About the NSW Women's Refuge Movement
The NSW Women's Refuge Movement has been operating for over 30 years and is incorporated as the NSW Women's Refuge Movement Working Party Inc (WRM WP Inc). This is a non-profit state-wide representative body of specialist domestic violence services. Member women and children's services aim to respond to community needs by providing a continuum of services to women and children who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness particularly when this is due to domestic and family violence.
The WRM WP Inc:
- Provides a supportive network and forum for refuge workers to discuss and promote best practice and exchange skills and knowledge
- Undertakes projects to facilitate the work and effective operation of member refuges
- Develops and provides resources and information about women and children's homelessness, domestic violence and related matters for refuge workers, the sector and the community
- Advises and informs Government about issues relating to domestic violence and sexual abuse, women and children's homelessness, and the needs of women and children as clients of SAAP and other services
- Works with government and community groups to improve responses to women and children escaping domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of abuse
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Principles underpinning the development and Implementation of a National Quality Framework
The NSW Women's Refuge Movement welcomes the opportunity to engage in the development of a National Quality Framework. The NSW Women's Refuge Movement is encouraged by the increased focus of both the Commonwealth and NSW Government in responding to homelessness and many of the drivers to homelessness, particularly domestic and family violence. We appreciate the Commonwealth Government's commitment to consulting with specialist homelessness services and other stakeholders on the development of a NQF. We also support the principles that will underpin the development and implementation of a NQF. Adherence to these principles will be an important factor in achieving good outcomes through the NQF. Additionally a NQF should be accompanied with a recognition that:
A stable and adequate funding environment is an essential component to responding to homelessness and driving ongoing service improvement.
These principles however are very much focused upon relationship between service providers, Government and a NQF. There are no principles supporting the development of NQF that has as its focus improving quality service provision to clients. During the development of the NQF and throughout its implementation Government and service providers should be continuously analyzing whether each component of a NQF and the framework as a whole will actually improve services to clients, in particular will the NQF contribute to improved integration between systems and services and how can we measure the success of the NQF?
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What is quality service provision?
What is needed in a NQF to take into account the scope and diversity of service responses across Australia and to ensure these are maintained?
The NSW WRM recognizes the dilemma between creating broad quality framework that can be applied across a broad range of organisations and developing a quality framework that is more targeted to particular agency types and target groups. On the one hand increasing regulatory burden on services can hinder service provision on the other a quality framework system that is too broad will not assist agencies in continuous quality improvement to their particular client group/s.
Specialist homelessness services (formerly known as SAAP services) in NSW are now funded and report through the Performance Monitoring Framework. The funding is administered through the Department of Human Services, Community Services. Additionally services must comply with Good Practice Guidelines for Community Services funded agencies. Whilst acknowledging the difference between 'performance measures' and a 'quality framework' the process of developing and implementing the PMF presented a similar dilemma. Fortunately, the development and implementation of the PMF occurred through consultation with the specialist homelessness sector and its relevant peak bodies which provided flexibility in responding to concerns and issues identified by the sector. Many of our member services had initially expressed concern that in its initial stages the PMF did not reflect the core business of women's refuges. That is improving the safety and wellbeing of women and children. Another key concern of refuges during the implementation of the PMF was that the ability of their services to meet some of the performance measures was dependent on the responsive of other agencies across diverse range of agencies and systems. These are two issues that will need to be taken into account during the development and implementation of the NQF. The submission will provide further comment on how a NQF should aim to improve responses of mainstream agencies to homeless people and those at risk of homelessness.
The initial frustration that was felt by women's refuges in relation to the PMF not reflecting their core business will most likely be applicable if the NQF only provides for a broad set of generic standards that cover all service types and target groups. This issue was addressed in the PMF by inclusion of specific targets and measures for women and children experiencing domestic and family violence.
There are several ways that a NQF could reflect the specialist role of homelessness services targeting women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, that supports the ongoing delivery to quality services to this client group. The NSW WRM would consider the development of a broad set of standards accompanied by practice guidelines for particular specialist services potentially useful in this regard. This will assist agencies in the ongoing provision and improvement of quality services to their target whilst not placing an additional reporting burden on services. The potential downfall of this, however is that ongoing service monitoring in relation to practice guidelines is likely to decrease over time unless there are sufficient resources and practices in place to encourage service providers to continually reflect on their practices and how they align with the practice guidelines.
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Do you agree with the characteristics of quality service provision outlined in the discussion paper?
What other key characteristics or elements should be included to describe quality service provision?
The WRM supports the characteristics of quality service provision outlined in the discussion paper. These characteristics are indeed important in the delivery of quality services across the broad range of services, client groups and locations. However, given that the single largest reason for people accessing specialist homelessness services is domestic and family violence we would recommend that an additional characteristic of quality service provision be:
- Improves the safety and wellbeing of the client.
The Road Home highlighted the need to improve responses to children; the NSW WRM WP Inc welcomed this acknowledgement1. Previously children accessing SAAP services with their guardian have not been acknowledged as clients in their own right within policy frameworks. It is critical the NQF acknowledge the need for quality service provision to children. Therefore, we propose that the second identified characteristic - 'responsive and timely and relevant to the need of the client'2 be amended to read 'responsive and timely and relevant to the need of the client, including children who have accompanied their parent/guardian to the service.'
