- Part 1: Overview
- Part 2: Participatory action research
- Part 3: Funding for the program
- Part 4: Site visits and evaluation
- Part 5: Complaint and dispute resolution
- Part 6: Contacting FaHCSIA and Centrelink
- Part 7: Glossary of terms and abbreviations
- Attachment A
- Attachment B
Part 1: Overview
The Household Organisation Management Expenses (HOME) Advice Program is an early intervention program aimed at assisting families at risk of homelessness to manage their finances and household expenses in order to prevent future accommodation crises. The HOME Advice Program consists of one community organisation and one Centrelink social worker in each state and territory, who work collaboratively to assist families at risk of homelessness. Centrelink social workers provide clients with detailed advice on Centrelink services, while community organisations provide specialised assistance around a range of issues.
The program is managed by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA).
Data has indicated that families represent a significant proportion of clients seeking crisis accommodation services through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP). Over the period 2007–08 assistance to families was provided on more than 65,800 occasions (or support periods), with the majority (91%) of assistance to families being provided to families with children (59,600).
During 2007–08, families with children were provided with over one quarter (28%) of the support periods provided to SAAP clients. While the majority of these families were women with children (47,900), there were also couples with children (8,900) and men with children (2,800).1
Research indicates that children affected by homelessness are significantly disadvantaged, in terms of available family support, emotional development, educational attainment and health. HOME Advice community agencies will work with and provide specific support to the children of family groups at risk of homelessness.
The Program has eight service partnerships throughout Australia (one located in each State/Territory).
The Australian Government released the White Paper on Homelessness – The Road Home, on 21 December 2008. The HOME Advice Program contributes to the White Paper by implementing the Turning Off the Tap strategy, preventing families from becoming homeless, wherever possible.2
The objective of the HOME Advice Program is:
To identify effective methods of recognising families at risk of homelessness and provide early assistance to prevent family homelessness occurring.
1.3 Target Group
The HOME Advice Program delivers services to families who are at risk of homelessness, before they reach the crisis stage. Families particularly targeted by this program include those with young children, Indigenous families and families affected by violence.
1.4 Service Locations
HOME Advice is located in each State and Territory.
Services under the HOME Advice Program are being provided in the following service locations:
- Belconnen, Australian Capital Territory;
- Wyong, New South Wales;
- Darwin/Palmerston, Northern Territory;
- Beenleigh, Queensland;
- Salisbury, South Australia;
- Launceston, Tasmania;
- Dandenong, Victoria; and
- Mandurah, Western Australia.
Services may also be provided to families, within any other part of the participating Centrelink Customer Service Centre service delivery boundary, if caseload numbers allow this. It is understood that there will be exceptions, for example, if a client family moves outside of the service delivery area. In such circumstances it will be up to both the community agency and Centrelink to negotiate arrangements.
1.5 Service Partnership Model
A key element of the HOME Advice Program is the service partnership model. The model aims to ensure a collaborative and professional relationship between the community agency and the Centrelink social worker from the participating local Centrelink office.
Under this model the community agency and the participating local Centrelink office (the 'service partnership') will develop a way of working together particular to the location and needs of their client community. While these methods will be different from site to site, it is expected that there will also be significant similarities between sites. The sites around Australia are encouraged to maintain communication with each other to learn from each others' experiences and models.
Due to the greater level of contracted responsibility, community agencies are required to take a leadership role in developing and managing the service. This includes working closely with the Centrelink social worker allocated to the program. The Centrelink social worker should contribute to planning, discussion and decision making processes.
Service partnerships need to be developed and maintained so that the roles and responsibilities of each agency's workers are clear and agreed between the parties. The agreed roles and responsibilities should be clearly articulated in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that must be jointly negotiated between the community agency and the local Centrelink office. This includes open communication and information sharing between the parties to ensure everyone is fully informed and able to contribute to the success of the Partnership at all times. It is encouraged that this MOU is revisited and updated on an annual basis.
Service partnerships for the HOME Advice Program do not have a defined organisational structure for all sites. Due to the nature of the Program the service partnership model is different in each site, to ensure the most appropriate service is provided to client families in each local area. All HOME Advice workers should recognise that each service partnership is made up of staff from two very different organisational cultures: the non-government sector and Centrelink. Key differences in the organisational cultures may, at times, create some difficulties in building and maintaining the partnership.
