Family Support Program Reform e-News - Issue 2

Issue 2 - April 2011

The second edition of the Family Support Program Reform e-News comes following the recent launch of the Family Support Program (FSP). It has been designed to assist service providers to gain a more complete understanding of what to expect in funding agreement negotiations over the coming weeks. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ State and Territory Office Network staff are forwarding information to service providers on these new agreements and will progressively contact you to ensure that all organisations have the opportunity to consider and discuss the changes.

This edition of the Family Support Program Reform e-News provides information on Program Guidelines and Family Law Services. It also presents more detail on priorities for the new program including collaboration; vulnerable and disadvantaged and Indigenous client access; and the Performance Framework. Information on National Families Week from 15 to 21 May 2011 is included as well.  

Announcement of the FSP

The Government launched the new FSP with renewed funding of $490 million over three years for families and children services to provide more support to vulnerable families, and reduce red tape for service providers.

As part of the launch, the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, the Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services, Julie Collins, and the Member for Port Adelaide, Mark Butler visited the Uniting Care Wesley Port Adelaide Communities for Children service in Seaton to announce the program.

More information about the announcement is on the Minister’s website.

Funding Agreement negotiations commenced

man and childFunding Agreement managers from FaHCSIA have commenced funding agreement negotiations. During these discussions Funding Agreement managers will explain what is new and what is different. As this will be a progressive process, some providers will be discussing these changes with FaHCSIA in May. 

Service providers will be contacted by their FaHCSIA State or Territory office Funding Agreement manager and will be sent a draft funding agreement for consideration in these discussions.

For services with current funding agreements that end on 30 June 2011, new funding agreements will commence from 1 July 2011. Before the expiry of funding agreements on 30 June 2012 for Communities for Children sites and 14 Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services, those services will be offered a variation to extend their current agreement through until 30 June 2014.

For all FaHCSIA funded services that expire on 30 June 2011, the 2011-12 base funding offers will be increased by indexation.

However, the draft funding agreements service providers will receive over the next few weeks will use 2010-11 figures, because the increase providers will receive from indexation will not be known until the May budget is announced. This means service providers will receive their funding offer, including the indexed amount in late May.

For most FSP providers who deliver Attorney General’s Department (AGD) funded services, funding agreement discussions will occur in May. FaHCSIA Funding Agreement managers will contact providers to commence negotiations once decisions on implementation of the Access to Justice measure have been announced; this announcement is expected soon. The funding agreements presented to providers after this announcement will show how AGD funding levels will change for Family Relationship Centres, family counselling services and other post separation services. A decision on indexation for services funded by the AGD will be communicated shortly.

New Program Guidelines

FaHCSIA will shortly publish the draft Program Guidelines for the new Family Support Program on its website. These new guidelines will be effective from 1 July 2011.

The Guidelines consist of four parts (Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D).

  • Part A provides an overview of the FSP and the Activities relating to the program. It includes a Program Structure Diagram on page six. The Program Structure Diagram is also available on the FaHCSIA website.
  • Part B provides information on the application, assessment, eligibility, selection and complaints processes; and financial and funding agreement arrangements.
  • Part C - there are 13 Part Cs to provide specific information on each Activity (e.g. Communities for Children services, Children’s Contact Services, etc.) It includes information on the selection criteria the Department will use for any new selection rounds and information on performance management and reporting.
  • Part D is the application form that would be used for any new selection rounds.

image of older lady and childPart A and C of the Guidelines should be read in conjunction with the 'Related Information' documents which are available on the FaHCSIA website. These documents provide important information for service providers on their obligations including FaHCSIA’s requirements for documentation from services regarding targeting of services to vulnerable and disadvantaged families and their contributions to closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage.

Draft Program Guidelines and other Related Information to assist service providers in understanding the new program will be discussed in funding agreement negotiations.

More on Collaboration

The Australian Government is seeking to make services easier to access and more supportive for Australia’s vulnerable children and families through the new FSP. Although many disadvantaged and vulnerable families access universal service systems (such as health, education and income support), some have complex issues requiring more targeted and intensive wrap-around support.

An important part of assisting vulnerable and disadvantaged families involves establishing effective links with the services they access and coordinated holistic service responses. From 1 July 2011 the program will have a focus on delivering a collaborative service delivery system. This reflects the sector feedback from the 2009 consultations which emphasised that vulnerable and disadvantaged families require joined up services that are easier to access.

