Edition 16 - 15 July 2008

Welcome to the sixteenth edition of the Family Relationship Services Program (FRSP) Sector e-News 2008.

We have some interesting topics for you this month, including:

  • Changes to the Family Law Act 1975 - Family Dispute Resolution.  From 1 July 2008 all individuals applying to court for a parenting order will be required to attend family dispute resolution first.  
  • Snapshots of family relationships report.  All Service Provider CEOs will shortly be receiving or have received a copy of the Snapshots of family relationships report compiled by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

For new subscribers, FRSP Sector e-News is an ideal opportunity for you to reach 452 FRSP service providers and industry stakeholders to share service delivery news or to raise any issues you think the sector should be aware of.

To contribute to the next edition's news or to provide feedback about articles in this edition, please email frspe-news@dss.gov.au


Robyn Fleming
Branch Manager
Family Relationship Services Branch

Hot topics

FRSP Online Update

An upcoming major release of FRSP Online will make a significant change to the look and feel of the application. The major changes slated for this release are:

  • Look of the application
  • Navigation of the application
  • Removal of the client consent to be referred question
  • Removal of Mother’s Maiden Name field.

A detailed description of the release will be available from the FRSP Online website shortly after the updates have been applied.

The FRSP Online Protocols and FRSP Online Security documents have been updated to reflect recommendations of the Privacy Impact Assessment Report and changes being made to the FRSP Online application. These documents will be placed on the FRSP Online website in the near future.

The training manual is currently being updated to reflect the new look and feel of FRSP Online. In the interim, updated task cards are available from the FRSP Online website for users until the manual is fully updated.

The FRSP Online Support Centre has a new fax number which is (02) 6212 9143.

For further information about what’s happening with FRSP Online, please see the latest FRSP Online newsletter, available from the Downloads section of the FRSP Online website or contact the Support Centre on 1300 137 305 or frsponline@dss.gov.au

FRSP Online Form Changes

New FRSP Online Data Collection Forms are now available to download from the FRSP Online website. These forms are now effective. 

There have been a number of concerns raised by the sector on the revised wording of the client consent form. In order to minimise the impact on organisations with the change-over to the new forms, organisations may use either version of the client consent/details form until the concerns raised have been considered by the FRSA Data Quality and Performance Management Working Group via the FRSP Online Sub-Committee. All other data collection forms need to be implemented as soon as possible, to align with changes occurring in the upcoming system release.

The following FRSP Online Administration forms must be used from 1 July 2008 for them to be actioned by the Support Centre: 

  • User Administration Form
  • Professional Administration Form
  • Organisation Administration Form
  • Outlet Administration Form
  • External Report Request Form.

For information about the use of data collection forms, please contact the Support Centre on 1300 137 305 or frsponline@dss.gov.au.

Changes to the Family Law Act 1975 - Family Dispute Resolution

From 1 July 2008 all individuals applying to the courts for a parenting order will be required to attend family dispute resolution first. 

The new requirements affect all applications to the courts for a parenting order under Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 relating to children's matters, irrespective of whether previous applications to the courts have been made (currently, people are only required to attend family dispute resolution if they have lodged a new application for a parenting order since 1 July 2007).

The exceptions to attending family dispute resolution, which include cases where there is child abuse or family violence, or where a matter is urgent, will remain.

The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, announced the changes on Friday 6 June 2008. The media release is available at: www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/www/ministers/robertmc.nsf/Page/MediaReleases_2008_SecondQuarter_6June2008-FamilyDisputeResolutionforallParentingOrders

Sector News

The new Child Support Scheme

The Child Support Scheme and parts of Family Assistance have changed to better balance the interests of both parents and be more focused on the needs and costs of children.

In 2006, the Government announced that it would introduce reforms to the Scheme to reflect changes in Australian society since it was established in 1988. Since then, the CSA, FaHCSIA and Centrelink have been working hard to transition child support customers and inform stakeholders about the changes to the Scheme.

The major change on 1 July 2008 is the introduction of a new child support formula, but there are also changes to the way child support agreements work and changes to the way both child support and family assistance work when parents share care.