Strong and effective service partnerships should be built on the following key components:
- a shared commitment to the Program;
- shared concerns about clients;
- mutual respect – acknowledging individuals from both organisations bring diverse but valuable experiences and opinions to the Program; and
- open communication and information sharing.
In order for workers in community agencies to learn more about Centrelink's work culture, Centrelink will offer all new community agency workers the opportunity to participate in an inbound program of up to one week in the participating Centrelink office. The community agency may also offer an inbound program for the Centrelink social worker.
Community agencies will receive referrals of families at risk of homelessness from Centrelink. They will also facilitate referrals from other points of contact using locally developed strategies.
There will be four key service delivery elements to the provision of services by community agencies under the HOME Advice Program:
1.5.1 Direct Service Delivery
Community agencies will deliver a range of services directly to families. For example, they may provide counselling, mediation, family and child focussed therapy and conflict resolution. These services will be delivered in ways that are flexible and accessible to families including outreach support, on-site service delivery and telephone support.
HOME Advice community agencies will not be expected to work with families who have reached the crisis situation of being homeless. These families should be referred to a crisis service for assistance.
HOME Advice community agency staff will be responsible for using their professional judgment to gauge the level and duration of support that each client family requires. The duration of support provided to client families has not been limited as it is recognised that both the level and duration of support that is needed will vary from family to family.
It is estimated that each HOME Advice Community Agency will assist at least 50 eligible HOME Advice client families per year. Please note that this estimate does not include Non-Engagement client families (as defined at 1.6.1). Each HOME Advice service will record their clients' details in Family Case forms which are due to FaHCSIA the 15th day of the month following the end of each quarter (see 4.3.1). The data collected in these forms is based on cases which were closed during the preceding quarter. HOME Advice services are to advise FaHCSIA of the number of ongoing client families they are supporting when they submit their Family Case forms and Non-Engagement client spreadsheet on the 15th day of the month following the end of each quarter.
The number of families serviced will vary depending on the length and intensity of the support required. HOME Advice providers are expected to increase their client capacity by developing strong linkages with other local services who can assist clients with particular needs, for example, public housing officers, employment services and schools (see 1.5.4).
The annual site visits and Annual Progress Reports will give community agencies the opportunity to elaborate and explain the reasons for any variations on this target, which will be assessed by FaHCSIA Officers. FaHCSIA recognises that there is a complex range of factors influencing the actual number of families assisted by community agencies. This may result in more or less families being assisted in each location. Evaluation of client numbers is, therefore, to be carried out on a site-by-site basis, acknowledging that quality of service is an important factor in evaluating the performance of HOME Advice sites.
1.5.2 Information, Advocacy and Referral
Community agencies will provide information; advocacy and referral support to HOME Advice client families and refer them to other resources that are available in the community. As part of this service delivery element, community agencies will take an active interest in the progress of referred clients and will monitor their progress.
1.5.3 Purchased Services (Brokerage Funds)
Community agencies have the capacity to use flexible brokerage funds to provide additional generalist and specialist support to meet individual family needs. Brokerage funds are to be used where there is no reasonable alternative source of support available for families.
Community agencies may, for example choose to purchase counselling, health or occasional care services for their client families. They may also choose to use brokerage funds to provide additional support such as financial assistance or material aid. It is up to HOME Advice community agencies to determine an approach that best works for their client families. As a guide, 5% of annual funding should be reserved for brokerage.
1.5.4 Working Collaboratively
Community agencies will be expected to network and develop effective working relationships with a range of core services, including crisis services. For example: housing services; schools; drug and alcohol services; mental health services; family support services; emergency relief services; employment services; and social and community support services.
As part of this service delivery element, community agencies will work closely and collaboratively with Centrelink to facilitate the referral of families to their service and to ensure families are able to access income support and other relevant Centrelink services.
The development of effective working relationships will be particularly important where an integrated case management approach is needed, and multiple community agencies are involved in providing services to a family and/or individual family member.
