No. 20, 2021 | 3 December 2021
From FRSA's Executive Director
We are pleased to release work FRSA undertook over the last year, which looked at trends in service demand over the first six months of the pandemic in 2020, for family and relationship services (more on this below). Demand for services has, of course, been hugely impacted during the pandemic across sectors and across industries. Businesses such as cafes and restaurants have been forced to permanently close as extended lockdowns put a halt to service demand (and supply). At the same time, the demand for puppies and home renovations has increased ten-fold! Sadly, we’ve also seen disturbing increases in demand for family violence services and mental health supports.
Our sector has been no stranger to the impacts of the pandemic on service demand. We know that some of our members are, right now, experiencing unparalleled increases in demand for their services. Unsurprisingly, this increase is being experienced in regions that have been most impacted by lockdowns. In our conversations with members, it is clear that service demand trends are quite different across different parts of the country. There are many contributing factors at play in an environment that continues to change and throw up new surprises.
Our discussions with members at the close of 2021, are telling us the same thing we found in the service demand survey report we are releasing today. Service demand for our sector is complex. At a general level, service demand for family and relationship services is steadily increasing, while funding remains, in real terms, relatively static. To put this another way, funding has not kept pace with demand and the increasing cost of running services. The Centre for International Economics report we commissioned that was published back in March 2020 clearly demonstrated this fact. That was even before factoring in the impact of COVID-19 and demands on the sector. What is clear though, is that we have two vital funding issues ahead of us – the need to encourage Government to acknowledge and do something about the imbalance between funding for the family and relationship services sector and service demand and delivery costs. In addition to this, we also need to be encouraging Governments to develop flexible funding pools that can be used and accessed during specific periods of demand, such as the COVID-19 pandemic (with appropriate checks and balances in place of course). During the pandemic – governments have responded to issues in new and innovative ways in real time. Let’s hope the capacity to find solutions in this way to these complex problems is not lost as we find our way forward in the ‘new normal’.
Today is of course, International Day of People with Disability. Inclusiveness and accessibility are core themes of today’s celebrations and I have really been enjoying the ABC’s presentation of stories and specials highlighting the lives of people with disabilities in our community. Special thanks to the mums, dads, children, grandparents and extended family members who often work tirelessly and quietly to care for a family member/s with a disability.
On 19 November, the FRSA Annual General Meeting was held virtually with FRSA’s Annual Report released to coincide with the event. Thank you to those members who were able to attend. With an uncontested election this year, persons nominated to the FRSA Board and FRSA’s two co-opted members were ratified as FRSA Board Directors. Subsequent to the AGM, a FRSA Board Meeting was convened to elect Office Bearer Positions, which remained unchanged across all positions and committee membership for the next twelve months. This decision of the Board ensures ongoing momentum for the Board’s work under the strong leadership of Glenda Devlin as Board Chair, Teresa Jayet as Deputy Chair and Serge Sardo as Treasurer. Full details of Board Members, structure and committee membership are available on the FRSA webpage.
We have closed off the ‘Call for Abstracts’ process for the FRSA Conference being planned for next year – MONDAY, 16 May – THURSDAY 19 May. Monday is of course the pre-Conference workshop day and we are actively working with the membership to design and propose a number of options for Conference delegates to consider. Abstracts will be reviewed over the next few weeks and we hope to be out to authors before the year is out. It is great to see interest and enthusiasm for a FRSA Conference building among speakers, delegates, Conference partners and sponsors. Whilst the latest mutation of the COVID-19 virus might have other plans – we are busy working towards being able to bring the network together in May 2022. Registrations are open!
FRSA Executive Director
FRSA releases paper and report on service demand
This work stemmed from a member discussion in June 2020, which looked at how a robust picture of demand (including unmet demand) could be captured by the sector. The discussion took place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, and on the tail of devastating bushfires and floods.
Anecdotally, FRSA members reported increases in demand for some family and relationship services, and anticipated increases in demand for others – particularly as the longer-term effects of isolation, unemployment and financial uncertainty from the pandemic played out.
