Family Support Program Reform e-News - Issue 3

Issue 3 - May 2011   

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

Message from Julie Collins:Post-Budget update on support for Families

It is a pleasure to write to Family Support Program (FSP) providers with an update on the 2011-12 Budget. The Budget includes a range of measures to support Australian families. 

The Australian Government is making important changes to the family payment system to make it fairer and simpler, and ensure its long-term sustainability.

At the same time, the Government is providing more support for low and middle income families raising children through increasing family assistance to support teenagers in school, make advance payments more flexible and encourage parents to get health checks for their children before they start school.  More information about these changes is available on the Minister’s website.

This Budget also includes an additional $42.5 million investment in expanding Communities for Children services nationally and in targeted communities under the Building Australia's Future Workforce package. Findings from the Communities for Children evaluation demonstrate the service has improved outcomes among the most vulnerable children and families, particularly in relation to children's language skills, parental joblessness rates and mothers' involvement in the community.

The Budget’s key elements for the Family Support Program include:

  • An additional $19.1 million over three years for Communities for Children services to support vulnerable families including Parenting Payment recipients affected by payment eligibility changes.
  • An additional $23.4 million over four years in new and existing Communities for Children services as part of the new approach to supporting teenagers and jobless families being trialled in 10 targeted locations.  Where there is an existing Communities for Children service in a trial site, additional funding will be provided to work with teenage parents and jobless parents as part of their new participation requirements.
  • An additional $2.9 million over four years by applying a single indexation rate across the new Family and Children’s component of the Family Support Program Appropriation and removing the efficiency dividend from the FSP.
  • The continuation and expansion of the drought policy reform pilot in Western Australia.  Funding of $1.9 million in 2011-12 for the Rural and Regional Family Support Services component of the pilot will help farmers, their families and rural communities with counselling and crisis support, relationship education and skills training and activities that promote community cohesion, build social networks, and improve referral pathways.
  • Lastly, the government has provided $2 million to continue the Family Support Drought Response Teams in Exceptional Circumstance declared areas and transitional funding for six-months where Exceptional Circumstances declared status has ended due to improved seasonal conditions in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Again I would like to thank you for the valuable contribution that you and your staff make to ensure Australian families and individuals are supported in their times of need.

I look forward to hearing about how the FSP reform implementation is going.  As always, I encourage you to contact FaHCSIA if you have any concerns or would like further information about the news from the Budget or the FSP.

Enhanced Communities for Children service model and the Trial sites for new and expanded Communities for Children Services

Enhanced service model

From 1 July 2012, the Government’s Building Australia’s Future Workforce package will provide additional funding of $19.1 million to enhance the Communities for Children service model.  This funding will support vulnerable families including Parenting Payment recipients affected by payment eligibility changes.  This will enable the existing Communities for Children services to provide families with the support they need to effectively participate in the workforce, and develop their children’s skills ready for a successful education.

Targeted locations

The Australian Government is trialling a new approach to support teenage parents and jobless families in 10 targeted locations, including in seven existing and three new Communities for Children sites.  This is aimed at addressing entrenched disadvantage by targeting some of the most disadvantaged locations in the country.

In these 10 locations, the Government will provide new services, opportunities and responsibilities to boost the job readiness of families with young children. Jobless families and teenage parents will have new participation requirements to develop their skills and make sure that their children get a good start in life.  Services to support teenage parents will commence in January 2012. Services for jobless families will commence in July 2012.

The 10 trial locations are:

Seven existing Communities for Children:

  • Burnie, Tasmania – Centacare Tasmania;
  • Hume, Victoria – Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust;
  • Logan, Queensland – The Salvation Army (Qld) Property Trust;
  • Kwinana, Western Australia – The Smith Family;
  • Playford, South Australia – Anglicare South Australia;
  • Shellharbour, New South Wales – Barnados Australia; and
  • Wyong, New South Wales – The Benevolent Society.

Three new Communities for Children services will be established in:

  • Bankstown, New South Wales;
  • Shepparton, Victoria; and
  • Rockhampton, Queensland.

Funding Agreements and Program Guidelines

The Australian Government is investing over $1 billion in the Family Support Program over the next three years. 

The Government is giving service providers more certainty with services being renewed for three years (1 July 2011 to 30 June 2014).  This will reduce red tape for service providers and enable them to provide more support to vulnerable families.

Current funding agreements expire for most providers on 30 June 2011. By now providers will have been contacted by FaHCSIA State Offices about future funding. If your current funding agreement ends on 30 June 2011 and you have not received a draft Funding Agreement, you should contact your funding agreement manager.

The FSP Program Guidelines for the Family Support Program are now online on the FaHCSIA website and provide specific information relating to the program.

FRSP Online

Changes

To reflect new requirements under the FSP commencing on 1 July 2011, changes are required to the FRSP Online data collection system, which is used to collect client information on the former Family Relationship Services components of the FSP.  FRSP Online is not used to collect information on Communities for Children Services and Community Playgroups.

An important change for services required to use FRSP Online is that from 1 July 2011, there is no requirement for providers to use the FRSP Online form to record client feedback.  This form is being replaced by a smaller and simpler questionnaire.  We are developing the new questionnaire in consultation with the sector and are aiming to make it available by September.  The questionnaire can be used throughout the year to seek client feedback.  Once a year for four weeks, providers will be required to collect feedback from clients and supply the aggregated results to the Department in the streamlined Annual Service Report, which from 2012, will be due by 31 July.  More information on this change will be available shortly on the FaHCSIA website.

Otherwise, the Department has made only limited changes to the data collection system to ensure a smooth transition from current data collection protocols to those which apply from 1 July 2011.  Please refer to the Fact Sheet on the FaHCSIA website that details the FRSP Online changes to be implemented.

The Department is also revising the FRSP Online Protocols document, including the provision of key data elements definitions, to provide better guidance to service provider staff in the collection and entering of data.  Once revised, the document will be forwarded to providers that use FRSP Online. 

If you have any questions regarding changes to FRSP Online or of a technical nature, please email family.support.program@dss.gov.au.

Referral data  

Please enter data on referrals into FRSP Online within 28 days of client service.  Giving priority to vulnerable and disadvantaged families and their children is a key part of the FSP Reforms and this data will demonstrate how providers are actively assisting vulnerable children and families access relevant services.

Important dates

 

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

For resources and information on the FSP please look on the FaHCSIA website.

Queries can be emailed to  family.support.program@dss.gov.au.

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