1.6 Policy and Program Principles
1.6.1 Definitions of Clients
HOME Advice client family:
- a family who is at risk of homelessness, but not yet homeless, who resides within the participating Centrelink Customer Service Centre service delivery boundary (see 1.4).
Services should collect data for each of these families on Family Case forms.
If a service provider wishes to provide a longer term service to a family outside the specific eligibility requirements, it must be discussed with FaHCSIA and written approval obtained. If approval is given, these families will become full HOME Advice client families and any data should be collected on Family Case forms.
In recognition of the work services complete with families or individuals who are either not eligible for the HOME Advice program, or are eligible for the HOME Advice program but are referred on due to lack of capacity at the service, the Non-Engagement Client spreadsheet is available to record service interaction with these clients and identify trends of ineligible client referral and demand for HOME Advice services.
A non-engagement client is:
- a family who has been assessed as NOT being eligible as a HOME Advice client family; OR
- a family who has been assessed as being eligible as a HOME Advice client family but cannot be assisted as the service is at full capacity; and
- who has received a very short term of support/intervention, such as on-referral.
The limited amount of support given to non-engagement clients is to be recorded in the Non-Engagement Client spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is to be submitted to the Department on the 15th day of the month following each quarter, along with the service's completed Family Case forms.
A Client Engagement flow chart, which illustrates the data processes to follow with different types of clients which may present to HOME Advice, can be found at Attachment A.
1.6.2 Definition of Family
The HOME Advice Program defines a family as a group of two or more persons who usually live in the same household and who are related to each other by blood, de facto or domestic relationship / partnership or adoption.
1.6.3 Definitions of Homelessness
At risk of homelessness:
- in daily practice, HOME Advice workers make judgements about 'risk' by taking into account a complex body of qualitative information about a family's circumstances. Factors that need to be considered include declining financial stability, low levels of financial literacy, escalating family conflict or dysfunction and reduced tolerance, substance abuse by family members, academic performance of children, decreased social/community participation and evidence of deteriorating mental health.
- families can also be at risk of homelessness if their living situation conforms to the tertiary homelessness or marginally housed categories.
Primary homelessness is defined as:
- people without conventional accommodation, such as people living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings, using cars or railway carriages for temporary shelter, or living in improvised dwellings.
Secondary homelessness includes:
- people who move frequently from one form of temporary accommodation to another, including:
- people using various types of emergency accommodation (such as hostels, night shelters and refuges);
- people residing temporarily with other households (because they have no accommodation of their own); and
- those using boarding houses on an occasional or intermittent basis.
Tertiary homelessness encompasses:
- people who live in single rooms in private boarding houses on a medium to long-term basis. They do not have a separate bedroom and living room; they do not have kitchen and bathroom facilities of their own; their accommodation is not self-contained; and they do not have security of tenure provided by a lease.
Marginally housed refers to:
- people who have housing situations close to the minimum cultural standard. These standards also take into account the stability of that housing as a key factor.
1.6.4 Definition of Early Intervention
Under the HOME Advice Program, early intervention is defined as 'any support provided to families at risk of homelessness who are not yet homeless'.
1.7 Performance Management Framework
The performance management framework will enable:
- measurement of the HOME Advice Program's performance;
- identification of responsibilities for program performance at each level of measurement;
- management of community agency and Centrelink performance by clearly identifying program outputs; and
- preparation of formal reports on program performance, for example, the FaHCSIA Annual Report.
The HOME Advice Program Logic can be found at Attachment B. The program logic links the outcomes, outputs, processes and inputs for the program and identifies who is responsible at each step.
Performance data is collected using data collection forms for each family assisted and via the annual service visit by FaHCSIA staff and the Annual Progress Report. These evaluation mechanisms will contribute to performance monitoring in accordance with the community agency Outputs detailed below (see 1.7.2).
Centrelink performance will be reported separately under the Centrelink Service Delivery Agreement (CSDA) between FaHCSIA and Centrelink.
Medium level outcomes for the HOME Advice Program are:
- methods of recognising families at risk of homelessness identified;
- early assistance provided to families to prevent family homelessness; and
- client families' accommodation circumstances are stabilised.