What became clear through the member discussion, however, was that there was no simple way to pull together data on service demand trends from across the sector to inform the Government’s response to the pandemic crisis. Members outlined several challenges to collecting data in a consistent way across programs and across providers.
It was agreed that FRSA would establish an advisory group to explore how to better identify and track service demand and need data. The Advisory Committee agreed that two pieces of work should be undertaken:
- Develop an issues paper that further explores the barriers to collecting accurate service demand data
- An exploratory survey with members to gain insights on the early impacts of COVID-19 on service demand.
The survey report shows that the first six months of the COVID pandemic impacted service demand levels across the sector in diverse ways. The complex service demand picture presented by respondents revealed the multiple factors at play in influencing service demand patterns – for example contextual factors like policy settings and different supply-side and demand-side factors.
The survey report brought to life the considerations and challenges to effectively capturing service demand discussed in the issues paper. Notwithstanding these challenges, FRSA believes that it is important our sector works with government to do more to understand the demand picture as the effects of the pandemic and other health, social, environmental and economic challenges unfold over time.
We hope that all stakeholders in the FRS sector committed to improved outcomes for children and families in Australia will see the benefit of coming together to work out how we can build a better picture of changing need and demand.
We encourage members and stakeholders to take the time to read the survey report and issues paper and to get in touch with the FRSA office if you have any questions or ideas.
Young people’s top issues and concerns in 2021
Young people in Australia aged 15 to 19 years have revealed their greatest issues in 2021 relate to COVID-19, the environment, equity and discrimination, mental health, education and job prospects in Mission Australia’s new Youth Survey Report 2021.
20,207 young people were surveyed for the 20th annual Youth Survey between April and August this year, the findings from the report provide rich and compelling evidence collected during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic about young people’s challenges, concerns, experiences and barriers to achieving their goals.
For the first time, COVID-19 is most important national issue according to young people, rising from second place in 2020 (38.8%) to the top spot in 2021 (45.7%) – an increase of 18%. Survey responses reveal the pandemic and associated public health responses had a negative effect on young people’s health, wellbeing and education in 2021. Young people said COVID-19 and the related lockdowns had adversely impacted their ability to participate in activities (68.3%), their education (62.3%) and mental health (50.3%). Female and gender diverse respondents reported feeling much more impacted by COVID-19 across almost all areas when compared with male respondents.
Financial wellbeing between COVID-19 lockdowns report
The Brotherhood of St Laurence has released their third paper in the Financial Lives in Uncertain Times series, A brief reprieve? Financial wellbeing after the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns.
The paper looks at the short and long-term impacts on several low-income groups. Their analysis showed that during the low-COVID period (October 2020 to March 2021) that followed the 2020 peak of the crisis, there was no ‘snap-back’ for people on the lowest incomes.
As government supports such as the Coronavirus Supplement were gradually withdrawn, many people were plunged (back) into poverty. Workers in affected industries continued to face challenges making ends meet, with employment and work-hours remaining below the pre-COVID level. Many who had drawn upon savings or taken on debt to get through the crisis faced a long rebuilding process to get back to their pre-crisis financial position.
Digital divide major issue according to Smith Family Survey
A new survey has found that digital inequity remains an overwhelming challenge for the students and families – as do concerns around the impact of lost learning and a lack of motivation for many schoolchildren. The Smith Family has released findings from their new national Smith Family Pulse Survey of the organisation’s front-line team members, who work with children throughout their schooling. The survey looked at the cumulative impact of the pandemic related 2020-21 lockdowns, on children and their education.
- Around three quarters (77%) of Smith Family support workers said that based on feedback from parents or schools, the students they support have missed learning as a direct result of COVID and/or lockdowns
- 75% of family support workers also said they had seen an impact on students’ motivation to learn as a direct result of COVID and/or lockdowns
- Based on what families and schools are telling them, 3 in 4 (75%) survey respondents also said that some students are at risk of disengaging with their learning as a result of disruption caused by COVID, with 45% of family support workers surveyed saying some students are at risk of not returning to school when they fully reopen, or in 2022.
- 87% of family support workers surveyed said that digital issues are continuing to impact on students and families, from a lack of access to devices and reliable internet, to a lack of digital skills or capability.