The Department’s expectation of how providers will collaborate is covered in ‘Related Information – Collaboration’ on the FaHCSIA website.

Access for the Vulnerable and Disadvantaged and Indigenous clients

The FSP continues to deliver broad-based and early intervention services for families. As Minister Macklin has emphasised in her statements to the sector, a key objective underpinning the reform of FSP has been to ensure that services are appropriately geared to best support vulnerable children and families.

The advice from the sector is that most providers already place a priority on servicing vulnerable and disadvantaged families. So, for many providers this emphasis in the program will not require a change in their service delivery approach.

To demonstrate providers are supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged families, all services will need to complete a full or abridged Access Strategy.

This will require providers to demonstrate awareness of who the vulnerable and disadvantaged families are in their service area and how they intend to work with community stakeholders and other providers to better meet the needs of these families. The Access Strategy must be submitted to FaHCSIA by 9 December 2011 for approval. 

Further information on the Access Strategy is available on the FaHCSIA website.

As part of this measure, most service providers will be required to provide an Indigenous Access Plan – ‘Related Information’ on it is also available on the FaHCSIA website. Completion will result in the creation of an Indigenous Access Improvement Target.

Providers that receive funding of less than $80,000 per year from the FSP will have the option to complete an Abridged Strategy. Communities for Children providers will need to review and update their Community Strategic Plans to include their strategies for supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged families. 

Funding Agreement managers will discuss these expectations with service providers during funding agreement negotiations and provide assistance as organisations develop their Access Strategies. They will also provide information and supporting documentation on the Access Strategy and Indigenous Access Plan.

Performance Framework

image of family groupThe FSP Performance Framework is the vehicle for providing a consistent approach to measuring and reporting on outcomes at the program level. It also aims to ensure that services are clearly focused on achieving positive outcomes for clients, through integrated services for families, particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged families, to improve child wellbeing and development, safety and family functioning.

The Performance Framework covers all activities delivered under the Family Support Program. Each service contributes to those aspects of the framework that are relevant to their specific activities and their clients.  The framework also links with funding agreement performance indicators as some of these feed into the measured outcomes to show the effectiveness of the program.

FaHCSIA has developed the draft Performance Framework in partnership with the sector, particularly Family Relationship Services (FRS), to improve the approach to measuring outcomes for families. Consultation and collaboration with Children and Parenting services began in 2009 after the announcement of the FSP and a draft new framework was then developed with the aim of making it suitable across the whole program.

The Performance Framework has been revised following consultation over recent months with a working group consisting of service providers and Family Relationship Services Australia.

The FSP Performance Framework will apply from 1 July 2011. The revised draft is available on the FaHCSIA website for your information.  Edition 1 will be released prior to July 2011 and further revisions may occur over the life of the funding agreement as additional input is taken into account.

For most service providers there will only be small changes to the types of data they already collect. The main change will be to collect more client outcomes data, particularly intermediate outcomes.

This will enable better monitoring of the impacts of services on clients, focusing on improved child development and wellbeing, safety and family functioning.

National Families Week

National Families Week 2011 will be held from Sunday 15 May to Saturday 21 May 2011 (coinciding with UN International Day of Families on Sunday 15 May).

National Families Week 2011 will celebrate the vital role that families play. This year’s theme is: Sticking together: families in good and tough times. This National Families Week, everyone is encouraged to think about the things that make their family strong in both good and tough times, whatever their circumstances. FaHCSIA funds Families Australia to manage and promote National Families Week.

National Families Week provides the opportunity for families, communities, not-for-profit organisations, Government organisations, service providers and businesses to organise events for and about families and to encourage community debate.

We encourage you to help support National Families Week. If you’re planning an event, visit www.familiesaustralia.org.au to register or to find ideas on how you can promote the week.

Next edition

The next edition of the Family Support Program Reform eNews is expected to be published in the week of 23 May 2011. In it you’ll find topics including:

  • the increase providers will receive from indexation rates announced in the Federal Budget (released 10 May);
  • updates on the implementation of the FSP; and
  • the FRSP Online and FRS program services.

In the interim, we encourage you to access the FaHCSIA website for more detail on the Performance Framework draft, latest FAQs and Fact Sheets.

Important dates

April 2011

  • FaHCSIA commences funding negotiations with providers.

May 2011

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

May to June 2011

  • Continue negotiations finalise and execute funding agreements.

July 2011

  • The new 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 www.fahcsia.gov.au 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

Content Updated: 27 September 2013