Contributing to the success of these outcomes are the following service delivery and early intervention outcomes:
- Families experience:
- stable or improved economic (financial) position;
- improved access to educational or employment participation activities;
- greater participation in community and social activities; and
- improved health and well-being.
- Early intervention:
- enhanced 'first to know' agencies' capacity to intervene early to prevent family homelessness;
- increased referrals to the HOME Advice Program from 'first-to-know' agencies; and
- enhanced community awareness of the HOME Advice Program.
Community agencies and Centrelink will contribute to these outcomes by demonstrating successful achievements against the following outputs:
- living situation improved or maintained;
- housing debt addressed and/or renegotiated;
- income support entitlements are correct;
- Centrelink debt issues addressed;
- debt management, financial counselling and budgeting skills development;
- child support issues addressed; and
- appropriate use of brokerage funds.
Family health and well-being outputs:
- counselling and/or referral services including domestic and family violence services;
- personal development programs including parenting and/or relationship skills;
- health services;
- culturally appropriate social and/or community participation activities; and
- appropriate use of brokerage funds.
- referral to employment programs;
- education and training opportunities;
- children's schooling stabilised; and
- appropriate use of brokerage funds.
Early intervention outputs:
- information on HOME Advice Program provided to 'first-to-know' agencies.
Successful achievements against these Outputs will be evaluated at an annual service visit by FaHCSIA staff, and through an Annual Progress Report submitted by the community agency and in consultation with the Centrelink social workers. More detail on reporting requirements can be found in Part 3.
1.8 Roles and Responsibilities under the Program
1.8.1 FaHCSIA Role and Responsibilities
Under the HOME Advice Program, FaHCSIA is responsible for:
- providing support and assistance to funded community agencies through:
- management and communication of data;
- administration and analysis of reports;
- providing advice on and clarification of Australian Government policy; and
- other program management activities.
- involving community agencies and Centrelink in the development and planning of services under the HOME Advice Program through annual site visits, regular teleconferences and ongoing ad hoc consultation, as required;
- meeting the terms and conditions of the Funding Agreement established with community agencies;
- meeting the terms and conditions of the Centrelink Service Delivery Agreement;
- ensuring that services provided under the Program are accountable to the Australian Government under the terms agreed in the Funding Agreement; and
- administering the operation of the Program in a timely, accountable and efficient manner.
1.8.2 Community Agency Role and Responsibilities
Community agencies are the lead agency for the HOME Advice Program and are responsible for delivering and coordinating a range of services to families at risk of homelessness.
The community agency is responsible for:
- providing quality support services to HOME Advice Program clients in the areas of:
- financial assistance;
- family health and well-being;
- participation; and
- early intervention.
- developing and maintaining a collaborative service partnership model with Centrelink together with a Memorandum of Understanding (see 1.5);
- improving the quality of services through participatory action research;
- implementing sound management practices covering such practices as:
- the use of strategic and operational plans;
- ensuring accessibility for diverse client groups;
- supervision of practitioners;
- the provision of training and development opportunities for staff;
- ensuring client and staff safety; and
- utilising client feedback mechanisms;
- meeting the Terms and Conditions of the Funding Agreement established with the Australian Government; and
- contributing to the overall development of the Program through participation in annual site visits by FaHCSIA and Centrelink National Office staff, participation in regular teleconferences, and preparation (with assistance from Centrelink social workers) of Annual Progress Reports.
1.8.3 Centrelink Roles and Responsibilities
Centrelink will provide a Centrelink social worker for the equivalent of 3 days a week.
