Peel Youth Services
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?
Each school term we run 3 programs targeting young parents under 25:
Life after Birth
Early Years Learning Hut
Teen mothers 16 and under require a lot of additional support. A Youth worker will attend and advocate for the young person at meetings with Child Protection, court appearances and so on. Family Nights are generally held once a term and are always well attended and as well as socialisation we run activities to encourage our young mums and their partners to build stronger relationships. Family Nights were not run in 2020 due to COVID-19. Face to face delivery of group programs were also put on hold during the COVID-19 shutdown period. We maintain regular contact with the Peel Health Campus and the midwives and child health nurses located there. They come into our programs as guest speakers and we also do site visits each term. We work with the young parent and the health professionals to best support the parent and child.
We have developed new marketing materials and distributing them to our stakeholders.
We have built a new social media marketing strategy to better engage with clients and stakeholders, particularly during the COVID-19 shutdown. Remote support systems have been implemented including telephone, closed facebook groups and Zoom meetings to support our clients while maintaining COVID safety procedures. The Early Years Learning Hut (EYLH) program is a supported playgroup. Parents are given tasks and have to contribute to the sessions. When Face to face delivery of this program was put on hold during the COVID-19 shutdown period, we created Facebook and Zoom sessions to support parents. An additional EYLH program was scheduled to be run in Halls Head Recreation Centre from August to December 2020 to address the AEDC data that shows low achievement of children in that area against the 5 AEDC Developmental Domains. This program was open to all parents regardless of the mother’s age. We cross promote Wanslea and Anglicare parenting programs like Circle of Safety and Protective Behaviours, to encourage our clients to engage with the wider community. We provide transport if required and childcare for the babies so that the parents can participate in learning activities. There is more demand for programs than we can meet under our current funding. Peel is an enormous region to service and the cost of outreach to parents and families is becoming more and more difficult with the rising cost of fuel and travel expenses. Our funding agreement enables us to run programs in Mandurah but not in other parts of Peel such as Serpentine-Jarrahdale, Boddington and Pinjarra. We provide a very individualized service to our clients and note that there is a gap in support of primary school age children 6-11 and for parents of teens in our region. Poor parenting contributes to many of the teenagers in the region experiencing family breakdown. We could deliver programs that address these gaps with increased funding.
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?
I think the proposed outcomes are the right ones.
Question 3 – What tools or training would support you to effectively measure and report outcomes through the Data Exchange Partnership Approach?
Yes, the reporting of outcomes should be mandatory. When I compare the amount of information we provide for other government funded programs such as homelessness, there is a wealth of data that is not being captured. As a manager, I find it invaluable to measure the impact our service delivery is having and the depth and breadth of gaps that need to be addressed. It enables me to change my programming of services to meet the demand in our community and also provides a benchmark against similar services being delivered in other regions.
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 developed program logics for our programs based on a template provided at DSS training that was held in Perth in 2018/19. We have found that using a program logic helps us focus on the outputs as well as the outcomes and adopt an evidence-based approach. Where appropriate we map the program activities to the Early Years Learning Framework and the AEDC developmental domains.
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?
Long-term agreements are essential to establishing service delivery that has a long-term impact on the communities we serve. I would like to see agreements that are like leases – 5 years initial term with a 5 year extension that is guaranteed so long as performance criteria are met annually. I think regular service reviews – every 2 years for example – that are held on location with a mixture of management, staff and recipients of the service, would give a much clearer picture of the success of the programs being delivered and the organisational capacity to meet the needs of the community. I would also like to see benchmarks in terms of participant numbers / dollars spent so we can ascertain whether our services are good value for money. Although you can’t treat all ages and regions equally, it would be useful to have guidelines.
Question 6 – What does success look like for your service, and how do you assess the overall success of your service?
Our service works to a strategic plan, operational plan and operational planning touchpoints over a 3 year period. The strategic plan is agreed at board level, as CEO I submit an Operational Plan to deliver the Strategic objectives to the Board for approval. Once the Operational Plan has been confirmed, I report the progress against each of the objectives at each Board meeting. To do this, we decide on the elements of each objective and assign it a priority of Efficient, Quality or Best Practice. Not every part of a service needs to be Best Practice but they must all be Efficient at the very least. We can then map over the life of the Strategic and Operational plans the outcomes we aim to achieve and our progress towards achieving them in a traffic light report. In terms of client engagement we track attendance, engagement, growth in self-esteem, growth in childhood developmental milestones, observational checklist and client feedback forms.
