Stakeholder Engagement on the Family Support Program

November and December 2010

Summary of issues, queries and suggestions raised

Considerable interest was shown by providers around funding, the performance outcomes framework and collaboration aspects of the Family Support Program (FSP) reform. Feedback was also received around the funding agreements, program design/reform, service delivery areas and issues, organisational capability and stakeholder representation. A summary of these issues is provided below.

Funding          

Comments on timeframe and rollover of funds

  • Stakeholders were happy with the continuity of funding and the three year timeframe as it supports staff retention and continuity of projects, stability and allowing for better service delivery.
  • Some believe longer contracts would better facilitate business planning.

Additional funding was sought

  • To expand services or collaborate on service delivery.
  • For agencies working in more disadvantaged areas.
  • To support flexibility, given that change can be associated with cost.
  • For retention and recruitment of staff, particularly specialists, at market rate.  
  • For brokerage funding to support transport and engagement costs.
  • To fund resource intensive quality training and development.
  • For staff that need development to implement rigorous intake and assessment and the outcome‑based framework. 
  • Due to the funding implications of the National Pay Equity case on the FSP once Fair Work Australia has reached its decision.
  • To enable outcome-based program evaluation at the local level as per Communities for Children (i.e. quarantined for this purpose only).
  • As demand is expected to increase.

Funding indexation

  • The indexation level that has previously applied was considered inadequate by some due to its impact on the capacity of services over the last three years.

Funding Agreements

Timeframe

  • Sector is concerned about timeframe for funding agreement negotiation and wants it to commence ASAP.
  • Providers with funding agreements ending in 2012-13 (especially Communities for Children and Closing the Gap NT) asked about whether their arrangements will change.

Flexibility

  • Positive feedback about increasing flexibility in funding agreements.
  • More information sought on how far this flexibility will go (belief that restrictions will be included, which would impact upon the ability of services to be flexible to meet the needs of families).

Structure

  • Keen to know more detail of the funding agreements, including how flexibility and collaboration requirements will be built in; how targets will be structured; and how delivering services to disadvantaged communities will be monitored.
  • Suggestion that future funding agreements be negotiated with groups of providers in local areas rather than individually to ensure local needs are addressed.

Request for ongoing review

  • Suggestion to have ongoing review of funding agreements (what is working, what’s not and for NGOs and government to do this in partnership).

Targets

  • Suggestion to reduce client targets so that sharing innovative practice is carried out.

Performance Framework and Evaluation

Reporting format

  • Support for a simplified reporting format and mechanism to capture case studies.
  • Improved electronic reporting would refine information management and simplify recording, noting that implementation for smaller organisations may take longer.
  • Service providers with more than one service type under the current Children & Parenting model – will the service providers be reporting as one ‘Communities for Children Service’ or will they still be required to report separately?
  • Whether the Intensive Support Playgroups and the Indigenous Children Programs will be reporting as one or continue reporting separately.

Timeframe

  • How evaluation and measurement of outcomes will be undertaken in the new FSP Performance Framework and within what timeframes.
  • Whether the new reporting requirements begins 1 July 2011.
  • Frequency of performance reporting.
  • What the outcome measures will look like, whether they would consider the short or long-term and whether they would involve providers following up with clients 6‑12 months post-service.
  • If/how reporting framework will change for services transitioning through to 2012.

Measuring performance

  • How performance will be measured for services delivered to disadvantaged clients.
  • Some agencies want a greater level of detail (e.g.  who they will be required to collaborate with and level of collaboration).  Performance indicators need to measure effort in these areas.  Others would prefer less definition to enable flexibility/place-based approach.
  • Challenge in collecting data from clients to support an outcomes-based performance framework.  Will there still be an emphasis on targets?
  • Indicators need to capture immediate and short term impact while monitoring long term outcomes.

Data collection  

  • If/how the online data collection tool for FRSP will change.
  • Whether the current data collection tool will remain.
  • Whether all FSP providers will be expected to use FRSPonline from 1 July 2011.

Collaboration

Reform structure

  • The Department to clarify expectations on partnerships (in the context of integration of services taking time, effort and training).
  • Collaboration in the competitive tendering environment: competition is not conducive to collaboration.
  • No competitive tendering is welcome and will help encourage collaboration.
  • It will be challenging to understand and broaden knowledge of networks to offer a variety of different services to families. 
  • Case management is seen as an element of collaboration and a need for more complex families, which is not adequately resourced.
  • Cost of collaboration should be acknowledged.

Commonwealth and State Relations

  • Collaboration across Commonwealth, State and Local Government is required to align program design and outcomes.
  • Existing models of effective collaboration involving FSP players included Victorian Government’s Child First and the Primary Care Partnerships service models, and the Commonwealth Government’s new Medicare Locals primary health care networks.
  • Better collaboration needed between governments and non-government sectors on reform agendas (e.g.  local government Community Hubs, Family Support Hubs, Keep Them Safe program, Communities for Children sites and Community Services Grants Program).
  • Support for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) facilitating discussions between providers to look at the collaboration process, possibly in partnership with State governments.

