has been working with sector representatives through the Performance Framework and Funding Agreement Working Group.

image of boy and adult

The Working Group has discussed the standard funding agreement and terms and conditions; the Schedule – Standard Funding Agreement including the performance framework and activity descriptions; and reporting.

The Working Group’s most recent meeting on 25 February considered the draft FSP Performance Framework, Performance Indicators in the new Funding Agreement and how to improve access for vulnerable and disadvantaged families. 

Participants said that good progress had been made on Performance Indicators and the Performance Framework and they look forward to continuing to work with the Department to develop them even further.

  

Supporting the Closing the Gap strategy

Supporting families is a key part of the Government’s Closing the Gap strategy to reduce Indigenous disadvantage.

The strategy includes specific targets to close the gap in outcomes in life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, literacy and numeracy, educational achievement and employment.

By making services more accessible to Indigenous families, the FSP will play an important role in helping vulnerable Indigenous families and children to have the best possible start in life.

The Australian Government, together with all state and territory governments, has committed to full accountability for its actions and investments towards Closing the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage. For FaHCSIA, our accountability extends to the organisations we fund to support families and children.

So that FSP services work better with each other and with local Indigenous people, most FSP providers will need to put in place a Closing the Gap Indigenous Action Plan, which aligns with the Closing the Gap Indigenous Service Delivery Principles agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments. FaHCSIA will work with providers to explain what is needed.

Important dates

March – April 2011

  • Funding negotiations with service providers will commence. Where some providers need to make minor adjustments to service delivery, FaHCSIA will work with them to make those transitions as smooth as possible.
  • National Playgroup Week (20-26 March 2011).

May 2011

  • 2011-2012 Federal Budget announced (10 May 2011).
  • National Families Week (15-21 May 2011).

July 2011

  • The FSP commences with a new emphasis on improving assistance to vulnerable and disadvantaged families through a more collaborative service system.

Further information and assistance

The department’s website contains the most up-to-date information on the new FSP and also has useful FAQs and links to Fact Sheets.

If you need to speak with someone about the new FSP you can contact your FaHCSIA State Office; or email: family.support.program@dss.gov.au

 

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