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, most of our service cohorts are experiencing vulnerability. We work primarily with pregnant or parenting adolescent women aged 13-25yrs old, who reside in the Peel region and are referred to PYS’s Eyes Wide Open (EWO) program by parents, midwives, child health nurses, mental health personnel, local schools, other community organisations, Child Protection and Family Support or through word of mouth. PYS Youth Workers conduct an initial home visit where a brief assessment is conducted. This assessment determines whether or not the young person is group ready and what support our service can offer them. It may also flag high risk individuals who need to be referred to other specific services for mental health, post-partum depression, family and domestic violence or AOD issues.
As part of the program we have pregnancy and parenting groups as well as mentor support offered on a one to one basis. Groups are normally run for 2-3hrs one day per week for a school term and mentoring is on a case by case basis, averaging approximately 1hr each session. During lockdown for example, PYS support workers provided online and phone support to the young mums engaged with EWO and Early Years Learning Hut. We arranged and delivered food parcels and emergency relief including nappies, hand sanitiser, wipes and baby formula. Each week we held a Zoom meeting with the participants and discussed the problems they were facing. We posted regularly on facebook, Instagram and our YouTube channel including recipes, story time and lockdown diaries.
PYS has also taken the lead in trialling an Early Years programs in Halls Head where one in three children living in Halls Head (Mandurah) enter school developmentally vulnerable, as measured by the Australian Early Development Census, well above the State average. Research suggests the best opportunity to build strong foundations for life long learning occurs in early childhood – the period of conception, throughout pregnancy, and during a child’s first three to five years. Optimising early childhood development requires a collaborative and holistic approach to policy, programs and services. As there was no community hub in Halls Head, and there is a low % of children accessing the single playgroup (2018 AEDC Mandurah Profile) available, PYS worked with key stakeholders City of Mandurah, Dudley Park Child & Parent Centre, Wanslea Family Services and the AEDI Coordinator from the WA Department of Education, to deliver a successful 15 week trial supported playgroup. We self funded this trial through our charitable collections and it was extremely successful with 15 families enrolling in the program and an average attendance each week of 13 toddlers. Most of the families were of CALD background. I believe that the way to best help those families who most need support is to go out and be acessible to them rather than wait for them to come to you.
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?
I din’t think that the Peel region of WA has a Communities for Children Facilitating Partner. I have asked my DSS contract manager in WA to confirm if there is one. If not, I would like to express interest in becoming the CfC Facilitating Partner for Peel. Peel is 5,500kms square and has a population of more than 132,000. The region incorporates 5 LGAs – the City of Mandurah where we currently operate, Shire of Murray, Shire of Waroona, Shire of Boddington and the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale which is one of the fastest growing areas in Australia. Serpentine-Jarrahdale is expected to have a population of 50,000 by 2030. There are many young families in that particular LGA, most of whom currently reside in the town of Byford. Public transport within the region is either extremely poor – one bus per hour from Pinjarra to Mandurah – to non-existent. There is no public transport between Waroona, Boddington, Byford, Mundijong and Mandurah where most community services are located. As Peel Youth Services we are funded for early intervention and prevention of homelessness for young people 12-25 throughout the Peel region. Most pf the young people we work with are at risk of homelessness due to family breakdown, domestic violence, AOD abuse and mental health problems in the home. Early intervention works.
It helps young people who are at risk of harm in their own home to work with someone who can facilitate a move into a safe place – whether it be with extended family, foster care or crisis accommodation. I would like to see the same service available for all families and children in the Peel region, regardless of age or location. We know that children from the age of 9 are expressing suicidal ideation and engaging in self-harm but there is either no service available to the child or family or the services have wait lists of 3 months or longer. In October 2020, an 11 year old girl in Boddington committed suicide after her sexual abuser was released on bail. Although we are funded to go to Boddington to work with children over 12 years of age there were no services available for this poor little girl. The most common factor in all of the young people we work with from 0 – 25 years of age, is the lack of parenting capacity of the adults in their lives. The programs we deliver would benefit all parents not just teen parents and I would like to expand the holistic service delivery and programs we currently offer in Mandurah to the rest of Peel.
