Gubi Gabun Children’s Mobile Service Incorporated
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?
Coronavirus related closures saw our service switch to the production and distribution of digital content. Engagement was high among our client base, yet DSS would not acknowledge these client engagements constituting service delivery. We were told that, in order to be considered to have provided a service, we would need to engage families in online service delivery, for example, over Zoom or similar services. This demonstrates the failure of the department to recognise that many service providers operate in regions where internet infrastructure and bandwidth simply do not allow for services to be delivered in this manner. Better support will reflect a more thorough understanding of the unique challenges that arise when operating in remote contexts, and will recognise that service providers understand those challenges more thoroughly than our city-based department liaisons.
Question 3 – What tools or training would support you to effectively measure and report outcomes through the Data Exchange Partnership Approach?
It is difficult to overstate how antithetical to the principles of access and inclusion the proposed suggestion to require all services to report SCORE data is. Many families accessing our service, particularly ATSI and CALD families, are already disinclined to provide the minimal data we ask of them due to numerous factors, including inter-generational mistrust of government bodies. The requirement to provide even more data about potentially sensitive topics will see many among these cohorts choose to not attend services such as ours. In this sense, this proposal will lead to poorer outcomes for the children and families that perhaps would benefit the most from accessing services. To be clear, this proposal has the capacity to cause harm in these communities.
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?
The terms we use in our sector are Service Philosophy and Quality Improvement Plan, respectively. These are living documents that we routinely revisit and evaluate. By requiring services such as ours to allocate our limited time and resources to rebranding these documents to align with the ever-shifting demands of the managerial class, the department detracts from our capacity to work in partnership with clients to achieve meaningful outcomes. Our time and, indeed, our funding allocations are better spent engaging our clients in the programs we deliver than they are on rebranding existing documents that already serve the intended purpose. If the department insists on requiring services to produce these documents, the only capacity building support we would require is increased funding. This would allow for staff to be remunerated adequately for the increased workload this requirement would demand without compromising our capacity to service our communities.
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?
An excerpt from page 26 of the Discussion Paper.
“For example, recently the Expert Panel has been exploring how to engage leaders to influence organisational change to use evaluation findings.”
It is particularly galling to have to discuss our accountability when seemingly no-one is accountable for unironically allowing this meaningless, abstruse and condescending sentence to be published in a document issued by government. This is one of the most egregious examples of what Don Watson dubbed “Weasel Words” I have had the misfortune to encounter in my time liaising with government departments. It does not engender confidence from our end in the capacity of the department to measure performance in meaningful ways.
A suggestion. Perhaps a mandatory placement of one week for DSS employees once per year at a DSS-funded service would allow for the department to develop more thorough understandings of the nature and efficacy of the services under their umbrella. DSS staff would be expected to participate in service delivery to the extent of their abilities and expertise. At the end of that week, there could be a two-way evaluation in which each party could offer the other some ideas for how they could improve performance.
Question 6 – What does success look like for your service, and how do you assess the overall success of your service?
We use a variety of metrics and tools to measure success. Aside from the obvious data points such as attendance figures and the extent to which clients engage in our program, we routinely conduct client appraisals to determine what is working and what could benefit from evaluation and subsequent improvement. These are tailored to each client, and can take the form of a conversation, parent feedback form or anecdotal reports pertaining to our performance from our interagency partners.
Success at present looks like the return of children and families to a service that supports community connection, child development and positive client mental health outcomes after an almost year-long period of governmental mandates and health advice relating to COVID19 that have demoralised and cowed regional communities. Re-establishing trust within communities that were already subject to a degree of social and geographic isolation that most people will never experience is also something that we consider to be an indicator of the success of the program.
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?
We do, yes. We have taken the responsibility of liaising with inter-agency partners to source the necessary supports to provide access to these cohorts. No further departmental intervention is required here.
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?
We have sourced our own connections as part of an inter-agency approach to identifying the needs of the community. While I would welcome a facilitating partner to sit in on our meetings if they so desire, I see no practical reason to add another agent into the flow of information. Just seems like busy-work to me.
Question 9 – For all providers, are there other ways to improve collaboration and coordination across services and systems?
I get the overwhelming sense that there is a lack of understanding within the department regarding the nature of services under the DSS umbrella. Returning to an earlier point, I would prefer to see DSS staff engaging with services in a practical sense rather than through consultation. Come out and see what services are doing so that the right pegs get put in the right holes.
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?
Recognise our expertise in our fields. The bureaucrat class does not understand our work better than we do. If we are spending our time rebranding existing practices to align with whatever terminology a think-tank has decided services must use, then we are not serving any real purpose. The only purpose this actually serves is to detract from our capacity to do meaningful work.