Secretary's review

Finn Pratt

I am pleased to present the Department of Social Services Annual Report 2016–17.

In the Department of Social Services (DSS) we have a commitment to improving the lifetime wellbeing of people and families in Australia. Our policies and programs make a meaningful difference and most Australians will be touched by what we do at some point in their lives.

We provide assistance to those Australians who need it most – the elderly, the sick, those with disability, and people living in regional and remote areas.

Some of our significant achievements from the past year include:

Increasing support for people with disability

On 1 July 2016, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) began its transition to full scheme.

By June 2017, over 90,638 people with disability had an approved NDIS Plan. At full scheme, that number will climb to around 460,000 people across Australia.

Increasing vaccination rates

In 2016–17, we made good progress on vaccination rates, particularly in Indigenous communities. Since No Jab, No Pay commenced, more than 210,000 families have taken action to ensure they now meet immunisation requirements, and immunisation coverage rates for one and five year olds have reached more than 93 per cent.

Launching the Community Grants Hub — centre of excellence

The Community Grants Hub was launched on 1 July 2016 as part of the Australian Government’s commitment to streamline grant processes and improve the grant experience of grant applicants, recipients and government agencies.

During its first year, the Community Grants Hub has delivered nearly 300 grant rounds, established over 6,000 agreements, and assessed over 10,000 applications.

Reducing violence against women — Third Action Plan

In October 2016, the Third Action Plan 2016–2019 of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022 was launched. It sets out an ambitious agenda focusing on prevention and early intervention, and keeping perpetrators accountable across all systems.

We will continue to lead the national campaign to reduce violence against women and their children in 2017–18.

Producing a Multicultural Statement

The Government released its Multicultural Statement: Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful. This Statement recognises that cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths; one that equips us to build a future where everyone belongs and has the chance to live a great life.

In 2016–17, we settled 24,376 refugees as part of Australia’s Humanitarian Refugee Settlement Program — including the majority of the additional 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Launching the Try, Test and Learn Fund

We launched the $96 million Try, Test and Learn Fund, that will enable the Government to finance new or innovative policy responses for groups of people identified as being at risk of long-term welfare dependency.

The Fund has received almost 400 ideas from across Australia, submitted by individuals, academics, business, the non-government sector and other government agencies.

To assist the ideas generation process, we hosted a Policy Hack in Melbourne in early 2017. Nearly 100 participants worked together to develop and pitch innovative policy ideas that could be funded under the Try, Test and Learn Fund.

Financial management

We are responsible for around one-quarter of the Australian Government Budget. This financial year, we managed $117.3 billion. This consisted of $116.8 billion in administered appropriations and $0.5 billion in departmental appropriations.

Our strong financial and resource management resulted in a small surplus attributable to our Department.

Looking forward

In 2017–18, we will:

  • Continue reforming the welfare system
    • We will continue to improve the system to ensure it is simpler, better targeted, more aligned with community expectations, and focused on long-term employment.
    • We will expand the Cashless Debit Card to two new locations and extend the Income Management Program for two years.
  • Improve disability support
    • We will improve Disability Employment Services to help more people with disability find and keep jobs.
    • We will establish the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.
    • We will help employers grow the care workforce with a particular focus on regional, rural and outer suburban activities, to ensure NDIS participants receive quality services in their local area.
  • Establish a Commonwealth Redress Scheme
    • We will establish the Commonwealth Redress Scheme, including funding access to support services for survivors.
  • Support vulnerable Australians
    • We will work with the Commonwealth Treasury and states and territories to negotiate a new agreement to improve housing outcomes and address homelessness.

It is a privilege to lead a team of dedicated and professional staff who work together to make DSS the pre-eminent social policy department in Australia.

Finn Pratt
Secretary, Department of Social Services
September 2017

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