Question 9 – For all providers, are there other ways to improve collaboration and coordination across services and systems?
All providers worry about funding. No money, no programs. This inherently, pits providers against each other for funding dollars and forces collaborations to actually become either partnerships or dictatorships, where the smaller of the organisations is reliant on the larger “lead” agency to fund them as had been agreed in the original grant submission or tender response. I think a better way to support collaboration is to reward organisations for working together. Fund each organisation in its own right for its share of the program or service delivery. Set KPIs and milestone payments based on evidence of working collaboratively with each other and the competitiveness is replaced by an incentive to not only work together but to respect each other’s place in the ecosystem of service delivery. As a small NFP we are agile and able to deliver services far more flexibly than a large national organisation such as Anglicare which has much higher overheads and a corporate reporting structure. However, we work well together in Peel because we refer clients to each other depending upon the client’s individual needs and the services delivered by each organisation. We need all of the different types of players in the sector. One size does not fit all. The only way that true collaboration will be adopted and become a part of the community sector psyche is to reward collaboration and create a win – win outcome for those organisations that implement and demonstrate productive collaborations that benefit the community.
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?
I think you have identified that the largest area of need is building the capability of services to evaluate their programs using evidence outcomes measurement. A proforma approach or guidelines on how to achieve this that can guide each worker in our service; aligning programs with the National Framework for Protecting Children; building in a research or evaluation component to all grants and funding contracts so that both DSS and the service provider will get an independent assessment of the programs delivered. Smaller organisations often don’t have the skills or resources to do this in-house. For evaluations to be impartial they shouldn’t be done by the person delivering the service but most often they are. If a percentage of the contract value eg 2% was allocated to an evaluation every 2 years it could be incorporated into the service review. DSS could send a list of pre-approved providers, two months before the service review was scheduled and an independent evaluation completed.
In terms of Innovation, COVID-19 has really prepared us for the unexpected. I think the sector in general embraced the digital divide and mostly excelled. It has forced us to leave behind outdated technologies and ‘habits’ and be creative about everything from delivering programs through Zoom, Fb groups and Houseparty to engaging with colleagues, other agencies and most important of all, their clients. Pre-COVID I would never have thought that fb posts at 12 midnight on Fridays would get the most hits from teen parents. We don’t know what we don’t know so it is hard to mandate the need to innovate. I think that in 2020 we learned to say Yes first then figure out how we were going to do it. Telehealth had been bobbing about in the doldrums for years yet came online quickly once there was a reason to MAKE IT HAPPEN.
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?
I think that rewarding innovation and showcasing success stories would be great. I engaged with more youth service providers through peak body driven Zoom forums during COVID lockdown than I had prior. This gave us a great opportunity to share war stories, success stories and learn from each other. I am enjoying the FRSA facilitated Advisory Group Consultations. Why stop these –
As said in one of the earlier responses, it is also vital to recognise all of the players large and small and the contribution they make in delivering place-based solutions and unique contexts like ours where the Peel region is one of 9 WA regions but at times is a pseudo extension of the Perth Metropolitan area. We have unique problems in our region – a heavy reliance on tourism and hospitality by the coast but farming and mining as soon as you move inland. We are a hotspot for retirees but also our local AOD provider swaps out 30,000 used needles a month. We have millionaires living on canal developments and yet the second highest rate of street present homeless people after Perth CBD. We must have a certain amount of flexibility and self-determination within our grant agreements to be able to make decisions on the ground when they are needed without having to worry whether we need to vary our grant agreement. We are also looking down the barrel of the SGC increases over the next few years and that will rely on either efficiencies or earning extra money through donations, fundraising and sponsorship.
Question 12 – Is there anything else you would like to share about the ideas and proposals in the Discussion Paper?
I have nothing further to add. I am enjoying engaging in the process and thank you for the opportunity to do so.