Edition 26 - June 2009

Welcome to the 26th edition of the Family Relationship Services Program (FRSP) Sector e-News.

Some of the interesting topics included in this month’s edition include:

  • Details about the Family Support Program Consultation Process
  • A Communiqué from the Family Relationship Services Senior Executive Forum
  • The Government’s recognition of same-sex relationships
  • Superannuation and investment changes to child support assessments
  • Details about the upcoming National Men and Family Relationships Forum and FRSA National Conference
  • A report on the FRSA Social Research Survey about relationship health and support services in the global economic crisis

For new subscribers, FRS Sector e-News is an ideal opportunity for you to reach approximately 600 subscribers, consisting of FRS service providers, industry stakeholders and individuals, to share service delivery news or to raise any issues you think the sector should be aware of.

To keep the FRS e-News focussed on issues of interest to the sector, details about training opportunities can be emailed to Family Relationship Services Australia (FRSA) for consideration. Information about training and events held nationally can be found on the FRSA website.

FRS e-News seeks contributions from the sector on practice updates and policy issues relevant to the FRS Sector. Should you have a topic of interest you feel the sector or industry stakeholders would be interested in please send it to the FRS mailbox for consideration. Articles should be less than 300 words and in paragraph format.

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

Regards

Fran Barry
A/g Branch Manager
Family Relationship Services Branch

Disclaimer:

The opinions, comments and/or analysis expressed in this document are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Hot Issues

Family Support Program Consultation Process

On 16 February 2009, the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, announced the formation of the Family Support Program (FSP).

The FSP is a national program that aims to improve child development, safety and family functioning through the provision of support services to help build stronger, more resilient families and communities. The FSP brings together a suite of children, parenting and families services funded through FaHCSIA, with the post separation and Family Relationship Centres funded by the Attorney–General’s Department.

In announcing the FSP, Minister Macklin committed to consult with the sector around how the program will operate. All interested stakeholders are invited to participate in the consultation process to inform the development of the program. The consultation process offers people two options to provide input to the Department:

  1. Attend a face to face forum being held in the states and territories
  2. Provide written feedback via the FSP website

The consultation process provides an important opportunity for service providers and other stakeholders to express their views and put forward ideas that could make a difference to improving the services offered to support Australian families and children.

It would be appreciated if you could actively promote this opportunity to contribute to the development of the FSP across your organisations.

Forums are being held throughout Australia during June and views may also be provided in writing via the Department’s website from 25 May until 30 June 2009. Forums will generally be held in the mornings and run for approximately 4 hours. Everyone is welcome to provide input at either a forum and/or in writing if that is their preference. All feedback is valued whether through attending a session or by putting it in writing.

In consultation with key FSP stakeholders, the Department has drafted a Discussion Paper to inform the consultation process. The paper is available by accessing the Department’s website at www.fahcsia.gov.au. The paper provides program information and details the operating environment. The paper also poses several questions to stimulate thinking on key program areas and everyone is encouraged to read it as it is central to the consultation process.

Forums will be conducted across Australia on the following dates:

To register your interest to attend a forum in Send an email to Dates
ACT Canberra FSPACT@dss.gov.au 9 June
NSW Sydney CBD
Sydney West
Regional - Coffs Harbour
FSPNSW@dss.gov.au 15 June
16 June
26 June
VIC  Melbourne CBD
Melbourne Sth East
FSPVIC@dss.gov.au 10 June
11 June

QLD

Brisbane
Townsville
FSPQLD@dss.gov.au 17 June
18 June
TAS Hobart FSPTAS@dss.gov.au 24 June
SA Adelaide FSPSA@dss.gov.au 12 June
NT Alice Springs
Darwin
FSPNT@dss.gov.au 18 June
19 June
WA Perth FSPWA@dss.gov.au 16 June

If you are interested in attending a forum, please RSVP by registering your interest through the Departmental mailbox identified for your state/territory by no later than 3 June for the ACT, VIC and SA forums and by 9 June for the NSW, QLD, TAS, NT and WA forums.

When registering, please provide your name, the organisation you are representing (if relevant) and your email address. Any special requirements you may have should also be included. Please note: For venue arrangements we require one email registration per person. Numbers of attendees are not restricted.

The time and venue of the forum you wish to attend will be emailed to you as part of the registration process.

If you would like more information about the Family Support Program or how to access the discussion paper please visit the FSP homepage.

Sector News

Communiqué of Family Relationship Services Senior Executive Forum
New Strategies for the Future
30 April 2009 – Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn

More than 100 sector and government delegates attended the fourth Senior Executives Forum in Melbourne on 30 April 2009.