By now, all child support customers should have received their child support assessment based on the new formula. Customers have also been provided with, and are able to access, detailed information about the changes. Information sessions have been held across the country for customers and stakeholders. The CSA are currently hosting Community Information Sessions for those customers who are hard to reach due to their individual circumstances.

To support you in your role, information is available on the CSA website where you’ll find a variety of products, including eBulletins (which you can subscribe to), a presentation used in information sessions for stakeholders, fact sheets, brochures, and other publications.  The Family Assistance Office website also contains information about changes that were made to Family Assistance from 1 July 2008.

August 2008: Workshops with FRSP Managers of AMFT/SFVS/MFR

In August the Department will be hosting several workshops with the managers of:

  • Adolescent Mediation and Family Therapy Services
  • Specialised Family Violence Services
  • Men and Family Relationship Services

The workshops aim to provide us with a better understanding of what service models are being used and what works well, current issues and how we can better support families with complex needs through these service types. 

Current providers of the National Illicit Drug Strategy, Strengthening Families projects will also be invited to attend these workshops to see where synergies between service types might be developed.

The workshops will be professionally facilitated. More information is on its way to the CEOs and managers of these service types. 

In the interim, if you would like to find out more about the workshops please feel free to email frsp@dss.gov.au.

Snapshots of family relationships report

All service provider CEO’s will shortly be receiving or have received a copy of the Snapshots of family relationships report compiled by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The report was commissioned by FaHCSIA in April 2008 for National Families Week and highlights key trends in family relationship issues and attitudes.

The report presents an overview of contemporary and changing family dynamics and relationships drawing on data from a number of sources including the General Population of Parents Survey 2006.

This report provides a brief outline of the following issues:

  • trends in couple formation, dissolution and family size
  • the personal satisfaction teenagers and adults derive from their family relationships (including step-relationships) and parents’ views about the closeness of relationships between their own parents and children
  • parents’ opinions about various issues, such as the ease or difficulty most parents have in raising children
  • the sources of professional support parents expect they would use should they face difficulties in their relationship with their partner or in handling their children’s behaviour and any they have used
  • post-separation patterns of parenting.

The report indicates that the vast majority of families describe their relationship in a positive light and resolve problems successfully, often by accessing the services of external support agencies.

The report will be a valuable resource for the ongoing development of the sector.

Copies of the report are available via the following links: http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/snapshots/ssreport08/ssreport08.html http://www.facsia.gov.au/internet/facsinternet.nsf/News/nfw08.htm

Family Relationship Services Program Performance Framework

The Family Relationship Services Branch in FaHCSIA has been working with the family relationship services sector to develop a new performance framework that will enable the Department and the sector to better monitor the effectiveness of the program.

The current framework focuses more on monitoring the efficiency of, and driving value for money in, service delivery. While service providers currently have their own effectiveness measures they are not consistent across the sector.

As the program is jointly administered by FaHCSIA and the Attorney-General’s Department, the new framework needs to meet the accountability requirements of both departments and the sector and cover the diversity of early intervention and post-separation service types funded under the program. 

On 11 April 2008, the newly established working group on data quality and performance management, which includes representatives from both departments and Family Relationship Services Australia, agreed to a list of high level key performance indicators that will be mapped across the range of program services types. These indicators will provide a line of sight from the program’s service types and outputs through to the FRSP outcome and each department’s individual Portfolio Budget Statement outcomes.

This approach will support both consistency and flexibility in performance management.  For example, the key performance indicator ‘safe family relationships’ will be equally relevant to Specialised Family Violence Services and Children’s Contact Services. 

Data-collection and performance monitoring will continue through FRSP Online in respect of measures of effort, but is also expected to be refined as work on the framework progresses.

Child Support Scheme - What are we doing to collect overdue child support?

As part of the reforms to the Child Support Scheme, we are focussing on ensuring child support assessments are accurate and that parents meet their child support responsibilities. We have released a new child support compliance strategy, CSA: Supporting parents to meet their child support responsibilities 2008-2010, that explains our approach.