FRSA National Conference 2022 - REGISTER TODAY FOR EARLY BIRD RATES!
As we look forward to 2002, don’t forget to register for the FRSA National Conference 2022 and take advantage of our Early Bird discount rate for your conference registration!
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A win for democracy – ACNC regulations disallowed
On 25 November, the Australian Senate voted to disallow the ACNC regulations amending Governance Standard 3. This was a great win for democracy with the Senate rejecting Government regulations that would silence Australian charities.
As we reported in an earlier edition of the eBulletin, along with many in the charities sector (and beyond), FRSA held grave concerns about the harsh new regulations for the charitable sector proposed by federal Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar through amendments to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Regulation 2013.
The proposed regulations threatened the valuable contribution the charitable sector makes, effectively silencing the sector and the vulnerable and disenfranchised that our sector seeks to give a voice. In August, FRSA wrote to all parliamentarians voicing our concerns and encouraging them to oppose the proposed amendments.
FRSA acknowledges the tireless work of the ‘Hands of Our Charities’ network and allies in securing this important win for the charitable sector and the people of Australia.
Unfortunately, this win has been followed with another blow to democracy. The government, with Labor’s support, passed amendments to electoral laws on Wednesday that may curb charities from advocating on political issues during election campaigns.
The changes may require charities that advocate on political matters during campaigns to register as a “significant third party” and declare their donors if their electoral expenditure rises above a threshold of $250,000. That is a halving of the current $500,000 threshold. The changes are also being applied retrospectively.
It is deeply disappointing to see the significant role charities contribute to society by adding to public discourse – including in election periods – being undermined by these changes.
Public consultation on Family Report Writers extended
The Attorney-General’s Department consultation on ‘Improving the competency and accountability of family report writers’ has been extended until 17 December 2021.
Family report writers play an essential role in family law parenting matters before the family law courts. They also play an important role in obtaining and representing children’s views to the court.
However, reports and public inquiries have raised concerns about the quality of family reports and some of the professionals involved in preparing the reports.
The Australian Government agreed in principle with the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendation 53, that the Attorney-General’s Department should develop a mandatory national accreditation scheme for private family report writers on the basis that it supports ensuring professionals in the family law system are appropriately qualified, trained and accountable.
The Department’s consultation paper – Improving the competency and accountability of family report writers – and further information on the consultation are available online.
Final Parliamentary report on Australia’s Family Law System tabled
The third interim report contains 19 recommendations on the Child Support Scheme, including: it’s accessibility; stakeholder consultation; the availability of data; child support debts and government guarantees; proving parentage; and the use of the scheme to perpetuate financial abuse. The report also discusses and makes recommendations on specific issues regarding the Child Support Scheme’s assessment formula.
The final report notes the government actions and Family Court initiatives since March 2021 and makes some further recommendations supplementary to those made in the second and third interim reports.
All reports and information about the inquiry are available online.
Anglicare Tasmania release phase two of Treasured Lives report
Anglicare Tasmania has released part two of their Treasured Lives research report. This part of the research explored what Tasmanian services need to help older people who have challenges with hoarding or maintaining a healthy home.
It looked at aged care and disability support, and other services like housing and mental health. It also explored the role of statutory agencies such as emergency services, local government environmental health and animal welfare organisations.
Staff working in these areas were interviewed to ask what it’s like for them. They reported that they had nowhere to refer their client to and were sometimes unable to work with them due to workplace health and safety issues. There some of the most vulnerable older Tasmanians, but there is no safety net to help them age well.
The Orange Door Network open in Southern Melbourne
The Orange Door Network in Southern Melbourne opened in early November providing families with access coordinated family violence and family wellbeing services to recover and rebuild.
The Orange Door network in Southern Melbourne is a partnership between FRSA member Anglicare Victoria and Dandenong and District Aborigines Co-Operative Ltd, Uniting, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Wayss Ltd and the Andrews Labor Government.
The Orange Door delivers a central access point to access support for family violence and child wellbeing and family services, ranging from crisis assistance, assistance to families under stress, risk assessments, safety planning and immediate wellbeing support for children and families to help access a range of community-based services. Read more.
