Uniting Care Wesley Bowden
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?
UCWB was quick to provide clients with the option to receive online services during COVID-19 via video conferencing platforms (skype and zoom). This included both individual counselling support and group programs. Online services were particularly useful for adolescents who were already disengaged from mainstream education, who had limited access to transport and little family or community supports.
Practitioners found that online services were not as successful for younger children under the age of 10, particularly those from CALD background, those with disability or those in vulnerable home environments including those experiencing domestic violence, neglect or abuse.
For CALD clients and those with disability, communicating effectively online was particularly difficult. For clients experiencing domestic violence, abuse or neglect practitioners were required to ensure that engaging in our service did not place those clients at risk, therefore careful consideration was given to ensuring confidentiality and safety.
UCWB is now well placed to respond quickly and effectively should we have any further pandemic outbreaks or other crisis which impacts our ability to provide a face-to-face service. In addition we will continue to provide clients with the option of engaging in online services if that is their preference or where other barriers are present. UCWB has now included a consent form for online telecommunications in the standard intake processes.
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?
We feel that the aims and associated outcomes represent our service delivery well. One key outcome that is not captured is related to Substance Misuse – particularly under the aim of Children and Young People Thrive. Whilst substance abuse may be associated with the clients mental health it is not always the case, so incorporating this in a mental health outcome doesn’t accurately reflect the clients circumstance or progress.
Another key outcome to be considered under the aim of Children and Young People Thrive is Employment and Training, whilst it is a contextual factor, this as an outcome is something that is applicable to some adolescents seeking support around their mental health.
We feel that the language and process on the DEX portal could be altered to reflect a strengths-based approach particularly regarding goals and circumstances. For example, asking clients about their progress in terms of their goals at the initial stage of the intervention to create a baseline may leave clients feeling like they are failing, particularly given clients are asked to respond about their behaviours and their progress when they have not yet received any support with the issues they have sought support for.
One issue identified in reporting ‘family outcomes’ is the assessment of client circumstances in separated families where it is often difficult to reflect the different circumstances in each household and therefore the different outcomes between two homes in the child assessment.
Question 3 – What tools or training would support you to effectively measure and report outcomes through the Data Exchange Partnership Approach?
UCWB is committed to the data exchange partnership approach. In addition to the DSS guidelines and data exchange protocols staff would benefit from further training regarding extracting reports. We would also benefit from training particularly when processes are changed or updated and preferably this would be in an interactive form where staff can ask questions and seek clarification, either online or face to face. This would ensure consistency of reporting by staff and across agencies and ensure that data is of high quality. In addition more detailed and in depth reports specific to our organization through DEX would also be most beneficial.
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?
UCWB is committed to and uses the program logic model across all its programs and services including the FMHSS program. We believe program logic provides a simple, clear representation that helps communicate the intent of a program. In 2019 an assessment of all individual and group work activities was undertaken using this model. This assessment allowed UCWB to consider whether the outputs and impacts matched what the program was intended to deliver. The use of the program logic models supports our planning, implementation and evaluation of our activities and ensures that services and programs are developed to meet intended outcomes.
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?
In our experience DSS representatives have a strong understanding of the FMHSS service and we have always appreciated our strong relationship with our DSS Funding Arrangement Managers. We believe two-way communication with our funders is critical for the success of the program. When UCWB was initially funded for the FMHSS program in 2015 it was agreed by all other SA based FMHSS providers that regular (quarterly) network meetings that included the FMHSS Funding Arrangement Managers would be most beneficial, during the period in which these continued they were always well attended and provided service providers opportunity to discuss common and emerging issues, seek clarification about grant obligations, data exchange protocols etc. It also gave opportunity for Funding Arrangement Managers to update service providers on any new obligations as they arose and also be informed of common and emerging issues in our communities. However in the last couple of years Funding Arrangement Managers have not been able to attend these and the richness of these meetings has since diminished. Additionally in the initial stages (in the first couple of years) we also frequently met with our individual contract managers and appreciated the more specific feedback in relation to our service in terms of data quality, KPI’s etc. UCWB would welcome the return of annual contract meetings.
As previously stated, the ability to extract more specific reporting related to our individual programs would be beneficial to track our performance and analyse trends.
Question 6 – What does success look like for your service, and how do you assess the overall success of your service?
UCWB has been committed to the partnership approach from the onset and is always timely in its reporting both in terms of the Data Exchange 6 monthly reporting as well as the annual progress report against the AWP.
We use validated evaluation tools including My STAR, Teen Star and Family Star Plus to measure outcomes and these inform the SCORE’s on DEX. Outcome Star is also used to develop action plans. We internally measure outcomes for long term clients by comparing client scores on their initial and subsequent Outcomes Star’s which are done approximately 3 monthly.
We use client surveys to measure client satisfaction and the data from them is entered in to DEX SCORE. Client surveys are used for our long term clients as well as short term, group programs and workshops. The surveys are all age appropriate; we have specific surveys for children, young people and parents.
Our service is very sought after and our stakeholder relationships and steady referrals are testament to the quality of the work we deliver. Our stakeholder feedback and waitlist is also testament to the quality of our service.
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?
Our long term support is aimed at supporting the most vulnerable children and young people, we assess the client’s vulnerability in terms of risk and protective factors and these are considered at allocation. Our long term clients experience issues such family violence, parental separation, abuse, neglect, mental health issues including parental metal illness, suicidal ideation, homelessness, trauma and drug and alcohol issues.
Our target groups include CALD, ATSI and children transitioning into high school. We provide group programs and workshops to the most disadvantaged schools in our service area including schools with higher populations of CALD and ATSI students.
The flexibility of the service allows the program to support high risk clients that may have slipped through the cracks for example children and young people who do not fit the criteria for the CAMHS service or those where transport to service providers such as Headspace is a barrier. Providing an outreach service means we can reach the children, young people and families who do not have access to transport.
Our service although child centred has a strong focus on family. Systems theory informs our practice approach. Where parents or carers are reluctant to engage we use assertive outreach practice to engage with those who are hardest to engage. Our service works closely with the child protection system and other government and non-government providers to provide a wraparound service to those who are most vulnerable.
At the same time our provision of group programs and workshops are a strategy for providing early intervention support and as mentioned above we target the most disadvantaged schools on the Index of Educational Disadvantage for South Australian Government schools.
Question 9 – For all providers, are there other ways to improve collaboration and coordination across services and systems?
Regular FMHSS network meetings including the attendance of FMHSS Funding Arrangement Managers. In 2016 the FMHSS providers in SA, in partnership and with the support of FMHSS Funding Arrangement Managers, participated in an all day FMHSS network meeting which included networking and presentations of innovative practice. UWCB would both welcome and fully support the return of a similar event, and would suggest that an event of this nature held annually would go a long way in improving collaboration and coordination across services. In addition this could include other DSS funded activities.
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?
UCWB is a big supporter of innovation and has a team of staff members involved in innovation initiatives as well as a Research and Development team. UCWB agrees with the areas identified by the expert panel and we are interested in how the DSS can support the utlilisation of data, increasing knowledge and improving skills in key areas such as outcomes measurement, reporting, data collection, research and evaluation. Whilst we are aware of the support available through CFCA it is nonetheless a time consuming and resource heavy process.
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?
Regular contract meetings would provide an avenue to communicate with Funding Arrangements Managers to explore ways that innovation can be supported in our service.