Dr Stephen O’Kane – Counselling Supervisor
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?
My provision of Family Counselling & Specialist Family Violence Counselling has moved to telephone based services and telehealth services rather than in person services because of COVID-19. Secondary referrals mainly to larger organizations with capacity to provide a range of services. Biggest gaps are – homelessness services; no services specifically targeting men; limitations on financial counselling services; more money needed for family Dispute Resolution services, particularly for estranged parents to negotiate parenting agreements for the welfare of children, rather than waiting for Federal Circuit Court to issue Interim Parenting Orders.
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?
Biggest gaps are – homelessness services; no services specifically targeting men; limitations on financial counselling services; more money needed for family Dispute Resolution services, particularly for estranged parents to negotiate parenting agreements for the welfare of children, rather than waiting for Federal Circuit Court to issue Interim Parenting Orders.
Question 3 – What tools or training would support you to effectively measure and report outcomes through the Data Exchange Partnership Approach?
My provision of Family Counselling & Specialist Family Violence Counselling has moved to telephone based services and telehealth services rather than in person services because of COVID-19.
A broader definition of counsellor is required. This is will enable far better localized services provided to families and will be more cost effective to the Federal Budget
The government needs to move away from the use of just psychologists (requiring “diagnosis” and a “mental health plan”) to provide counselling. It should broaden the definition of service providers to include members of the Australian Counselling Association and the Australian association of Social workers. Training and reporting for Commonwealth programs should be consistent and national and not be limited to a fixed number of sessions/client but based on need.
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?
Please refer to the Australian Counselling Association website for the national definitions of the provision of counselling services and Codes of Ethics. Our current program of counselling supports the Family Dispute Resolution process and supports directly clients going through mediation or relationship breakdown. It also supports clients with exposure to Family Violence across all ages; genders; with or without children etc.
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?
Block funding approach effective. Organisations should be rewarded on how much the co-operate through formal secondary consultation and referral. Client engagements should be monitored to restrict engagement with multiple agencies at the same time.
Question 6 – What does success look like for your service, and how do you assess the overall success of your service?
Client needs met; NOT time or session based; appropriate secondary referrals; client feedback obtained and used as “key learnings” for future client engagement.
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?
My provision of Family Counselling & Specialist Family Violence Counselling includes many vulnerable groups. Biggest gaps are – provision of adequate homelessness services; no services specifically targeting men; limitations on financial counselling services; more money needed for family Dispute Resolution services, particularly for estranged parents to negotiate parenting agreements for the welfare of children, rather than waiting for Federal Circuit Court to issue Interim Parenting Orders. Organizations need to be funded for risk assessments to be done using a consistent national framework eg National Outcome Standards for Family Violence. State based systems duplicate these. insufficient focus on support and overemphasis on just accountability. insufficient funding available directly to providers eg parenting training; training for fathers; post separation counselling etc.
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?
Our funding from the Attorney Generals department is attached to Family Dispute Resolution Centres around Australia. Our counselling support services need to be significantly extended and funded. Facilitating Partner only useful as a resource for secondary counselling or referral to other specialist childrens services. Counselling services attached to Family Dispute Resolution Services requires significant expansion to cope with demand.
Question 9 – For all providers, are there other ways to improve collaboration and coordination across services and systems?
Reward agencies using funding and services agreements according to their degree of cooperation with each other rather than limited “episodes of care”. This ensures that clients do not “fall through the cracks”. A client engagement is either terminated (as its no longer required) OR a referral is made to another agencies for ongoing care. A control needs to be put in place however that multiple agencies are NOT funded to provide the same service to a client at the same time. This is to stop “shopping around” by clients when they are desperate for support in times of distress.
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?
Workforce planning is essential. Freeing up the definition of counselling is critical and the national definition of the Australian Counselling Association is the model that should be adopted. This would also allow small private providers who are appropriately trained and experienced (and receive regular counselling supervision and oversight) to engage with clients earlier. Only those counsellors specifically trained in age appropriate counselling should be made available to work with children and youth.
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?
Reward organizations for cooperation with each other using funding and services agreements. Broaden the definition of counsellors (Australian Counselling Association standards). Cheaper overall for the federal budget. provides more targeted counselling services to clients earlier in the process rather than them becoming a greater burden to both the health system and the Courts system.
Question 12 – Is there anything else you would like to share about the ideas and proposals in the Discussion Paper?
We need national consistency in the provision of counselling services for families.
This is particularly true for counselling services supporting Family Dispute resolution Services. Cooperation is needed between agencies to prevent clients from “falling through the cracks”. Controls need to be put in place to ensure greater expansion of access to counselling services but at the same time place limitations on clients accessing multiple agencies at the same time for the same service. We need far more specifically targeted services for men.