AIFS welcomes new Deputy Director, Research
The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) have announced their new Deputy Director of Research, Dr Rae Kaspiew. Dr Kaspiew extensive body of research work has focused on the issues that raise challenges for families, including relationship separation, family violence and elder abuse. She joined AIFS in 2007. Since then she has undertaken research which has contributed significantly to legislative and policy reform, most notably the evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms and the 2012 family violence amendments.
AIFS also announced new key senior appointments in the organisation:
- Dr Rachel Carson, Program Lead, Family Law, Family Violence and Elder Abuse
- Dr Lisa Mundy, Program Lead for the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (from 17 January 2022).
Congratulations to the AIFS team.
BaptistCare NSW/ACT farewells General Manager
Rob Ellis has finished up his role as General Manager – Community Services & Housing at BaptistCare NSW/ACT at the end of November.
Mr Ellis has worked in the for-purpose sector for more than 25 years and joined BaptistCare in 2010. Throughout his time at BaptistCare Rob has worked tirelessly to address significant and entrenched social issues, including domestic and family violence and homelessness.
Elizabeth Hukins has been appointed as acting General Manager of Community Services & Housing from 26 November, while a recruitment process is completed.
Join almost 9000 others in the campaign to lift incomes and build homes
In October, Raise the Rate For Good launched a joint petition with Everybody’s Home and Anti-Poverty Week calling on the Treasurer to make sure everyone can keep a safe roof over their head and food on the table.
So far, almost 9000 people have added their name to that call, to increase Jobseeker and other income support payments and invest in social housing so that everyone can cover the basics and keep a safe roof over their head.
Fourth Families in Australia Survey open
The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) is calling on every Australian to share their experience in the Families in Australia Survey. The survey helps to understand the circumstances and wellbeing of families over time. The Institute wants to hear about family relationships, connections, support given and received and how COVID-19 has affected families. The survey is open to anyone over 18 years of ages in every type of family.
Make your experience count. AIFS will share the insights from the survey with government decision makers and service providers. The findings will help inform decisions on family policy programs and initiatives.
As a thank you, participants in the survey will have an opportunity to opt into a random draw for one of five $500 shopping vouchers.
Please share the survey throughout your networks [https://aifs.gov.au/fia-survey]
Starting better: a guarantee for young children and families | Centre for Policy Development
This report proposes a Guarantee for Young Children and Families – a new pillar of Australia’s social deal. The guarantee is based on evidence of what has the greatest impact and what will work best for Australian children and families. It combines universal services to help all children thrive, with bespoke support to meet families’ needs and aspirations.
Modern work: how changes to the way we work are impacting Australians’ mental health | Black Dog Institute
The research presented in this white paper focuses on workplace mental health. The key question this paper seeks to answer is what, if any, impact have these seismic changes had on the mental health of Australian workers?
Stronger together: loneliness and social connectedness in Australia | Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre
This report examines trends in social connectedness in Australia and assesses their implications for human wellbeing and development. The findings from this report are intended to increase public understanding around key issues of loneliness and belonging, social inclusion and connectedness, and identifies actionable policies and strategies that can help strengthen Australia’s social fabric.
Working from home, or living at work? | Centre for Future Work
2021 marks the thirteenth annual Go Home on Time Day, an initiative of the Centre for Future Work focusing on overwork among Australians, including excessive overtime that is often unpaid. This year’s report considers whether home work will become the ‘new normal’ for many workers, even after the acute phase of the pandemic finally passes – and what new pressures on working hours, work-life balance and unpaid overtime are unleashed by the work-from-home phenomenon.
National framework for protecting Australia’s children 2021-2031: successor plan consultation report | SNAICC – National Voice for our Children
From late March 2021 until the end of April 2021, SNAICC conducted a series of national consultations to guide the co-design of the successor framework to the National framework for protecting Australia’s children. This consultation report provides details on the consultation process and feedback from participants.
This paper identifies the common elements of evidence-based parenting programs that support children’s (aged 0–12 years) mental health through parental separation to inform the decisions practitioners make in their practice with separating families.
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