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.