How can mainstream and allied services be encouraged and supported to identify and respond to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness?
What quality approaches support stronger cross sector service integration and improved service delivery?
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Engaging mainstream service providers in the development of improved responses to homeless people or those at risk will be critical to achievement the aims of a National Quality Framework and the long term goal of reducing homelessness. As mentioned previously the ability of specialist homelessness services to achieve good outcomes with their clients is dependent upon appropriate and timely responses from mainstream agencies within a diverse range of service systems.
Women's refuges and their clients very often have to engage with a myriad of mainstream service providers to address a range of needs and issues. The NQF should provide mechanisms that require:
- Continuous improvement of Government and other mainstream agencies service provision to people who are homeless or those at risk of homelessness that engages agencies and Government at all levels to identify and address:
- Policies and practices that lead to homelessness or compromise the safety of the homeless or those at risk, including women and children experiencing domestic and family violence;
- Barriers to service provision to homeless people or those at risk of homelessness
The WRM acknowledges the recognition in the discussion paper that quality service provision from mainstream and allied services is 'critical to achieving overall outcomes'3. However, the WRM does not agree with the proposal of service charters as the only response to engaging mainstream and allied services in a National Quality Framework.
Service Charters, whilst useful in clarifying expectations and types of services to be delivered are not supported with transparent reporting mechanisms and provide little impetus of agencies to continuously improve service provision to homeless people and those at risk of homelessness. Additionally, service charters within mainstream agencies are not widely promoted or accessible.
The discussion paper notes that many mainstream and allied service providers already have quality processes in place. Whilst this may be true, the WRM is doubtful that these systems have developed standards for responding to homeless people and those at risk, including women and children escaping domestic and family violence. One potential way to address this gap without placing excessive administrative burden on these services would be the development of a additional standards and measures specific to responses to homeless people and those at risk including women and children experiencing domestic and family violence that can be integrated into existing quality systems.
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Mainstream and allied services to women and children experiencing domestic and family violence
It will be important for the NQF to engage key agencies that respond to domestic and family violence. Despite domestic and family violence being the major reason for homelessness coordination between the homelessness responses and other services and systems responding to domestic and family violence is often tenuous. Unfortunately, the need for specific response to domestic and family driven homelessness is often subsumed into broader homelessness dialogue and often the different responses required are overlooked. For example, discussions on how Police might respond better to homeless people would be very different for many rough sleepers as opposed to women and children escaping domestic and family violence.
Support for Mainstream and Specialist Homelessness Services to improve cross sector Service Integration
The report from the evaluation of SAAP IV that examined the themes of 'Practice and SAAP Service Sector Capacity' provides insight into the barriers that some SAAP services face when attempting to foster collaboration with other agencies to ensure integrated responses. The two barriers identified were the lack of models within various jurisdictions to develop integrated responses and that different SAAP services can relate to different parts of government which may have limited their capacity to integrate4. Often tailored responses to homelessness driven by domestic and family violence are overlooked and mainstream and allied services required to improve service responses and coordinated service delivery to women and children escaping domestic and family violence are not properly engaged. These barriers are still relevant however some progress has been made in improving collaboration through the concept of Regional Homelessness Plans in NSW.
It is critical that a NQF engage mainstream allied services to improve service provision and coordinated service delivery to women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, this engagement should be accompanied by accountability measures. Investment to support integration, and joint training and education would also be useful in this regard. The NQF should also provide a framework for identifying, reporting and addressing service system barriers.
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Which of these components could be considered in a national framework?
Are there other key components that should be included in a NQF?
The WRM appreciates the benefits that many of these potential components may bring to a NQF. Whichever components are used, however must be capable of actually assisting both mainstream and specialists to continuously improve service provision to homeless people and those at risk. The process should not be about just satisfying requirements, a NQF should provide support to agencies to continually reflect on their practices and strategies to make improvements.
The WRM will comment more extensively on the components of a NQF during the second round of consultations, regardless of what components are used the NQF must:
- Recognise diverse service types and sizes;
- Have mechanisms and resources in place to support smaller services to implement the NQF;
- Not placed under additional financial or administrative burden.
What currently works well in ensuring service quality in your state or territory?
The value of peak bodies in promoting quality service provision should also not be underestimated. There are three peaks in NSW that provide support to Government and homelessness service providers. The NSW Women's Refuge Movement is one of these organizations, over the years that WRM has developed many resources to support good practice service provision by women and children's refuges. These include the Open Door: Access and Equity Manual for women's refuges; Generic policies and procedures for women's refuges, the development of risk assessment processes for specialist homelessness services (in collaboration with other peaks and the SAAP training and Development Unit). Forums and conferences held by peak bodies are also of enormous value to service providers as it allows for the exchange of information, collaboration and promotion of good practice approaches.
- Commonwealth Government, 2008, The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness p.46
- Housing Ministers Conference, 2010A National Quality Framework to support quality services for people experiencing homelessness, p.4
- Housing Ministers Conference, 2010A National Quality Framework to support quality services for people experiencing homelessness
- Successworks Pty Ltd, 2004, National Evaluation of the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP IV) Component Evaluation Module Review of SAAP IV Strategic Themes in Practice and SAAP Service Sector Capacity, Australian Government, p.20