The theme for the Forum was “New Strategies for the Future” where new priorities and changes were considered and the impact these are likely to have on the provision of family relationship services in the future.

Both the Attorney General, the Hon Robert McClelland MP and the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs the Hon Jenny Macklin MP sent messages endorsing the Forum as an ideal opportunity to explore future directions and to consider new priorities for family relationship services in a time of significant change in our community.  The Attorney encouraged services to continue to work towards an integrated family law system and to develop stronger relationships between the courts, the legal profession and family relationship services.  This can be achieved through the building of bridges across the family law system for the benefit of families, and especially their children, and for family relationship services to work with the more difficult, entrenched cases to see whether more can be done outside the courts.  Minister Macklin also acknowledged the importance of the services’ work with families especially in the current economic climate and the need for services to be more flexible and responsive and to support the building of resilience in families.

The Forum heard reports about:

  • the outcomes of the recent Inaugural Family Law System Conference and the relevance to service delivery
  • the recent announcement of the Family Support Program integrating existing child and family support programs, and
  • recent research undertaken by FRSA on the global financial crisis and its impact on families.

The Forum also provided the opportunity to discuss progress and outcomes from the three working groups, Quality and Performance, Service Agreements and Funding and Workforce Issues.

Senior Executives endorsed the new Performance Framework for all FRS funded services, noting the new format and the application of primary and secondary measures.  The evolutionary nature of the framework and that there are further improvements proposed were noted, as was the inclusion of the framework under the new funding agreements.  The framework includes a range of measures including both quantitative and qualitative measures.

Work undertaken to streamline future funding agreements to incorporate common service reporting, funding acquittal and payment schedules was also acknowledged by the Senior Executives.  The capacity for services to be more flexible with their funding allocations, provided applicable targets and conditions had been achieved, was welcomed by organisations.

A Workforce Development Plan was circulated for comment by Senior Executives.  The Plan sets out the key principles and aims for the professional development of the sector as well as identifying priority areas for action.  These areas include collection of accurate data, workforce structure, recruitment and retention, training for existing workers, the additional needs of special groups in the workforce and undergraduate/VET qualifications.  The Senior Executives noted the numerous surveys and data collection exercises currently underway across the sector including the Workforce Mapping Project commissioned by FaHCSIA and undertaken by Colmar Brunton involving surveys at the organisational and individual staff levels.

Senior Executives identified areas for future consideration:

  • Wage parity and remuneration
  • Staff recruitment and retention
  • Infrastructure capital to establish and maintain service premises
  • Training and professional qualifications of practitioners across the sector
  • Length of term for funding agreements
  • Funding and costing models for service delivery
  • Links with other major policy areas such as family violence and child protection
  • Fees policy and clients capacity to pay, and
  • Joint planning with state and local government authorities.

Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner standards – training providers as at the end of April 2009

To be accredited under the final Accreditation Standards set out in the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner) Regulations 2008 a person must:

To assist eligible family dispute resolution practitioners meet the final Accreditation Standards, subsidised assessments and training is available from the Australian FDR Training Group for all practitioners that were included in the Register by 28 February 2009.

Practitioners who are not eligible for the subsidy scheme may select to meet the competencies of the Vocational Graduate Diploma of Family Dispute Resolution from any registered training organisation or certified higher education provider that offers that qualification.

Registered training organisations that currently deliver training in the competencies of the Vocational Graduate Diploma include:

Anglicare WA Training Services
Australian Apostolic College
Australian Institute for Relationship Studies
Australian Institute of Social Relations
CSU Training
FMC Relationship Services
Unitingcare Institute of Family Practice
Relationships Australia (Victoria) Inc

The National Training Information Service website (www.ntis.gov.au) is updated from time to time to show registered training organisations able to deliver this training. Further information about the listed training organisations is also available from that website.

The Regulations allow for higher education providers to certify that the postgraduate course or units they provide are equivalent to those in the Vocational Graduate Diploma. The list of certified higher education providers is available from the Family Dispute Resolution FAQ and Resources Downloads page of the Attorney-General’s Department’s website (www.ag.gov.au/fdrproviders).

Questions about training should be directed to a registered training organisation.

Questions about the final Accreditation Standards should be directed to the Attorney-General’s Department’s Practitioner Registration Unit on 1800 025 255 or via email fdrregistration@ag.gov.au.

Centrelink, Family Assistance Office and the Child Support Agency recognise same-sex relationships from 1 July 2009

In 2008, the Australian Government passed wide-ranging reforms that recognise all couples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender of a partner. The reforms ensure that same-sex couples and their families are recognised and have the same entitlements and obligations as opposite-sex couples.

