Families Australia: submission to the Australian Government on the future directions of the Family Support Program (FSP)

(This is an extract of the full submission. Please contact Families Australia to request a copy of the full version)

Summary

We welcome the review and hope that the coming year will be used for a thorough process of consultation, especially taking the program back to an examination of family needs first rather than being shaped around existing service models.

FSP is an important program operating across a very broad platform of family support and with a diversity that requires significant levels of operational collaboration, integration and accountability to better support families and children as and when they require additional services giving children and young people the best start in life, surrounded by families and communities enabled to nurture and sustain them. The FSP should be continued and expanded.

It should retain a prime focus on families experiencing vulnerability and marginalisation, providing timely, appropriate and ease of access (no wrong door) to the services people need. The diverse elements of the FSP would benefit from enhanced levels of local integration and collaboration to enhance responsive and holistic support for children and families, including those families impacted on by intergenerational trauma such as the Forgotten Australians to enable the best possible access to national and locality based services and supports.

The FSP would also benefit from linkages to emerging national mental health and wellbeing programs such as those being rolled out as part of the 10 Year Road Map for National Mental Health Reform. Families Australia has called for higher levels of family engagement in treatment and recovery planning for family members with a mental illness and is pleased that this issue receives recognition in the first national report card on mental health and suicide prevention.

In order to facilitate enhanced integration and collaboration across the FSP sector, it is recommended that an investment be made in mapping the universal, secondary and targeted child, family and community service delivery settings across local government areas, to improve professional and community support for children and families. Using existing national data sets including and not limited to the following: the Australian Early Development Index; police data on domestic violence; NAPLAN; child protection notification; hospital; mental health and Centrelink data will assist in facilitating processes for understanding local need and more effectively using existing infrastructure. This recommendation is similar to the mapping project developed for Pathway to Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

It is important that the FSP becomes ever more responsive to the needs of families in their context, that is, services closely match local needs and requirements and do not adopt a template approach: one size does not fit all.

At the same time, it is important that, in accordance with a public health approach, which underpins the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, resources are not drawn away from universal supports, such as in health and community infrastructures which are provided to help prevent families experience vulnerability.

Hence, we continue to support the place-based model in the NGO Coalition’s paper From Crisis Response to Prevention (2012) as a centrepiece for the second three-year action plan under the National Framework, with its focus on encouraging greater collaboration between Government and NGOs in mapping community needs at local levels and assembling responses based on those needs. We recommend that greater attention be given to understanding and addressing the constraints on collaboration.

In particular, we strongly urge building greater partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations and the principle that there ought to be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community control of resources and decision making in planning and provision of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

 

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Future directions of the Family Support Program (November 2012)