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?

Covid-19 restrictions created significant challenges for service delivery in UnitingCare but all services ensured the continuity of social support through the efficient use of technology. All program areas developed strong IT and technical capacity in the short timeframe and in some services flexible work hours were introduced to ensure afterhours access for clients. The use of risk assessment and management plans based on Organisational disaster management response plans also informed adaptations to service delivery.
The changes meant programs needed to be flexible and creative in many domains. It also required additional expenditure through purchasing equipment and programs, learning new skills, converting resources and a significant reorientation in program delivery. User friendly services have been offered via an online platform, which has resulted in reduced anxiety, reduced barriers, reduced need for child minding and flexibility to meet working hours.
The stress placed on the families we work with caused by COVID-19 has typically compounded existing vulnerabilities, and increased the risk of family violence, child abuse and neglect. Programs have therefore prioritised child and family safety, and are committed to ensuring families have the required support and remain connected to essential services and community members. Positive feedback has been received from clients stating that ‘the ability to still connect with other people experiencing similar vulnerabilities has been positive and beneficial’ and that the adaptations to virtual engagement have been ‘great community development in building client support networks’. Social media channels are also being used to connect with local families and to provide helpful information (NGC).
The changes and success in utilising online technology has meant that many programs have integrated several modalities to deliver services which range from telephone, virtual and face to face. Services have also adapted working hours to provide more flexibility.
All services report varying levels of improvement around integration with other initiatives:
With network meetings offered by zoom, there is a reduction in travel time for attendees and improves productivity, however this eliminates the benefits of interpersonal connectivity that face to face network meetings provide.
There has been flexible delivery with online closed group.
The adaptation has encouraged more outreach work such as delivery of specific programs in family homes. This not only provides easier access for parents, but allows them to engage in the program in their own environment, therefore reducing anxiety related to a new environment.
Working closer with schools in catchment. Adapted program to deliver resources to families in school i.e. True program.
Opportunities to reach greater audiences for example our CAPP service reached 10,000 people by offering an event online in 2020 which was deemed very successful.

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?

UnitingCare supports the proposed outcomes as aspirational goals with some caveat. Of significant concern is the lack of an outcome or explicit mention of safety. Safety of all clients is fundamental to the work these programs provide and it should be underpinning these outcomes. In addition physical health is included in the overarching assumptions but mental health is not – this may give an impression that mental health is not considered as important as physical health as mental health is contained in one of the key outcomes not all.

To include strengths based outcome that focus on family or child safety would involve the following:

Utilise strengths based outcome measures that involve the parent and child and
focuses on protective factors. SCORE does not provide this in great detail and is far too subjective and generic.

Must underpin all aspects and include child-inclusive practice with children identifying they are safe.

Adopt a child-centred and family focused approach as this is not only important in terms of enhancing the realisation of positive outcomes but will improve the likelihood of effectively engaging children and their families.

Question 3 – What tools or training would support you to effectively measure and report outcomes through the Data Exchange Partnership Approach?

Tools and training required to effectively measure and report outcomes would include the following:

• Evidence based outcome measurement tools such as Outcome Star which encourages a dialogue between client and worker to ensure needs are met.
• Information and workshops, online training about DEX and how outcomes (SCORE) data is utilised.
• Training and more detailed information on utilising the Translation Matrix to effectively translate current outcome measurement tools used by the organisation to SCORE.

Consideration of whether SCORE is the most effective and suitable method for measuring outcomes – particularly for Communities for Children Facilitating Partners which have a very different mode of service delivery compared to other funded services.

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?

UnitingCare develops program logic or theory of change methodology in all of its services. The Program Logic provides an overview of the risk and protective factors, influences, resources and best possible interventions that will meet the holistic needs of clients. Change Theory is used with all children/young people and families with those who require intensive longer term Family Action Plans.

The development of program logics is a very valuable exercise which involves all staff – this increases understanding of the program funding, resources, outputs and outcomes required. The next step will be involving clients in a co-design process in developing theory of change.

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?

Regions would like to incorporate qualitative methods into the evaluation design alongside quantitative methods, as part of a mixed-methods design. Evaluations that adopt a mixed-methods approach are well placed to establish any causal relationship between the program content and outcomes and find how the changes occurred. The ability to measure client retention for group completion and the inclusion of quantitative component to feedback forms so trends can be observed and measured.

UnitingCare services would like to see the use of assessment tools and frameworks used to better capture outcomes and data such as Outcome Star to be included in the translation (matrix)

Question 6 – What does success look like for your service, and how do you assess the overall success of your service?

Our Communities for Children Facilitating Partner Service -thousands of family and community members have now actively participated in the myriad of programs and activities offered by the CfC and association partners over the 15 years. This had built a valuable network of inspired community members who regularly advocate for CfC programs and assist new community members to feel included. A number of these former participants volunteer time and energy to assist with activities, creating sustainable practices. Coping strategies have been enhanced, relationship strengthened and many people formerly hindered by disadvantage have become powerful supports in the social fabric of the area. This 15 year community engagement has provided significant baseline data that contributes to this consultation process and future planning of programs. The consultation process supports us to identify the themes and key findings derived from the community consultation process. These findings are used to create a comprehensive Community Strategic Plan (CSP) and Activity Work Plan that will guide the delivery of best practice service to maximise positive Northern Gold Coast stakeholder outcomes over the next five years. NGCCfC has a set of principles that guide interactions between community members, families, key stakeholders and the project teams.

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?

