Families and Children Activity program extensions

12 February 2020

The Australian Government is extending funding agreements ceasing 30 June 2020 for a further 12 months to 30 June 2021 for families and children services across Australia.

The services involved in this funding extension are funded under the following programs:

  • Children and Parenting Support (CaPS) services
  • Communities for Children Facilitating Partners (CfC FP)
  • Family Mental Health Support Services (FMHSS)
  • Budget Based Funded (BBF) services
  • Family and Relationship Services (FaRS)

The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters is also being extended for one year, from 30 June 2022 to 30 June 2023. This will allow an additional cohort of children to commence the two year program in early 2021.

This significant investment includes over $225 million a year for services that work to improve family functioning and the wellbeing of children by supporting parents and caregivers through services and programs that aim to ensure children are able to thrive and reach their fullest potential.

Services receiving the 12 month extension have been emailed an initial letter from the Department of Social Services (the department) notifying them of the extension to their funding. If your organisation has not received this letter, and you believe it should have, you should contact your Funding Agreement Manager to discuss.

In addition to the initial letter, providers will receive a letter of variation from the department in early 2020. This letter will include further details of the extension such as funding amounts.

Providers that do not wish to participate in a funding extension are encouraged to contact their Funding Agreement Managers to discuss an exit strategy.

Consultation and future directions

In 2018, the department conducted a national consultation process on the future of key families and children’s programs. The department heard from a range of stakeholders that while many things are working well, there is a need to improve our programs to ensure stronger outcomes are achieved for families and children across Australia.

The department also heard there is a need to deliver these improvements in a way that builds on the positive outcomes already being achieved through the programs and provides time for the sector to make necessary changes.

This 12 month extension provides an opportunity for the department to continue working with families and children service providers to ensure services continue to be effective and meet the needs of families and communities into the future.

The extension allows the department to build on the national consultation process, ongoing feedback received throughout 2019, and review the future of these services in their broader context, including the future of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, which is due to cease in 2020. The review will inform the early consideration of funding arrangements under the Families and Children Activity from 1 July 2021 onwards.

What is changing from 1 July 2020?

As part of these extensions, the department is making minor changes to some operational requirements under the funding agreements with service providers, as well as providing updated guidance to providers, and promoting best practice service delivery.

These improvements will make reporting requirements consistent across each program and build better evidence around what is working well for children and families. The department is seeking to minimise the administrative burden to providers with simple and consistent reporting processes while also collecting useful information from providers.

The changes include:

  • Requiring providers to submit, and report against an Activity Work Plan (AWP). This is already a requirement for most providers delivering these programs and this change makes the AWP requirement more consistent across programs. The department will update the AWP template for most programs but strictly minimise the impost this places on providers. The department will also provide an associated guidance document to assist providers with this requirement. It is expected these documents will be provided in early 2020.
  • Requiring providers to report on strategies to identify and address barriers clients may face in accessing services, particularly vulnerable client groups. This requirement will be incorporated in the updated Activity Work Plan template.
  • Requiring providers to monitor and comply with the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework. Further information on the Child Safe Framework, and providers’ obligations, is available on the National Office for Child Safety website, The Australian Human Rights Commission website, and the Child Safe Organisations website.
  • Providing more guidance on the operational processes of each program to ensure providers can access useful information on their operational requirements. To better support providers, the department will update existing Operational Guidelines, and may create new ones for programs without guidelines. This is aimed at providing better program guidance for providers rather than adding any obligations. To ensure these guidelines are most useful to providers, where possible, updates will be undertaken in consultation with providers. The current Operational Guidelines can be found on the department’s website by searching for ‘Operational Guidelines’ in the search bar for the relevant activity.
  • Providers will be encouraged to list services on public facing online directories to provide easy access to information for families looking for support available in their local area. The department will provide information on the best way to do this in early-to-mid 2020.

Please note, further details about these changes will be communicated to providers as they are finalised.

Improving available data

The department is committed to improving the quality and effectiveness of how its programs are delivered. The department is seeking to more effectively define, promote, and measure the outcomes being achieved by families and children programs, and to use this information to ensure clients using these services are being appropriately supported.

As many service providers will be aware, the department’s Data Exchange was developed to improve the way it collects and uses administrative data. Further information is available on the Data Exchange website.

While not a funding requirement, the department is encouraging all families and children service providers to participate in the Data Exchange Partnership Approach. Over 60 per cent of current families and children providers have already chosen to participate in the Partnership Approach. A provider’s responsibilities when participating in the Partnership Approach are specific to each program, but generally involve measuring and reporting outcomes data for clients accessing services.

The benefits of the Partnership Approach include:

  • The ability to demonstrate the outcomes that service providers are achieving for their clients
  • Access to an extended suite of reports that create easy to understand visualisations using the provider’s own data reports in Qlik
  • Access to whole-of-government data sets, which helps providers to gain a richer picture of the context in which their services operate.

The Partnership Approach provides the opportunity for organisations to record and share the outcomes that their clients are achieving with the department.

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