Question 1 – How have you adapted service delivery in response to the bushfires, floods and Coronavirus pandemic? When has it worked and when hasn’t it worked? How will this affect how you deliver services in the future? Have your service adaptations included better integration with other initiatives?
All our work (both CP and FP) needed to adapt to move online due to the social isolation restrictions, this brought benefits and challenges. The ability to work more efficiently with others due to improved access to shared resources, increased digital literacy and greater ease to connect electronically with colleagues across Australia was a significant benefit.
The lack of human connection had a detrimental impact on many professionals and the adaptation to an increase of online work has highlighted the importance of maintaining a balance of face to face and online interactions, services, supports.
The adaptation to online services led to an increase in the development of new policies and procedures to support online service delivery to clients.
For members of the community, the adaptations to service delivery has had both positive and negative impacts. For many families with limited access to digital devices and data the online service provision has created a digital divide and left some people feeling far more isolated and disconnected. For remote communities (eg Gippsland), following the bushfires, the adaptation of services to move online exacerbated a sense of isolation. Some families feel a reluctance to engage in online services due to a sense of being forgotten and not valued by services due to the inability to be physically present. This further highlights the importance of maintaining face to face service provision where possible, with online services able to compliment but not replace programs.
The South East Facilitating Partner Network (CfC), was able to adapt to the online work environment to lead a National Facilitating Partner forum series. The series was able to attract over 100 attendees, with no travel, food, accommodation costs. However this series did require an investment from each of the SEFP member organisations (Anglicare, Mission Australia, Uniting, Windermere) to organise each of the four sessions. Ideally, in the future, these events will be lead and coordinated by DSS. The online structure worked well and enabled higher attendance than if the forum was held in one city. A combination of in person and online forums would be great to explore for future events.
Many CfC community partners identified an increased work load due to the requirements of supporting families to access their services online. In many instances services created an additional one on one session with families to provide support navigating new software/communication programs (zoom, teams, whatsapp). In some instances, rather than providing one playgroup as funded to deliver, they were running 3 or 4 playgroups via different channels the families were comfortable with and able to access.
Covid also created new challenges, or exacerbated existing challenges for families, which included agoraphobia, financial stress, anxiety, family violence, racism, online safety and school disengagement.
Question 2 – Are the proposed key outcomes for the families and children programs the right ones? Are there any major outcomes missing? How can we include strengths-based outcomes that focus on family or child safety?
It was good to see the feedback from previous consultations has been reflected in the newly drafted outcomes. It would be good to see an inclusion to the contextual factors (alongside Employment, physical health, material basics, stable housing) of strong collaboration between service providers. It would also be good if ‘physical health’ was expanded to become ‘Mental, emotional and Physical Health.’ Lastly, a greater emphasis on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture eg as a broad outcome ‘Respect and Awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture’ would strengthen all the subsequent outcomes and contribute towards better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. A greater emphasis on culturally and linguistically diverse communities would also be beneficial.
Question 3 – What tools or training would support you to effectively measure and report outcomes through the Data Exchange Partnership Approach?
The ability (as FP) to access and run reports on CP Partnership data.
Regular training provided by DSS and the Data Exchange in collaboration, as this will help to ensure the challenges and limitations of DEX are known by both DSS and the Data Exchange team. This combined approach will help to reduce the current challenges we face as FP – having (circular) conversations separately with DSS and the Data Exchange.
Mapping of the outcomes (once finalised) against SCORE will increase the relevance and suitability of the outcome reporting process. The provision of tools and resources (in addition to regular training) to support the workforce to undertake this process.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resources and tools to ensure the partnership approach is culturally appropriate and responsive. Connections with Aboriginal agencies and research organisations to offer training and supports for CP’s undertaking this work with Aboriginal children and families.
Not specific to the partnership approach, however further training and support to analyse qualitative data will significantly increase our ability to effectively measure and report outcomes. An increased emphasis on how qualitative data can be analysed will be highly beneficial.
State and federally funded programs across multiple streams of funding, now have an increased emphasis on evaluating outcomes. For example, Best Start, funded by DET is also focused on improving the evaluation of outcomes across shared areas in children and family services, yet the program uses very different language and frameworks (PDSA’s) to do this work. The outcomes able to be achieved in the sector would be enhanced if a common language and approach to this work was able to be developed. Again, with flexibility to adapt and modify this as required.
Question 4 – Do you already have a program logic or theory of change outlined for your program? Did you find the process useful? If you do not have one, what has stopped you from developing one? What capacity building support would assist service providers to develop program logics and theories of change?
Yes. We have invested significant time in the development of a Theory of Change for our FP work. This has been shared across our networks, we are very happy to share this with anyone that’s interested. The majority of CP’s we work with also have program logics developed for their programs and have committed significant time and resourcing into the development of these.
FP’s commit a huge amount of effort and time to work with CP’s to engage in this work. We ask that DSS make this a shared investment in providing the training and ongoing support around this. This work needs to be continually undertaken to ensure its relevance, therefore regular training and support (beyond webinars) will help to ensure this work is of high quality. Training specific to capturing and evaluating outcomes for children would also be highly beneficial. We continue to encounter ethical challenges faced by CP’s reporting on any data specific to children and more training focused on how this work can be undertaken ethically will support CfC to report more effectively on children’s outcomes.
