Stronger Relationships Trial Frequently asked questions for service providers and celebrants

 

What is the Stronger Relationships Trial?

The Stronger Relationships trial aims to help couples build and maintain healthy, mutually satisfying relationships by providing them with a $200 subsidy for relationship education and counselling.

Up to 100,000 couples over the age of 18 years in a committed relationship can participate in the trial.

Why is the Australian Government funding relationship education and counselling?

By strengthening relationships at the outset, and curbing family breakdown, the Government aims to help couples to achieve a greater degree of stability and thereby a better environment for their children.

Relationship and family breakdown also place significant economic burden on the nation with direct government service costs estimated at around $3 billion each year.

The Government is committed to early intervention responses, such as those under the Stronger Relationships trial, to prevent future personal, social and economic costs of relationship and family breakdown.

When does the trial start?

The Stronger Relationships trial runs for 12 months from 1 July 2014.

How can service providers participate in the trial?

It’s easy for service providers to participate in the Stronger Relationships trial. They just need to check that they meet the eligibility criteria and, if they do, apply online.

To be eligible, providers must be either:

  • an existing Family and Relationship Services Provider under the former Family Support Program, or
  • a not-for-profit provider who already provides education and/or counselling to at least 100 couples per year.

In addition, all educators and counsellors of not-for-profit providers must possess current membership to a recognised professional association. Details of the recognised professional associations are available in the Stronger Relationship Operational Guidelines.

Once approved, service providers will be listed on the Stronger Relationships Panel.

When can service providers apply to participate in the Stronger Relationships trial?

Service providers can apply to participate in the trial at any time until 31 March 2015 via the Stronger Relationships trial Grants webpage.

Why is the Stronger Relationships trial funding agreement different from the new streamlined grant agreement?

Approved service providers under the Stronger Relationships trial will enter into Individual Support Agreements with DSS. These agreement types are used where panel arrangements are in place. By using an Individual Support Agreement, DSS was able to develop a set of Terms and Conditions to meet the needs of the Stronger Relationships trial.

What if I am already funded by the Australian Government to deliver free relationship education and counselling services?

Stronger Relationships trial payments will not be paid for services that a service provider is required to deliver free of charge under a separate agreement with the Commonwealth. These services will continue to be provided free of charge. Further information on this can be found in Condition 7 of the Stronger Relationships trial Grant Agreement Terms and Conditions.

What if I am already funded to deliver relationship education and counselling services and charge a fee under a separate agreement with the Australian Government?

Approved service providers are encouraged to provide additional relationship education and counselling services that comply with the requirements of the Stronger Relationships trial. Claims can only be made for services provided to an eligible couple which begin after 1 July 2014.  

What is the Stronger Relationships Panel?

The Stronger Relationships Panel is the list of approved providers that are participating in the Stronger Relationships trial.

Only those listed on the panel can provide relationship education and counselling to couples who have registered for the trial and receive a $200 reimbursement per couple for the services they have delivered.

What information is published on the Stronger Relationships Panel?

The Stronger Relationships Panel contains basic information about each approved provider to enable couples to decide which one they wish to make an appointment with. The information includes location, contact details and types of services available.

How do I correct or add extra information about my organisation on the Panel?

Service Providers can update their information listed on the Stronger Relationships trial panel at any time by sending the requested changes to the Stronger Relationships trial inbox at strongerrelationships@dss.gov.au.

What happens after a service provider is listed on the Stronger Relationships Panel?

Once listed on the Stronger Relationships Panel, the approved provider can accept appointments with couples who have registered for the trial and seek a $200 rebate per couple for the services they have provided.

Can a service provider help couples to register?

Service providers may offer assistance to couples to register on the Stronger Relationships trial website.

Couples can register for their subsidy from 1 July 2014 by clicking on the 'Couples registration' button.

Technical Requirements

The Stronger Relationship trial couples' registration portal is supported by the following browsers:

  • Apple Safari S7 and later versions
  • Google Chrome 31 and later versions
  • Mozilla Firefox 25 and later versions
  • Internet Explorer 9 and later versions.

All other browsers, including Internet Explorer 8, may not work correctly when using the couples' portal.

Under the Stronger Relationships trial, what is the difference between counselling and education services?

Relationship education under the Stronger Relationships trial is focused on skills development, and may include elements of parenting skills training, financial counselling or other family services to develop the couple’s relationship skills.

Relationship counselling under the Stronger Relationships trial may include elements of therapy and mediation with the aim of improving, maintaining or amicably dissolving a couple-relationship.

Further information on service types and related requirements under the Stronger Relationships trial can be found in Section 2 of the Stronger Relationships trial Operational Guidelines

How many hours of relationship education or counselling does the $200 subsidy cover?