The Centrelink social worker assists the community agency directly with the financial assistance and early intervention outputs. This occurs through:
- working closely and collaboratively with their community agency and supporting them in their role as lead service delivery agency. Depending on the service partnership model adopted in each site, this role could include: joint assessments of client families; joint casework of client families; including preparation and completion of case plans; participation in case conferences; home visits to client families with or without the community agency worker; outreach work; and promotion of the program;
- Identifying and referring families who are eligible for the HOME Advice Program by:
- publicising the HOME Advice Program amongst their Centrelink social work team, Customer Service Centre (CSC) teams, and office management;
- conducting assessments of families' circumstances;
- contacting potentially eligible families and providing information about the HOME Advice Program; and
- recording all clients on the Centrelink mainframe, the Social Workers Information System (SWIS) and either the HOME Advice Program Casual Client or Family Case forms;
- Addressing client families' Centrelink issues, such as Centrelink debts, and ensuring clients receive correct payments and appropriate Centrelink services. This can occur through:
- advocacy for clients within the Centrelink system;
- carrying out more comprehensive assessments than would be possible outside of the HOME Advice Program;
- providing more assisted internal and external referrals;
- providing ongoing follow-up as a consistent contact person in Centrelink;
- utilising Centrelink's discretion available through the 'special consideration' criteria;
- ensuring that Employment Preparation Plans (EPPs) for jobseeking clients are appropriate and correct; and
- providing information about Centrepay services;
- Educating clients about Centrelink processes, obligations, activities and future changes;
- Developing and maintaining a collaborative service partnership model with the community agency contracted by FaHCSIA to deliver the HOME Advice Program;
- Contributing to the improvement of services through participatory action research;
- Meeting the terms and conditions of the Centrelink Service Delivery Agreement established with FaHCSIA; and
- Contributing to the overall development of the Program by participating in annual site visits by FaHCSIA and Centrelink National Support Office staff, participating in regular teleconferences, and involvement with community agencies in preparing Annual Progress Reports.
1.9 Service Standards
FaHCSIA may determine service standards for the provision of HOME Advice services. Service standards may be informed by the:
- monitoring, evaluation and participatory action research activity referred to in these Guidelines;
- existing service standards and the performance of community agencies; and
- consultations with Funding Recipients and/or agencies.
Any service standards or amendments to existing service standards that are determined by FaHCSIA will be notified in writing to all Funding Recipients at least one month prior to them coming into effect and may involve the re-issuing of the Program Guidelines.
1.10 Eligible Organisations
To be eligible for Funding under the Program an organisation must:
- be a non profit organisation;
- be an incorporated body; and
- be managed by an elected board, committee or equivalent, the members of which are drawn from the community serviced by the organisation (organisations where elected boards of management have been replaced by State appointed boards are exempt from the requirement that the boards' members must be elected);
- be a local government organisation.
Part 2: Participatory action research
Community agencies are required to reflect on their practices and continuously explore new and better ways of delivering their service. This is done through 'Participatory Action Research'.
Participatory Action Research is intentional, reflective learning from experience. It takes place informally during everyday tasks in the workplace. If you recognise a problem or limitation in your workplace, plan how to resolve the problem, put the plan into action, see what happens, reflect on the outcomes, revise the solution if necessary, and make notes on what has occurred. Through effective communication and reflection, others within the site or other sites within the program can then utilise the new practice. This section gives community agencies the opportunity to document the outcomes and learnings of their action research.
Participatory action research has two core goals:
- a better understanding of what influences practice; and
- the application of this understanding in a continuous process of improvement.
The value of this approach for prevention and early intervention programs is that organisations can gain a better understanding of local community and family needs, and continuously improve their practice using this knowledge.
All community agencies funded in the HOME Advice Program are required to use participatory action research approaches to continuously reflect on and improve their service. This should involve:
- commitment to including clients in the processes surrounding service improvement. Clients have first-hand knowledge about what makes a service responsive and effective. Clients' views should be taken into account when planning improvements;
- a commitment to including other local services and community members who could play a role in developing local early intervention capacity;
- using cyclic phases made up of reflecting, planning, acting and observing;
- sharing experiences and understanding with other HOME Advice community agencies; and
- refining processes in response to the understanding gained.
Participatory action research is active and ongoing. HOME Advice community agencies will need to regularly explore questions and identify strategies to get a better understanding of family needs. This process should result in planning and practice improvements over time.
Participatory action research is a good way to encourage clients to become involved in the service. However, HOME Advice Program workers need to be creative about how they conduct their participatory action research, as formal methods can be intimidating, inappropriate or ineffective.
Part 3: Funding for the program
The program can only fund costs directly connected to the activities and outcomes of the program.