For most parents, our focus is on making the system easier to use and providing support, education and assistance. However, parents who continue to avoid making child support payments or seek unfair advantage now face a wider range of advanced detection and enforcement actions. These include:

  • employer withholding of arrears – where employers are legally required to collect outstanding amounts of child support from employees’ wages or salaries. This may vary each pay depending on the amount of outstanding child support
  • tax lodgement – where CSA identifies customers who have not lodged a tax return and refers them to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for enforcement
  • tax return intercept– where tax has been overpaid, the ATO is obliged to refund the excess. The ATO will let us know when a refund is available to a parent with outstanding child support and we may take the outstanding child support amount from the refund
  • customer tracing – where we use a range of sources, including Centrelink and the ATO, to find customers and ensure they are paying the correct amount of child support
  • income minimisers – where there is evidence that either or both parents’ taxable income does not accurately reflect their income, property and/or financial resources, we will investigate 
  • Departure Prohibition Order – used to stop parents with large child support debts from leaving Australia until adequate payment arrangements are made
  • court action– targets parents who continue to avoid child support payments and only after we have made significant attempts to use other enforcement options   
  • optical surveillance – in our more serious cases we may also use optical surveillance to help us investigate complex avoidance and income minimisation arrangements
  • ITSA partnership – we have partnered with Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia (ITSA) allowing us to seize and sell a CSA customer’s assets where they owe outstanding child support and have not complied with a court order obtained by the CSA for payment
  • salary sacrifice – the definition of income used for a child support assessment includes certain ‘salary-sacrificed’ contributions to superannuation. From 1 July 2009 these amounts will be clearly visible in tax returns and automatically included in assessments.

We have collected an extra $97 million through these actions between 2006 and May this year.

If you have overdue child support please call 131 272. In certain circumstances you may be entitled to have your assessment adjusted which could reduce your outstanding payments and late payment penalties

If you have information that could assist CSA compliance investigations contact CSA directly or call the Government’s Fraud Tip-Off Line on 131 524 if you’d prefer to be anonymous.

For more information on our compliance activities and to see the new strategy go to www.csa.gov.au

Information kits for separated parents in prison

The Child Support Agency (CSA) has released information kits for separated parents entering and leaving prison. There are three information kits outlining child support responsibilities when you enter prison, when you leave prison, and if you are an advocate for a prisoner. 

These kits have been developed in consultation with several advocacy groups and state-based corrective services.

These information kits are a valuable resource for CSA outreach workers and legal practitioners, helping them communicate with separated parents in prison who receive or pay child support and ensure their assessments are based on correct information.

Information kits can be ordered by phoning 1800 040 972 or from the CSA website at www.csa.gov.au

Stakeholder engagement survey thanks

A big thank you to all the organisations that completed the Child Support Agency’s recent stakeholder engagement survey. The survey benchmarked the satisfaction of stakeholders with the way the CSA engages and sought feedback on how the CSA might be able to do better. The results are currently being collated and a summary will be available in a future edition of the FRSP news.

Establishment of web pages on Family Relationships Online for new Family Relationship Centres

Twenty-four new Family Relationship Centres commenced operation from 1 July 2008. To assist Centres with their communication and promotional activities one page is provided for each Centre on Family Relationships Online.

The purpose of the page is to provide key information about each Centre and its activities in its own words and pictures. Each Centre’s page is fully integrated into the Family Relationships Online web site with links from the main Family Relationships Centre page and to interactive maps which show the location of the Centre's outlets.

The Attorney-General's Department has published a set of guidelines to help Centres develop content for their pages. The guidelines are available for download from the Family Relationship Centres Resources page on the Departmental web site.

Content from each of the new Family Relationship Centres should be emailed to the Family Relationships Online Help Desk as soon as possible.

Family Relationships Information Pack

The Attorney-General's Department has put its suite of brochures and fact sheets together into one handy Family Relationships Information Pack. The pack contains easy-to-read material about Family Relationship Centres, the Family Relationship Advice Line, the Family Relationships Online website and information on family relationship issues.