Program Design / Reform

Comments on the Reform

  • General Support for the flexibility allowing for a whole of community approach to service delivery. 
  • Welcome three year funding and no major tender processes.
  • The Department recognises that many providers are already working in the ways outlined by the reforms/demonstrating good practice. However for some, there will more change required than others.
  • Concern that smaller providers may get lost in this process.
  • Some providers had expected more change under FSP. 
  • Name of the program can be misleading for those organisations receiving State funding under similarly named programs.
  • New approaches are required to establish relationships with vulnerable families.

Early Intervention

  • Support a focus on early intervention and prevention.  Seeking assurance that the FSP will still have this and not focus only on child protection / tertiary services. 
  • Young parents and young people becoming parents need to be targeted so mechanisms are in place before children are born or as soon as possible afterward.

Implementation

  • The outcomes framework needs to allow innovative and creative approaches that meet the needs of vulnerable families (i.e. not too rigid)
  • Local issues need to be considered in the implementation of FSP.
  • The case management approach of the new FSP approach has complexities including the parts of the service system which, in timing or process, can be disconnected to this case management (e.g. client may go in and out of program for 6-12mths). 
  • Will there be flexibility within and between ‘streams’?  e.g.  Family Counselling Stream (this stream has since been renamed ‘Family and Relationship Services’) and Family Law Services.
  • Organisations may require different supports and timeframes to meet new FSP requirements.
  • Will individual service types retain their integrity in the transition (they appear to be amalgamated in the transition from FRS – Early Intervention Services to the Family and Relationship Services stream, e.g.  Men and Family Relationships, refugees).
  • New case management focus on FSP with implications for organisational capability, sustainability and workforce. 
  • How service providers broaden their Family Relationship Education and Skills Training (FREST) services if their current service model is for pre-marriage.
  • Supportive of the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s report on the NFP sector.
  • Differences perceived between FaHCSIA and AGD policy decisions.  AGD policy supports fee income to partly alleviate the impact of its funding reduction whilst FaHCSIA is seeking an increased focus on disadvantage.  Sector considers that this focus will impact on the capacity of services to collect fees and that these two approaches are inconsistent.
  • AGD funding cuts could impact on FSP Reform through additional stress to other services.

Further reform

  • The sector is keen to have more detail on the Department’s timeline for change over the next 3-5 years.

Service Delivery

Fees

  • Impact of increasing fees to cover operational costs on families. 
  • Disadvantaged clients: ability to pay
  • Fees across Family Relationship Service streams differ: whether there will be changes to these fees.

Services

  • Specialist services tend to be offered by larger and more centrally located providers with little capacity for outreach.  Where is the parity for those living outside the reach of these providers?
  • Need for universal services to continue and be supported.
  • How will the condensing of Children and Parenting programs into the one service type, ‘Communities for Children Services’, impact on the type of programs that can be delivered?
  • Does the new FSP Communities for Children Services model mean a change to existing working relationships / facilitating partners. 
  • Will there be more services with the name ‘Communities for Children’/will all services under the new Communities for Children service type use the title ‘Communities for Children’? This may confuse and affect badging / communication material.
  • Case management is identified as a significant gap in the service system that is not resourced.
  • How will Men’s Family Relationships be implemented under Family and Relationship Services, i.e. will men remain the primary focus for their own benefit or will the program be targeted for the benefit of women and children?
  • Free access to interpreter services to ensure adequate services are provided to vulnerable Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) families.  Service delivery to CALD communities is very resource intensive
  • Currently overwhelmed by numbers of clients in the service system which requires effort in supporting rather than focussing on intended outcomes for families.
  • How will drought funding be managed through this process.

Catchments (service footprints)

  • Service delivery can mean long distances to travel.
  • Will Family Relationship Services catchments be suitable for FSP.  Consider local variations under FSP.  Geography, e.g., natural communities and transport restrictions.
  • Geographical disadvantaged has a high impact on the ability to consistently deliver to these areas and for these communities to access services.
  • Difficulty delivering services in areas with a high level of transient families.
  • Desire to see FaHCSIA’s data on identified areas of disadvantage and discuss issues including Commonwealth and local understanding of disadvantage.
  • Needs of client groups transcend geographic boundaries so flexibility should be built-in to support services to move across borders if required.
  • The cost of covering large catchment areas is high and there are insufficient resources to do this effectively.
  • Support for flexibility around the catchment area and model to meet local needs.  Whether there is flexibility with and between streams.
  • Whether any areas have been flagged for additional services.

Representation and stakeholder engagement

  • Messages need to be delivered to all providers (announcement focussed on FRSA providers).
  • Ensure a ‘voice’ for the sector does not disappear.
  • Sector has a wealth of experience / knowledge that will be acknowledged and used in partnership with FaHCSIA in developing FSP.

 

Content Updated: 28 March 2012