From 1 July 2009, customers living in a same-sex de facto or registered relationship will be recognised as partnered for Centrelink and Family Assistance Office purposes, with entitlements and rates of payment calculated in the same way for all couples. This will have implications for social security and family assistance payments and services.

From 1 July 2009 a customer is considered to be partnered for Centrelink and Family Assistance Office purposes if they and another person are living together, or usually live together, and are either married, or in a registered relationship (registered under certain prescribed state or territory laws - opposite or same-sex) or in a de facto relationship (opposite or same-sex). Centrelink considers a person to be in a de facto relationship from the time they commence living with another person as a member of a couple.

Children from same-sex relationships will be recognised by law, including children born following an artificial conception procedure or children born under surrogacy arrangements where parentage has been transferred by court order under a prescribed state / territory law.

Parents with a child from a previous same-sex relationship will be able to apply for child support from 1 July 2009. Applications for child support from same-sex couples will only be able to be processed from 1 July 2009 onwards but couples who lived in a de facto relationship and separated prior to this date can still apply.

For more information about how these changes may affect Centrelink or Family Assistance customers visit the Department of Human Services website or call 13 6280.

Supporting children from same sex couples

The Australian Government has amended key legislation to remove discrimination against same sex couples and ensure financial benefits are available to their families and their children.

This means from 1 July 2009 same sex couples who have separated will be able to apply for child support for any children from their relationship.

Applications for child support from same sex couples will only be valid from 1 July 2009 onwards. However, couples may have lived in a de facto relationship and separated prior to this date.

If you, or someone you know, are a separated parent from a same sex relationship and you want to know more about child support, contact the Child Support Agency on 131 272 or visit the CSA website

Superannuation and Investment changes to child support assessments

Recent legislative changes mean salary-sacrificed superannuation contributions and net losses from financial investments will now be added to a parent's adjusted taxable income for child support purposes from July 1 this year.

Child Support Agency (CSA), Assistant General Manager Bruce Young, said the changes will mean, when calculating a parent's income, individuals who have access to salary sacrifice to reduce their taxable income will be treated on an equivalent basis to those who do not have access to salary sacrifice arrangements.

It is important that parents consider their choices on salary sacrificed superannuation plans before or during the 2009-2010 financial year.

Parents that are currently salary sacrificing may wish to seek financial advice on how the legislation may affect their income for the purposes of child support.

The changes will apply to income years starting on or after 1 July 2009 and will generally affect child support assessments for child support periods that begin on or after 1 July 2010.

A parent's income for the 2009-10 financial year may be used for other types of decisions, such as estimates of income and Change of Assessment applications.

Further information can be found on CSA';s website or by calling 131 272. A CSA media release is also available on the Media section of the website.

Resource Updates

Report on FRSA Social Research Survey of Households with Children 2009 - Relationship Health and Support Services in the Global Economic Crisis.

This report presents the findings from the FRSA commissioned survey of over 500 Australian households with children and aims to inform a broader community discussion on the value of healthy relationships and the need for, and benefit of, a ‘preventative’ approach to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.  

Among a number of key findings, those respondents reporting stress in their current relationship indicated that ‘financial stress’, ‘communication difficulties’ and ‘raising children’ were the three most common factors contributing to their stress.

While we could expect that the level of concern about the future impact of the global economic crisis would be considered high for relationships, just 26% indicated concern for their relationships in regards to the economic crisis. This displays a real disconnect in individuals’ thinking about their relationships and how finances can impact on its health.  

Of further concern is that when asked about seeking support for their current or future relationship when under stress the majority of respondents reported they would try to work it out themselves with less then half stating they would seek external help from a relationship counsellor in this scenario.

The Survey report highlights that there is a high level of anxiety about the global financial crisis – potentially beyond the number of people likely to be directly impacted.  However, there is a relatively low level of awareness regarding how family relationships may be affected and what preventative steps might be taken to protect families.

One positive factor was that of those who would seek external support for their relationship almost half would prefer to use a (non-profit) community service organisation. There is a window of opportunity, while public anxiety remains high, to be proactive in responding to the crisis.

Child Support Stakeholder News…working together to support separated families

CSA produces a monthly e-newsletter – Child Support Stakeholder News…working together to support separated families.  With information tailored for stakeholders it’s an update on events, products and information to assist you in supporting separated parents and their children.

CSA is keen to receive feedback or ideas for articles of interest to stakeholders. If you have feedback or a story idea please email stakeholders@csa.gov.au.

You can also subscribe to receive your monthly copy of Child Support Stakeholder News…working together to support separated families and updates about this site.

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Feedback

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, send it 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 13 March 2009. Edition 24 of the FRSP e-News will be emailed on 6 April 2009.

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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