To order packs for your service, visit Family Relationships Online at www.familyrelationships.gov.au and click on the brochures and publications link, or telephone 1800 114 393.

Conference and Events

Post Separation Cooperative Parenting Forum

The first 14 new Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services will open from October 2008. The Attorney-General's Department has invited these new services to a forum in Canberra on 7-8 August to network and discuss the new program. The forum will assist services in the establishment phase by increasing their understanding of the program’s aims and ways to deliver it.

Post Separation Cooperative Parenting aims to help highly conflicted separated parents develop strategies to manage their conflict in their child’s best interests. It will help separated parents in 28 regional areas understand the effect of entrenched conflict on children and that their children need them to be supportive of the children’s relationship with the other parent.

Post Separation Cooperative Parenting will use a short educational workshop designed to evoke strong emotional reactions in parents and raise their awareness of children’s needs.  The program will provide additional supports such as counselling to help parents act on the insights they gain at the workshop.

A further 14 services will open in July 2009. The Attorney-General's Department will conduct a competitive selection process for these services later this year. 

From babies to blokes: the making of men conference

The 2nd National Conference of the Men's Advisory Network (MAN) will be held from 3-6 August 2008 at the Fremantle Esplanade Hotel. It follows on from the successful conference held in 2006.

The conference theme is ‘From babies to blokes: the making of men’ and it has six streams:

  • conditioning of infant boys
  • development of boys
  • transition from boyhood to manhood
  • men and work
  • men and relationships
  • men and ageing.

The conference aims to serve as a catalyst for a shift in men's culture which is seen as a necessary step to improving the wellbeing of the whole community. The conference will serve as a platform to help establish the directions and actions that will be taken by the various stakeholders in order to achieve this change. 

Further details of the conference are available at the Men’s Advisory Network site.

Training offered by the Institute of Group Leaders

  • Facilitating therapeutic-educational group work programs - Friday 26 September 2008
  • Using sculpture and other action methods in group work - Saturday 27 September 2008
  • 'Refreshing and updating' group work skills - Wednesday 22 October 2008

Information on these courses can be found at the IGL site Training page.

Training offered by Aspirations Consultancy

  • Innovative Responses to Family Violence: Working with Offenders, Victims and Children - November 10-14 2008

More information on this program can be found at the Signs of Safety web site

Training by the Australian Institute for Relationship Studies, professional training division of Relationships Australia (NSW)

NEW!!!  Vocational Graduate Diploma in Family Dispute Resolution
Graduate Diploma of Couple and Family Therapy
Graduate Certificate in Clinical Supervision & Consultation
Graduate Certificate in Mediation
The Impromptu Counsellor

Short courses also available, please contact Training Administrator on (02) 8874 8090 or visit their website


Resource Updates

Child Support Scheme Reforms stakeholder eBulletin

The Child Support Scheme Reforms Stakeholder eBulletin is a great resource for information about the reforms being implemented from 1 July 2008. The bulletin will highlight different aspects of the new child support scheme and will help keep you up-to-date with particular issues that separated parents are concerned with, regarding child support and the reforms.

Below are links to the latest editions of the stakeholder eBulletins. If you would like to receive regular editions of this eBulletin, you can add your details to the Child Support Agency's Community Services Directory> and be kept up to date with the latest news about the child support scheme reforms.


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We value your interest in this publication and seek your feedback about the articles published. Feedback notes will be kept confidential.

We also seek contributions from the sector. Should you have a topic of interest you feel the sector or industry stakeholders would be interested in, please send to the FRSP mailbox below for consideration. Those articles not selected will be saved and reconsidered for later editions.

Article contributions/feedback for the next edition is welcome by 18 July 2008. The next edition 17 will go out on 11 August 2008.

To provide feedback and/or to send topics of interest, email
frspe-news@dss.gov.au and include the subject header Feedback to FRSP Sector e-News.

Contact us

This e-newsletter is produced by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) in collaboration with the Attorney-General's Department.

To contact the editor, please email frspe-news@dss.gov.au.

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