Across our other regions we utilise a number of methods to measure success and include the following:

* Developing and monitoring of AWP
* Targeted feedback from clients and other stakeholders – this occurs through feedback forms, outcome measurement tools, comparison of data of like for like services
* Meeting of outcomes and outputs set by both the organisation and Department.
* Internal practice audits of services
* Evaluation of services, often in partnership with Universities.

All clients present with a level of vulnerability that could place them at risk of engaging with the child protection system, where children are present. Referrals received from the Family and Child Connect program and QPS, are commonly linked to at risk families in the child protection system. Service provision is centred on early intervention and prevention models to assess risk and build protective factors within strength based model of support, inclusive of collaborative service partnerships.

Services report that it is vital to not lose early intervention components to core business.

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?

UnitingCare teams network with local service providers, attend network meetings with stakeholders including both non-government, community organisations and Government stakeholders in local regions.

Network meetings continue monthly via online platforms and active connection and partnerships with networks and services continue to be established through emails.

Our CAPP services work well with other community organisation to provide a holistic service and can appreciate the additional benefit of engaging with CfC FP in ensuring collaborative service delivery approach that meets the needs of our community.

Question 9 – For all providers, are there other ways to improve collaboration and coordination across services and systems?

Linking programs such as FaRS with SCaSP and other Family Law Programs both intra-organisationally and inter-organisationally. An approach to wrap-around service delivery in geographic regions would enhance outcomes for clients.

Online portals for community service providers and online platforms that the community can access in terms of services availability and request for services that may not already be available in the community. It is suggested that community development and networking is accounted for as key indicator of performance outcomes, including resourcing for these activities in funding contracts.

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?

Communication and flexibility that allows programs to meet the needs of their clients across diverse geographical catchments and cultural groups. The Department’s commitment to responding to unique communities such as those across Regional and Remote versus Metropolitan regions and to recognise this through necessary resources and funding that enable effective service delivery.

Over the years our learning’s reflect research that if vulnerable parents are supported in the early stages in a non-threatening, non-stigmatising way and opportunities are created for parents to build relationships with other parents and community members, then their capacity to cope with life stresses is strengthened. This is evident in the Early Years Hub Activity developed by our Community for Children Service on the Northern Gold Coast continues to be a successful model of family support. Essentially this success is underpinned by a broad range of activities offered to support families with different levels of need.

Experience demonstrates that parents and children value continuity in their relationships with the facilitators of services and the people that support them. This relationship in itself can be a significant source of support for many families new to the northern Gold Coast who attend the Hubs. This often results in parents opening up to workers and sharing important issues and subsequently seeking the support that may help them through our interactive pathways of support.

The overarching recommendation is for the department to provide a greater number of available evidence-based programs to allow more flexibility in program choices to meet escalating and increasingly diverse needs or allow the delivery of more evidenced informed or evidenced generating programs.
CfC conducts extensive community consultation every 2/3 years. Typically, there is a tangible gap between the community consultation results that identify the local community needs / expectation and the availably of suitable programs to meet those needs within the expert panel 50% evidenced based program list. Additionally, programs that are on the list often do not embed specific activities that are required to best support the needs of local families.

Based on the community consultation research, and ongoing community feedback, a number of additional programs need have been identified. Specifically, evidenced based activities which could better support families could include: Family Integrated support (support to families with dependent children who are having trouble managing as a result of internal or external stresses of life. The service would support the entire family, strengthening and building on family members’ existing skills). Additionally, addressing children’s speech and language delays is a high, escalating need identified by local families/schools. Vulnerable families have very limited access to free or low-cost language support services in the local community.

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?

UnitingCare suggests that increased focus by the Department in co-ordinating all programs across geographic regions and link in with State Government funded programs. This needs to be considered and should inform and promote partnership submissions/collaborative submissions of funding across regions.

Our CfC program is underpinned by a ‘community development framework’ that starts with families and community members identified strengths/capacities and then organically builds on them by offering a suite of integrated programs and referral pathways. Our focus has always been “relationship driven” where we are constantly building and rebuilding relationships between family members, local community members, local associations, and local providers. We have always believed that to achieve lasting outcomes and positive results there needs to be a greater emphasis on the importance of taking the time to identity local needs, gaps and strengths whilst building the trust and respect of local community members.

Through a range of innovative strategies which leveraged the small infrastructure available, and collaborative ventures with other organisations, the CfC initiative has greatly exceeded expectations in community attendance and ongoing positive feedback for many activities at the site.

The Gold Coast is a city with approximately 700,000 residents, and although the perennial perception from people outside the region is that it is only about tourism, glitz, glamour and wealthy retirees, there is desperate, complex social need in many areas. Statistically, the Gold Coast has some of the highest negative national social indicators in child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and has an acute abundance of families and individuals who suffer extreme hardships and are socially disconnected from any form of support from families and friends. Although this situation is also evident in many other cities in Australia, it is particularly exacerbated on the Gold Coast due to transient nature of much of the population. Despite this the Gold Coast continually receives a disproportionately lower ratio of national spending on social issues from both state and federal governments. The Northern Gold Coast CfC initiative has demonstrated both the urgent need of people on the northern Gold Coast and has also demonstrated the exceptional outcomes that can occur from a coordinated, cohesive strategy that addresses many social issues at once culminating in a strengthened social fabric.

Question 12 – Is there anything else you would like to share about the ideas and proposals in the Discussion Paper?

No further information to share but to acknowledge the Department’s work in undertaking extensive consultations.