Windermere Child & Family 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?

– Our Cranbourne site was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Communities for Children (CfC) Community Partners (CPs) used email, phone and Zoom to continue to deliver service and keep the community and CP workers safe. CPs carefully adapted suitable individual and group programs to online delivery while protecting participants’ privacy. CPs upskilled clients to use Zoom with confidence. Online group & individual sessions shorter to avoid screen fatigue. Groups smaller due to the shorter session time to allow sufficient discussion time and facilitator attention for participants. Group participant agreements ensure online safety: use first name only; commit to not recording the online sessions; no screenshotting.
– Families who had available data, devices and confidence to use them participated well in online individual and group programs. Engagement and retention figures increased in online programs compared with face to face program delivery figures.
– However a digital divide has emerged as a new area of vulnerability. Issues faced by families included internet reliability; lack of data and/or devices; the digital skills to use them; a space in the home suitable for the participant to use – essential for family violence programs to ensure the victim survivor participant was safe and private from the perpetrator. The digital divide was particularly evident for ATSI and CALD families. These parents struggled to support their children with remote schooling.
– Low English language skills adversely affected CALD parents’ ability to support children remote schooling and affected their ability to understand accurate information about the pandemic. We shared information and resources in community languages throughout the Melbourne lockdown in particular. We shared links to audio community language information wherever available due to some diverse community members being pre-literate in their own language.
– Cranbourne families were given preference in registering for online service. If spaces were available, families from other geographic areas needing support were able to participate. This blurred the idea of geographic boundaries in a place-based project.
– Mixed model of service delivery for the future combining online and face to face options. Could involve digital upskilling for more staff and participants. Includes CfC Committee meetings.
– Online service delivery can decrease barriers to attendance such as need for child care and transport issues. We note that increased engagement and retention during the lockdown may not continue when families have more options in COVID normal.
– We will need DSS flexibility so we can assess community need and demand throughout the recovery period of 2021 and beyond.
– CfC Cranbourne has allocated funds to help our CPs to support the community to recover from COVID-19 in the 2020-2021 FY.
– South East Victorian FP Network. 5 CfC FPs staged National Forum online. Collegiate support; info sharing.

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?

The outcomes are broad, however we could drill down to what this would look like in our site. For example:
– Children and young people thrive – promoting social and emotional wellbeing; literacy.
– Family relationships – Programs for prevention and early intervention of family violence; parenting support programs.
– Individuals empowered. Programs promoting connection to culture for ATSI and CALD children and their parents. Promoting access to information; support; and services. Integrated service system and staff capability in service provision are not specifically mentioned in the outcomes model. Would they fit under this outcome?
– Communities are cohesive. We support a whole of community approach. We welcome support from DSS on how we would measure and report on this.
– CfC sites already use a strengths-based approach to family and child safety. The proposed key outcomes in Q2 are broad enough to include them. Our CfC Activity sub-contracts require our Community Partners to work in line with Child Safe principles. We are always willing to participate in continuous improvement of client and community safety for children adults.
– Integrated service system and staff capability in service provision are not specifically mentioned in the outcomes model. These are important ways to make the most effective use of scarce and lean funding. We would like to see these as an outcome or specifically included in one of the proposed key outcomes.

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

– Accessing a fuller range of reports as FP would be helpful. Being able to create a useful report helps encourage DeX users to input good quality data.
– Training sessions delivered by DSS DeX gurus on how to get the best out of SCORE. In particular, assistance to encourage our CPs to use the change in circumstances measure in SCORE.
– There could be opportunities to roll this out on a regional basis to save DSS time and resources. For example, sessions delivered through our South East CfC FP network to FP and CP staff in the 5 FP sites.
– We would like to report more qualitative data in addition to the quantitative data we currently input. This would provide a richer picture of CfC work. We would welcome DSS support to include qualitative data in robust and valid evaluation and reporting.
– Convene an FP advisory group to assist DSS with the interpretation of DeX data by providing the context of work in the community. Group could assist DSS with continuous improvement of DeX through questions, suggestions for improvement and feedback on issues experienced by end users.

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?

5. Do you already have a program logic or theory of change outlined for your program? Did you find the process useful?

– All the current CfC Cranbourne CP Activities have program logics. Windermere as FP invested significant funding in buying assistance from evaluation consultants and CPs invested significant amounts of staff time to develop the PLs.
– Developing PLs provided the FP and CPs with a valuable opportunity for reflection on program effectiveness and to decide which program outcomes would assist families to make positive, meaningful changes in their lives.
b. What capacity building support would assist service providers to develop program logics and theories of change?
– Training sessions on developing and using PLs and evaluation plans. Templates on AIFS website are helpful but not sufficient assistance. Opportunity for training to be delivered regionally, for example to the SE CfC FP network as a whole. CfC FPs could then develop program logics that are consistent across the CfC initiative nationally.
– If we re-fund our current CPs in the new funding period, we would need to review the current PL.
– In the initial phase of the AIFS evidence-based program approval process, Windermere CfC Cranbourne invested a significant amount of funding for FP and CP staff to work with evaluation consultants. This also involved a significant amount of FP and CP staff time.
– Developing PLs provided the FP and CPs with a valuable opportunity for reflection on program effectiveness and to decide which program outcomes would assist families to make positive, meaningful changes in their lives.

