Consultation on the implementation of the Family Support Program

Consultation on the design of the Family Support Program: 2009-10

Following Minister Macklin’s announcement of the new Family Support Program in February 2009, the Department consulted the sector between April and July 2009 around how the Family Support Program would operate.

The consultation process explored with the sector the changes needed to transition to the Family Support Program.  Submissions and key messages from the consultations are attached.

Family Support Program stakeholders welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the design and operation of the new Program and responded to the six themes identified in the consultation paper. The themes were:

  1. Program Operational Framework;
  2. Program Design;
  3. Service Delivery and Innovation;
  4. Needs and Location;
  5. Selection and Retention of Providers; and
  6. Funding.

The consultation process comprised:

  • The development of a departmental discussion paper in collaboration with key Family Support Program stakeholders that articulated the new program vision and operating environment.
  • In June 2009, twelve community consultation forums were held across Australia attended by approximately 450 people including CEOs, practitioners, sector bodies, peak bodies, state government representatives, local government representatives and other interested members of the community.
  • A written feedback process operated from 25 May to 30 June 2009. Thirty seven submissions were received, including from peak organisations, service providers and individuals. Some of the contributors gave permission to publish their submissions on our website and you can view these submissions at the links below.
  • Meetings with relevant state and territory government department officials in each jurisdiction. There was general support for exploring how to establish stronger links between services and work more collaboratively to achieve better outcomes for families and children.
  • Further engagement with the state local government associations is being undertaken.
  • The Institute of Child Protective Studies (Australian Catholic University), conducted four focus groups with families and children in July as part of a broader study on Isolated Families and Service Use. Initial analysis of interviews is consistent with the broader stakeholder consultation outcomes. The final report on the study is being prepared.

Submissions from the Family Support Program consultation process:

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Key Messages from the Family Support Program Consultation Process

Theme Overarching Statement from Stakeholders Key Messages from Stakeholders
Theme 1

Program Operational Framework

There was general support for the proposed operating environment and the six key requirements set out in the department’s discussion paper.

  • Recognise and emphasise the need to effectively engage with and listen to and work with families and adopt a strengths-based approach
  • Develop the evidence base with the sector that will support program directions and best practice
  • Collaborative approach & integration supported but need to recognise the business and cost implications of working across services
  • Badge Family Support Program services to increase knowledge of and accessibility to services, but not at expense of individual agency badging
  • The Family Support Program title could create confusion with state funded services (NSW/Victoria)
  • Parent and child issues need to be considered together
Theme 2

Program Design

The Family Support Program service system needs to acknowledge the complexity of factors that impact on families and work within the wider community services network in a more effective ‘joined-up’ way.
Important to have more than one gateway for families and children to access services.
Services should be promoted as a right and normalised (ie have the look and feel of general services).

  • Enable flexibility to shift service strategies to address changing needs/meet local needs
  • Provide a national and local focus and strong links with relevant Commonwealth and state funded programs such as Reconnect, early childhood programs and health services
  • Universal prevention and early intervention services must be balanced with more targeted service delivery
  • Build workforce capability
  • Local providers/local knowledge & local government essential and bring a range of benefits to the local community
  • Preventive/early intervention services critical, particularly for disadvantaged communities and Indigenous communities
Theme 3

Service Delivery and Innovation

Services must offer holistic support to families and children (child and family centred) and engage early in life transition points by establishing contact through soft entry points including schools, playgroups, child care.
More effective use of preventive strategies required to stop escalation of issues.
Ensuring more intensive service delivery while retaining more general service delivery is a challenge within existing program budget.

  • Strong call from the sector for greater availability of extra service level information including location and types of community services in a region and waiting lists/times for services in region
  • 'No wrong door approach should not mean ‘fewer doors’ or lead to ‘revolving doors’ for clients
  • Ensure a strong focus on supporting all types of families and relationships through appropriate services (ie providing men/fatherhood early intervention and prevention programs and supporting grandparents raising children)
  • Universal models must be adapted to work for CALD and Indigenous communities (with communities involved in finding solutions) and require longer timeframes/additional resources
  • Innovation funding must continue to ensure new ideas are developed and tested
  • Consistent Family Support Program workforce standards supported
  • Common data requirements wanted
  • More rapid progress required around reducing red-tape including with other portfolios where possible
Theme 4

Needs and Location

Support for a clearer approach to defining service catchments recognising that there are not always clear boundaries – Local Government Areas or Statistical Sub-Divisions
Ensure program planning captures local knowledge and future needs.

  • Services must be accessible to families and located not just where families live but where they work, live or after hours
  • Recognise non-geographically defined communities such as cultural or interest-based communities (communities within communities)
  • Service footprint need to enable flexibility to deal with both new growth corridors and changing demographic needs in established areas
  • More local-level planning approach required
  • Involve Indigenous communities in local planning
  • Include state and territory and local governments in the decision to ensure alignment of service boundaries where possible
Theme 5

Selection and Retention of Providers

An outcomes-based approach is supported but must take account of the length of time to achieve outcomes and that there may be different outcomes for different locations/communities.
Sharing of information is critical especially on service issues, priorities and unmet need but needed to be done within privacy requirements.
The competitive tendering process hinders rather than encourages true collaboration and partnerships amongst service providers.

  • Find an alternative to open competitive tendering
  • In selecting providers find a balance between:
    • large and small organisations
    • resources, capability and funding of providers
    • performance of current providers and encouraging new providers
  • More outcomes-based approach, less reporting on irrelevant inputs
  • Difficulties in measuring outcomes for some interventions and client groups
  • Outcomes-based models are used in many community programs (FRSP and NSW/Victoria)
  • Measure outcomes and give data back to providers
  • Conduct a workshop to inform development of an Family Support Program outcomes framework
  • Providers want data back to inform their service delivery
Theme 6


Overwhelming support for longer funding terms with funding agreements from 5 years to up to 15 years.

  • Longer funding terms support better client outcomes, service quality, developing trust and relationships and community expectations
  • Providers working with clients with long term impacts (ie domestic violence or mental health) require longer term funding to reduce intergenerational and long term disadvantage (building trust and achieving sound outcomes takes time)
  • Longer term funding security requires stronger performance management practices
  • Indexation must match actual costs of service
  • Recognise the full cost of services
  • Remote and Indigenous service delivery is more expensive so funding models should reflect these costs
  • Building community capacity and development takes time and should be factored into funding models
  • Give adequate notice of funding renewal or cessation
  • Case management/longer client engagement approaches have higher overheads, impact on client numbers, and require longer funding terms

The key messages from the consultation process around the design and implementation of the Family Support Program were submitted to Minister Macklin. The Minister has approved a number of activities that will allow the Department to move into the implementation phase of this reform.

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