The extended data set can be problematic, in some instances the questions can create a barrier to families accessing services, although voluntary the questions are often not appropriate and can detract from services’ ability to establish a positive, trusting rapport.
Question 5 – If longer-term agreements are implemented, how can the department work with you to develop criteria to measure and demonstrate performance? How can the Data Exchange better support this?
A combination of outputs and outcomes to measure performance would be ideal. It’s important and beneficial to capture outcomes however this needs to be balanced with the ability to acknowledge any reasons for changes to these outcomes. A flexible approach is key. Flexibility, in response to the place based structure of CfC, is necessary to recognise the inherent differences in performance and that a uniform approach is not always possible. A continued ability to report against qualitative data in addition to quantitative data will also ensure the whole story is able to be captured.
Question 6 – What does success look like for your service, and how do you assess the overall success of your service?
Great question! Numerous factors demonstrate success – both quantitate and qualitative data for both CP and FP help demonstrate success.
Success = confidence that families are able to access the required supports if and as they are needed. And that service providers are familiar with the supports and referral pathway processes to ensure seamless delivery.
The MA response captured in the Stronger Outcomes for Families consult still holds relevant –
‘Some program participants have framed their idea of success as when a town doesn’t need child protection or a court. We need to have a long-term vision that enables prevention and early intervention rather than perpetuating need’.
Question 7 – Do you currently service cohorts experiencing vulnerability, including those at risk of engaging with the child protection system? If not, how does service delivery need to adapt to provide support to these cohorts?
Yes. One example of where this has been highly successful, has been in the contracting of Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association (AVWA). Due to the trust of AVWA within the Vietnamese community, their ability to communicate in Vietnamese and their cultural awareness and understanding, AVWA has connected with many families who’ve previously never accessed mainstream services. Contracting services with established trust within the community, in particular culturally specific organisations, able to communicate and understand cultural nuances are best placed to increase accessibility for culturally diverse community members.
Question 8 – If you are a Children and Parenting Support or Budget Based Funded service provider, do you currently link with a Communities for Children Facilitating Partner or other regional planning mechanism to understand what other services are provided in the community and what the community identifies as their needs? How does this work in practice? Would you value the increased support of being attached to a local Facilitating Partner?
As a CfC FP this proposed change will understandably have an impact on our work and it will be highly beneficial to be consulted by DSS throughout this planning stage, to ensure the workload is manageable and the structure will suit individual settings. Further information about these specific programs will also be necessary to inform how this might be able to work. The available information on the DSS website lists national but not place specific programs.
Question 9 – For all providers, are there other ways to improve collaboration and coordination across services and systems?
The success of the SE FP as a model has been apparent, ideally DSS should encourage geographical groups joining together to support local needs.
As a network the SEFP came together to discuss our response to this discussion paper and agreed it would be beneficial to highlight this network as an example of a structure that can support positive collaboration and coordination. The Terms of Reference have been provided below. One example of how the network ‘works in practice’ most recently has been the National FP forum.
Terms of reference for SE FP:
CfC SE FP Network meetings are held to keep members up to date with accurate information about:
1. The CfC initiative nationally, regionally and locally; the DSS Data Exchange; evidence-based programs and the AIFS approval process; local evaluation; and Community Partner activities.
2. The network takes a collective approach in order to effectively leverage resources around: proactive and positive advocacy to DSS; planning; the Expression of Interest Community Partner funding process; strategic development; community events; community consultation; training; conferences and grant funding.
3. The final purpose of the network is the free sharing of information and informal support.
Question 10 – The capability building support offered under Families and Children Activity programs has gone through several iterations. What works well? What do you think should change?
Maintaining the 50% EB requirement supports innovation.
The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) have many examples of how innovation has been applied in the social services sector. There could be an opportunity for DSS to partner with TACSI, in a similar capacity to the AIFS partnership/support that has been provided through the expert panel for strengthening and developing EB practices.
It would be great if FAM’s were able to convene semi-regular meetings/information sessions to showcase examples of best practice innovation taking place across different sites. In their roles, overseeing multiple organisations and locations and with their programmatic knowledge this structure would be highly beneficial. This could also provide an opportunity for FAM’s to feedback how they are analysing reports and data and bridge any gaps in this process. Given the limitation on FAM’s to attend individual FP governance meetings, this might also provide an increased (more efficient) opportunity for FP sites to raise emerging themes and feedback ‘on the ground intel’ back to DSS. Open, frequent and transparent communication between FP sites and FAMs will support our ability to apply innovation in our services. And, importantly supports to ensure any innovation is able to be evaluated and assessed to help determine success.
Question 11 – Aside from additional funding, how can the department best work with you to support innovation in your services while maintaining a commitment to existing service delivery?
Please see previous responses.
Question 12 – Is there anything else you would like to share about the ideas and proposals in the Discussion Paper?
The ability to apply flexibility to the guidelines in response to changing situations (eg pandemics) which was incredibly beneficial in 2020, will continue to bring benefits to the community. This flexibility will help to ensure that services working directly with the community are able to be responsive while also having the structures and parameters in place to ensure the intentions of the program are still achieved.