Program overview and FSP services
- What is the Family Support Program?
- What are the reforms to the Family Support Program?
- What impacts or benefits will the reforms have?
- How are FSP services supporting the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children?
- How are the FSP services supporting the Closing the Gap Strategy?
- Will the Family Support Drought Response Team initiative continue?
- Will there be any changes to the geographic areas covered by service providers?
- Will providers of family relationship, education and skills training be able to continue providing these services under FSP?
What is the Family Support Program?
The Family Support Program (FSP) is a national program that provides funding to non-government organisations to support families and children, especially those who are vulnerable and in areas of disadvantage. It provides early intervention and preventative family support focusing on family relationships, parenting and family law services to help people navigate life events. It also aims to protect children who are at risk of neglect or abuse.
The FSP complements state and territory government services to help support families during critical life events and provide access to a wider range of support for families living in locations of high and/or multiple disadvantage.
Family support services are a vital part of the Australian Government's efforts as part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children to intervene early to guard against the abuse and neglect of our children and to complement the state and territory governments' child protection systems.
What are the reforms to the Family Support Program?
On 3 November 2010, Minister Macklin outlined reforms to the Family Support Program to better target vulnerable and disadvantaged families and coordinate services for families and children, reduce red tape and paperwork for service providers and enable them to work more flexibly to meet the local needs of children and families.
The new FSP will commence on 1 July 2011 and will comprise two core streams:
- Family and Children's Services
- Family Law Services
Family and Children's Services will be streamlined into four broad service types:
- Communities for Children (CfC) Services: to provide prevention and early intervention to families with children up to 12 years, who are disadvantaged or at risk of disadvantage and who are not in touch with children's services. This will include meeting the needs of Indigenous families in remote locations;
- Family and Relationship Services: to deal with relationship issues, counselling for adults and children and broader parenting support;
- Specialist Services: which have particular knowledge and skills for dealing with vulnerable families affected by issues such as drugs, violence and trauma; and
- Community Playgroups to support parents with young children.
Family Law Services comprise:
- Family Relationship Centres which offer information, advice and referral on parenting and family relationships to all families;
- dispute resolution services to separating and separated families to help them reach agreement on parenting arrangements in the best interests of their children without the need to go to court; and
- post-separation support services which help families manage the process and impacts of separation in the best interests of children.
National services such as the Family Relationship Advice Line and Mensline will work alongside existing services to ensure families across Australia have access to more integrated services, especially during critical life events. Family Relationships Online and the Raising Children Network are national online websites that enhance awareness of locally available services and resources assisting families.
For more details on FSP services, refer to the diagram which illustrates the FSP program structure from 1 July 2011.
What impacts or benefits will the reforms have?
The FSP provides a range of family support activities from broad-based counselling services to intensive parenting support for families with children at risk of neglect and abuse.
Under the reformed FSP from July 2011, services will be required to focus on the best interests of children and take a whole-of-family approach. Many services already provide this type of support. However, some services may need to adjust service orientation. For example, existing adult-targeted relationship services will need to ensure that families have access to parenting support and counselling for children.
Providers will also be required to ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families (and those at risk of being disadvantaged) have priority. This means providers might have to take their service to where families live or link it to other support such as baby health clinics or community centres.
The FSP will continue to deliver early intervention and prevention services for children at risk of neglect and abuse and it will also provide tailored and professional support through family law services.
Reporting requirements will be more streamlined and funding will be more flexible. This means less administrative burden for services so they can spend more time working with families. Services will also have greater flexibility to offer a broader range of activities to families and to tailor support to meet the changing needs of families.
How are FSP services supporting the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children?
The Commonwealth provides universal or broadly available family support such as child care benefits, family payments, playgroups, early intervention and prevention measures, relationship and counselling services. This support assists parents to navigate life events and build good parenting practices so that children are resilient, and aids in minimising the stresses and strains of relationship difficulty and breakdown.
In targeted locations, the Commonwealth will also be a partner in providing a wider range of intensive services, including the FSP's Communities for Children services. This support will complement the work of the States and Territories, which will retain responsibility for child protection services.
How are the FSP services supporting the Closing the Gap Strategy?
The FSP is a key part of the Government's Closing the Gap strategy to reduce Indigenous disadvantage. The strategy includes specific targets to close the gap in outcomes in life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, literacy and numeracy, educational achievement and employment.
Through a range of activities which focus on early intervention, community organisations funded under the FSP play an important role in helping vulnerable Indigenous families and children with relationships, parenting and nurturing children so that they get the best possible start in life.
The National Indigenous Reform Agreement – agreed by COAG in November 2008 – commits all jurisdictions to achieving the closing the gap targets. In urban and regional locations, the emphasis will be on improving the performance of mainstream programs, making them more responsive and accessible to Indigenous Australians. Progress towards achievement of the targets is being carefully monitored by COAG and all government agencies, and those non-government organisations delivering services on behalf of government are accountable for their contribution towards meeting these targets.
Will the Family Support Drought Response Team initiative continue?
The Family Support Drought Response Teams initiative is designed specifically for individuals and families, including small business owners, who are affected by drought. This initiative is funded on an annual basis to enable Government to assess areas of need in a timely manner. The program is currently funded until 30 June 2011. Future funding will be considered as part of the Budget process.
The Rural and Regional Family Support Service (RRFSS) under the Western Australia Pilot is also currently funded until 30 June 2011. Future funding for RRFSS will be considered as part of the Budget process.
Will there be any changes to the geographic areas covered by service providers?
It is expected that the majority of service providers will continue to service their current geographic area. If a disadvantaged area is identified as needing family support services, FaHCSIA may enter into discussions with service provider(s) to negotiate a change to the area covered under their funding agreement.
Will providers of family relationship, education and skills training be able to continue providing these services under FSP?
Early intervention and prevention services will remain an important part of FSP. The FSP will continue to provide funding for early intervention and preventative family support, including pre marriage education and couple counselling as part of the service mix, as appropriate in their community. However, pre marriage education or couple counselling cannot be the sole focus, especially where it is not reaching families that may be disadvantaged or vulnerable. As most current Family Relationship Education and Skills Training providers are already delivering broader parenting and child-focused services, or can make linkages with services that do, this requirement is not expected to affect many services. FaHCSIA will work with any service providers that need to broaden support to help them evolve from a predominantly relationship focus to provide more broad-based child and parenting services.