- direct service delivery staffing costs – service delivery staff salaries and on-costs, professional development, supervision, conferences, training, insurance, job advertising;
- administration staffing costs – administration staff salaries and on-costs, professional development, training, conferences, insurance, job advertising;
- travel expenses - costs associated with staff travel and motor vehicles used for the purpose of transporting staff or clients to service delivery outlets (include car in salary package as salary cost);
- other service delivery expenses (including expenses for participatory action research and evaluation) - costs associated with direct service delivery, consultancies for the purposes of service activities, community education, organisational training, information sessions, marketing/promotion, advertising, support activities and other program development costs, translation and interpreter services and other costs associated with direct service delivery;
- property costs - associated with accommodation ie rent, insurance, cleaning, maintenance and repairs of buildings and grounds, rates and taxes, depreciation (property) and other property expenses;
- brokerage funds - HOME Advice Program workers will have the capacity to purchase additional services from brokerage funds. This flexibility will provide additional specialist support to meet individual family needs. For example, counselling services, health services, occasional care, financial assistance and material aid; and
- other operational costs - power, telephone, bank charges and interest paid on overdraft, finance costs, postage, printing, photocopying, stationery, office equipment, depreciation, maintenance and repairs of office equipment and stores and other admin/operating costs, computer software, meeting costs, equipment insurance, legal expenses, amenities, library, external audit and accounting services, organisational memberships and levies including that of peak bodies and other social services organisations and other operational expenses.
Part 4: Site visits and evaluation
4.1 Site Visits
Sites should expect at least one visit each year conducted by FaHCSIA staff for the purposes of:
- conducting an interim assessment of the community agency Outputs; and
- discussing any program management issues that may have been brought to attention of FaHCSIA by the HOME Advice community agency, Centrelink or the Department.
HOME Advice community agencies may request a site visit and/or meeting with FaHCSIA representatives to address specific issues or concerns that may arise in relation to the HOME Advice Program.
HOME Advice community agencies are encouraged to contact FaHCSIA National Office whenever the need for advice arises. Please contact National Office through the HOME Advice mailbox: HOMEAdvice@fahcsia.gov.au
4.2 Service Evaluation
4.2.1 Evaluation of Community Agencies conducted by FaHCSIA
FaHCSIA may choose to evaluate or assess the funded service activities of community agencies at any time where it identifies risk or where there is concern regarding the performance of the agency.
4.2.2 Department's Obligations to Community Agencies
22.214.171.124 Notification of Intention
Any notification of FaHCSIA's intention to conduct an evaluation or assessment of a HOME Advice Program community agency will include details of the:
- focus of the evaluation or assessment;
- officer/s or agent/s appointed by FaHCSIA to conduct the evaluation or assessment;
- time period in which it is to be conducted; and
- involvement sought from the community agency including advice on the records that will need to be provided.
126.96.36.199 Use and Availability of Resulting Reports
Any resulting reports on the evaluation or assessment will be made available to the HOME Advice Program community agency within 21 working days of the submission of the evaluation or assessment report to FaHCSIA by the officer/s or agent/s conducting the evaluation or assessment.
Any use of evaluation or assessment reports outside the purposes associated with the administration of the HOME Advice Program will be subject to consent by that community agency.
4.2.3 Conducting a Comparative Evaluation
FaHCSIA may evaluate funded service activities directed to the achievement of the Program Objectives, on the basis of explicitly comparing the performance of individual funded services. The evaluation report will be made available on the basis that HOME Advice Program community agencies will not be identified to each other or any third party unless agreement is otherwise established.
4.3 Records, Reports and Audit Requirements
HOME Advice community agencies will be required to submit reports containing financial, client, operational and appraisal information. All reports are due on the dates specified or the next working day, unless otherwise negotiated with FaHCSIA and agreed to in writing. An overview of reporting requirements is detailed below:
4.3.1 Progress Performance Reports
|Report Type||Description||Due||Completed by:
(ie. FaHCSIA or Community Agency)
a) Annual Site Visits
FaHCSIA and Centrelink National Office Staff visit each service once per Financial Year. At this meeting, Community Agencies and FaHCSIA will assess the Community Agency Outputs.