Approved providers will be expected to deliver a minimum number of contact hours in exchange for the $200 rebate from the Government:

  • five hours of relationship education,
  • four hours of inventory-style pre marriage education, or
  • two hours of counselling.

For additional information on minimum hours, refer to the Stronger Relationships trial Operational Guidelines.

The approved provider will need to make an assessment as to which service is most appropriate for the couple and some couples may require a mix of services.

Can couples use the $200 subsidy for a pre-marital education program/course?

Yes, provided that the couple has not already commenced the program and that it is with a service provider listed on the Stronger Relationships Panel.

Participating in a pre-marriage program is an excellent way to start a marriage with strong foundations.

Couples are encouraged to talk to their celebrant about the type of pre-marriage program they accept.

When are couples required to pay a co-contribution fee?

The fees policy outlined in Section 3.3 of the Operational Guidelines outlines that prior to the commencement of service provision, Stronger Relationships trial service providers must disclose to the couple the fee charged before the $200 subsidy is applied, the fee payable after the $200 subsidy is applied and any remaining immediate or anticipated fees.

Determining when fees are paid by couples is at the discretion of the service provider.

How much should service providers charge?

Approved providers should charge according to the fee structure they listed on the Panel application form.

The $200 subsidy is intended to be a contribution towards the services and couples are expected to pay any difference. Approved providers should discuss fees with the couple on first contact.

When can the $200 government reimbursement be claimed?

Approved providers can claim a $200 reimbursement when the couple’s education and/or counselling program has been completed.

Only one claim can be made per couple and all claims must be submitted within a month of delivering the service and by 30 June 2015.

How is the $200 government reimbursement claimed?

Up to 100,000 couples in a committed relationship can participate in the trial.

Approved providers can claim the $200 reimbursement from the Department of Social Services for each registered couple at the end of each month through the Department’s simple online Service Provider portal. Approved providers will be sent via email information on how to access the portal.

What if I can’t get onto the Service Provider portal; the screen asks for my username and password?

A service provider needs to be an approved provider under the Stronger Relationships trial to gain access to the Service Provider portal. Once the department has entered into a grant agreement with the service provider, the Grant Agreement Manager will email through an electronic access form. This form needs to be completed by each staff member requiring access to the portal. The department will then provide the specified personnel with their FOFMS login details to access the portal.

How many $200 subsidies can an approved provider claim?

There is no limit as to how many subsidies each approved provider can claim, however only one subsidy can be claimed per couple.

The Department of Social Services may check with the couple and also contact approved providers to verify the services were provided.

What information do approved providers need to provide when making a claim?

Approved providers need to provide the couple’s subsidy reference number, basic information about the couple, a description of the services provided and the total value of the services provided.

What if the portal doesn’t verify a reference number and the message is no record found?

In order to register for the trial, couples must enter their details in the Couple’s Registration portal. This information is used to match the details provided to service providers when verifying the couple reference number in the portal. At times, this information does not match due to inconsistent records.

Please contact the Stronger Relationships team with the reference number and DOB given by the couple.  We will then check the information provided by the couple against our records and if necessary, contact the couple in order to seek their permission to change the relevant registration information in the portal so a claim can be made by the service provider.

Can an approved provider claim a $200 reimbursement if the couple does not attend all of the sessions?

Section 2.7.3 of the Operational Guidelines state that Stronger Relationships trial service providers can claim a $200 reimbursement for each couple after the completion of service provision through the department’s online financial management system (FOFMS).  Payment will be issued at such time as the following information has been submitted through the claim form on FOFMS:

  • The service provider has obtained consent from the Eligible Couple to claim a subsidy for services provided
  • Verification of a valid Reference Number and date of birth of either member of the couple
  • Reporting basic information on services rendered and session information
  • Confirmation that the services provided comply with Programme and Operational Guidelines, including the minimum contact hours.

If a couple do not to complete the minimum contact hours, the service provider can submit a claim using the client reference number if consent has been given by the couple for the service provider to claim.  Such claims should only be made when all attempts to complete the minimum contact hours have been exhausted. The online claim will require the service provider to specify the reason why the number of contact hours is less than the contact hours outlined in the Operational Guidelines and the hours not attended.  A Claim Number will be issued after a successful claim has been submitted which will invalidate future claims against that client reference number.

If a couple is unhappy with the service provided and wish to discontinue service, the client may lodge a complaint with the organisation or escalate their concerns directly to the department.

What information is available to support service providers during the trial?

All approved providers listed on the Stronger Relationships Panel will be provided with a free information kit to assist them in their role. The kit will include information materials they can distribute to couples, promotional materials for inclusion on their website or newsletters, and instructions about how to claim the $200 reimbursement.
Providers on the Stronger Relationships Panel will also be communicated with regularly during the trial period, so they can help with managing service expectations.

Where can service providers and celebrants find out more about the trial?

For more information visit the Stronger Relationships trial webpage.

More information

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