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?

– Ensure that FPs can include qualitative data in the new FP Activity Work Plan.
– Ongoing consultation with FPs and a flexible approach to collecting personal data from CfC Activity participants experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage. We don’t want to disengage the families who would benefit from our services.

a. How can the Data Exchange better support this?
– Sections to include notes on data collected, for example, issues faced by CPs in data collection, such as participants being unwilling to share a full range of personal details, would provide a site context.

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

– Success starts from the first engagement with families and is consolidated by retaining them in the program.
– Success can be small positive changes achieved by participants.
– Success is reflected in our CfC Activities having a good reputation and other services being confident to refer families.
– Co-design of programs with families so that success and progress are measured against outcomes that are meaningful to participants. Where this is not possible, co-design in first program session to hear what participants want to achieve within the program structure.
– Use the program logic as a living document to measure success against its outcomes.
Delivery of Evidence-Based Programs
– The success our CPs have achieved in delivering evidence-based programs in our site has been satisfying. Developing local evidence-based programs to submit for AIFS Promising Program approval involved a significant investment from FP and CP budgets and staff time. Good client engagement and retention in those programs demonstrates their success meeting local needs in line with our place-based approach. CPs have also successfully delivered carefully chosen DSS Guidebook evidence-based programs that meet the needs of our community. One excellent example is our CP Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV) delivering the ‘Tuning in to Kids’ and ‘Dads Tuning in to Kids’ group parenting programs. RAV have also successfully delivered the program to a group of Afghan mothers. RAV are currently hoping to deliver the program to Afghan fathers in the coming months. ‘Tuning in to Kids’ has successfully engaged and retained a range of participants who report positive outcomes as a result of attendance. RAV has also been contacted by the program developer, The University of Melbourne, to work together to adapt the program for the CALD community.

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?

– The SEIFA and demographic data including AEDC, family violence, and employment for our Cranbourne site indicate that our community includes cohorts experiencing vulnerability, including those at risk of engaging with the child protection system.
– As FP we keep researching the demographic data and consulting the community to ensure that we know which cohorts are experiencing vulnerability. Our Committee, CPs and our membership of local networks provide us with valuable current knowledge about what’s happening in our community.
– We ensure that our Expression of Interest process funds Community Partners that have the expertise and skilled and experienced staff to deliver effective programs to engage families experiencing vulnerability. Attributes required include cultural awareness, skills and knowledge to understand how vulnerability presents in an increasingly culturally diverse community.
– It is crucial that CfC guidelines continue to define vulnerability in a way that allows sufficiently broad eligibility criteria. One of CfC’s many strengths in service delivery is our flexibility and inclusiveness in targeting cohorts. We note cohorts experiencing vulnerability who ‘fall through the cracks’ due to limitations on access to mainstream assistance: families where both parents work and are therefore not eligible for Health Care or Low Income Cards and yet they may be struggling socially, emotionally and financially; refugees and asylum seekers; Pasifika community.

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 we would be happy to share information about our community with these providers to enable progress towards a decision about inclusion, or towards successful inclusion.
– What additional resourcing would DSS provide to FPs to support the inclusion of these providers into our project, if that is the decision?

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

– As noted above, our South East Victorian CfC FP network could be a useful model to replicate in other regions. The network discusses and develops collective approaches to support members to achieve DSS and CfC site outcomes. The key Agenda items (including standing items for every meeting) that will enable the group to meet its stated Purpose are CfC site updates including CfC CP Activities and community events; DSS news and information; DSS data exchange; local evaluation; evidence based programs and approval process; training, conference and grant opportunities; and cost sharing and resource leveraging opportunities. Members will share information using the CfC SE Regional FP Network email distribution list and any other appropriate means
– CfC FPs have the time and resources to be active members of local networks. Other services and systems could usefully allow the same opportunity to their managers and workers.
– Communities of Practice that include a range of services.
– Increased alignment of outcomes and eligibility criteria across services and systems would be beneficial. We acknowledge the complexity of this aim.

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?

a. What works well?
– The CfC 50% innovative flexible funding quota that allows local responses to local needs and issues in line with our place based approach.
– AIFS/CFCA support, tools and webinars.
– FRSA support and advocacy for CfC FP model.
b. What do you think should change?
– The AIFS CfC evidence based program approval process, if it is continued, could be more intensively supported and resourced by DSS. Whilst AIFS was helpful, there was a large impost of time and funding on FPs and CPs.
– what’s that going to look like in the future?
– Support more innovative programs, not just those that follow a conventional program format.

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?

– Maintain the 50% quota for evidence-based programs and 50% for local, innovative, flexible programs that respond to the unique needs of our community.
– Provide facilitated training to develop and promote creativity and innovation in community development.
– Recommence the National CfC FP forum to showcase and promote innovation and share evidence about what’s working well here and overseas.
– Develop a national CfC webpage that brings together news and information about the wide range of CfC sites and work across Australia.

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

The Discussion Paper online forums were great opportunities to hear information and ask questions. FRSA did a great job in facilitating these. We appreciate the work put in to stage them. FRSA also do great work in advocating for the CfC FP model and communicating information about the new CfC funding period.

We are keen to be advised of the outcome of the Discussion Paper. This could be in the form of more online forums or a report.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.