As arranged between FaHCSIA, Centrelink National Office and individual Community Agencies.
(b) Annual Progress Report
A self-assessment report on the strategies, timelines and evaluation methods against each Community Agency Output outlined in these Operational Guidelines.
31 July of each year.
(c) Completed Family Case Forms
Demographic and other information about each client family and the service delivery activities pre and post support period.
15 October, January, April & July of each year.
(d) Audited Annual Acquittal
A statement, audited by an independent auditor or registered accountant, of financial information detailing the income and expenditure of Program Funding for the entire financial year.
31 October of each year.
4.3.2 Any Other Written Reports
FaHCSIA may, from time to time, require the Funding Recipient to prepare and submit other written reports. The Funding Recipient must promptly comply with any such request.
Part 5: Complaint and dispute resolution
5.1 Complaints/Dispute Resolution Systems
5.1.1 Community Agencies
All community agencies funded under the HOME Advice Program are expected to have in place:
- a client complaints/dispute resolution system that is easily identifiable, accessible and solution-oriented, which is sensitive to the issues families face, responsive to their needs as customers and ensures confidentiality, natural justice and procedural fairness; and
- a peer community agency organisation complaints/dispute resolution system that is easily identifiable, accessible and solution-oriented.
Centrelink has a range of mechanisms in place for the resolution of customer and community stakeholder complaints and/or disputes.
The HOME Advice Program Guidelines and Terms and Conditions of the Funding Agreement detail the range of provisions FaHCSIA has in place for the resolution of any complaints and/or disputes that may arise under the HOME Advice Program.
5.2 Complaints/Disputes Initiated by HOME Advice Clients
In the event that a HOME Advice client wishes to deal directly with FaHCSIA to resolve their complaint he/she should be directed to contact FaHCSIA National Office. If this should occur the following procedures will be used to seek a resolution.
The FaHCSIA contact officer in National Office would act as the initial point of contact for all complaints and/or grievances from program participants.
The officer shall:
- establish whether the complainant has attempted to resolve their grievance with the community agency / Centrelink itself through the community agency's / Centrelink's own internal complaints mechanism. Some program participants may be unaware the community agency / Centrelink has a mechanism for resolving complaints. In these cases, where appropriate, the officer should encourage the complainant to attempt to resolve their grievance with the community agency concerned / Centrelink in the first instance; and
- advise the complainant of their rights and available options (such as referral of the complaint back to the community agency / Centrelink for resolution, joint resolution process involving both the community agency / Centrelink and FaHCSIA or as a final option a formal investigation by FaHCSIA) and ask how the person would like to proceed.
If the complainant wishes to continue to pursue their complaint through FaHCSIA, the officer will normally:
- advise the complainant that, for reasons of natural justice, the community agency / Centrelink Office concerned will be advised of the details of their complaint; and
- fully document the complaint in a report that should include:
- a summary of the complaint;
- attachment of relevant documents (where applicable);
- a summary of the action taken so far to resolve the complaint and (if possible) of any future action that will be taken;
- inform the community agency / Centrelink Office of the complaint and provide them with a copy of the complaint report;
- set a reasonable time line for the resolution of the complaint; and
- inform all relevant parties in writing of the complaint, the outcome of the investigation and steps taken to resolve the complaint.
Any documents provided or created by FaHCSIA in the investigation and resolution of a complaint may be subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
5.3 Complaints/Disputes Initiated by Community Agencies
5.3.1 Complaint / Dispute with FaHCSIA
If the HOME Advice community agency is dissatisfied with any aspect of FaHCSIA's management of the HOME Advice Program, the Funding Agreement has a formal dispute resolution method for disputes that arise during the course of the Agreement.
This process places a strong emphasis on resolving issues through direct negotiation. Details of the Method of Dispute Resolution are outlined in Item 24 of the Terms and Conditions, 2011.
In the first instance the community agency's responsible officer should contact FaHCSIA National Office in writing.
FaHCSIA will investigate all such complaints and attempt to mediate a mutually acceptable solution to the problem. All relevant parties, including Centrelink Social Work Services Branch, National Support Office (NSO), will be informed in writing of the outcome of any such investigation conducted by FaHCSIA.
If the matter cannot be resolved through this process then the community agency may make use of the provisions under the Terms and Conditions of the Funding Agreement for legal recourse.
5.3.2 Complaint / Dispute with Centrelink
If the HOME Advice community agency is dissatisfied with the participating Centrelink Office's performance of its obligations under the HOME Advice Program they should attempt to resolve the issue/s through direct negotiation with Centrelink.
In the first instance the HOME Advice community agency should contact the nominated Centrelink Program Manager in the Social Work Services Branch (NSO) in writing. Centrelink is to keep FaHCSIA informed of any complaints raised by a Community Agency against Centrelink.
If the issue cannot be resolved through this process and the community agency is still dissatisfied, they should contact FaHCSIA National Office in writing.
FaHCSIA will investigate all such complaints, including obtaining a brief from the Centrelink Social Work Services Branch (NSO) on the issue, and attempt to mediate a mutually acceptable solution to the problem. All relevant parties will be informed in writing of the outcome of any such investigation conducted by FaHCSIA.
The Parties have 10 business days from the sending of the notice to reach a resolution or to agree that the dispute will be submitted to independent mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution procedure.
5.4 Complaints/Disputes Initiated by Centrelink
If Centrelink is dissatisfied with the community agency's performance of its obligations under the HOME Advice Program they should attempt to resolve the issue/s through direct negotiation with the community agency.
In the first instance, after consultation with the Program Manager in the Centrelink Social Work Services Branch (NSO), the Centrelink Office should contact the community agency's nominated manager in writing. Centrelink is to keep FaHCSIA informed of any complaints they have with a Community Agency.
If the issue cannot be resolved through this process and Centrelink is still dissatisfied, they should contact FaHCSIA National Office in writing.
FaHCSIA will investigate all such complaints, in conjunction with Centrelink Social Work Services Branch (NSO), and attempt to mediate a mutually acceptable solution to the problem. All relevant parties will be informed in writing of the outcome of any such investigation conducted by FaHCSIA.
The parties have 10 business days from the sending of the notice to reach a resolution or to agree that the dispute will be submitted to independent mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution procedure.
Part 6: Contacting FaHCSIA and Centrelink
6.1 Contacting FaHCSIA
HOME Advice community agencies are encouraged to contact the Departmental Officer in FaHCSIA National Office whenever the need arises. The community agency may request a meeting with Departmental representatives to address specific issues or concerns that may arise in relation to the HOME Advice service.
For day-to-day program queries and requests, HOME Advice providers are to contact FaHCSIA via the HOME Advice email box:
6.2 Contacting Centrelink
HOME Advice community agencies are encouraged to contact Centrelink with regards to Centrelink related issues and the role of Centrelink in the HOME Advice Program.
Part 7: Glossary of terms and abbreviations
- a family who has been assessed as NOT being eligible as a HOME Advice client family; and
- who has received a very short term of support/intervention, such as on-referral.
Centrelink Service Delivery Agreement (CSDA): The CSDA is the formal agreement between Centrelink and FaHCSIA.
Community agency: Non-government organisations funded by FaHCSIA to deliver the HOME Advice Program.
CSDA: see Centrelink Service Delivery Agreement.
First-to-know agencies: Agencies or organisations that have first or early knowledge about whether a family is at risk of homelessness, either formally or informally. First to know agencies may be different in each site. Examples of first to know agencies may be schools, workplaces, health services, child care services, churches, Centrelink offices, job networks, or other community agencies.
FHPP: Family Homelessness Prevention Pilot. The pilot program that preceded the HOME Advice Program.
HOME: Household Organisational Management Expenses (HOME) Advice Program.
HOME Advice Program client family: A client family of the HOME Advice program which meets the eligibility requirements:
- a family who is at risk of homelessness, but not yet homeless, who resides within the participating Centrelink Customer Service Centre service delivery boundary.
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): A formal agreement between each community agency and the local Centrelink office outlining the way in which the partnership will be conducted.
MOU: See Memorandum of Understanding.
Home Advice Client Engagement Flow Chart
Home Advice - Program Logic