Funding extensions and changes from 1 July 2020 – are you across the DSS updates?
The Australian Government Department of Social Services recently made two significant announcements of note for the broader early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, relating to Families and Children Activity program extensions, and important changes occuring effective 1 July 2020.
Firstly, the Australian Government is extending funding agreements ceasing 30 June 2020 for a further 12 months to 30 June 2021 for families and children services across Australia.
Services involved in this funding extension are funded under the following programs:
- Children and Parenting Support (CaPS) services
- Communities for Children Facilitating Partners (CfC FP)
- Family Mental Health Support Services (FMHSS)
- Budget Based Funded (BBF) services
- Family and Relationship Services (FaRS)
The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters is also being extended for one year, from 30 June 2022 to 30 June 2023. This will allow an additional cohort of children to commence the two year program in early 2021, a spokesperson said.
Services receiving the 12-month extension have been emailed an initial letter from the Department of Social Services (the department) notifying them of the extension to their funding, however those organisations who have not received this letter, and believe they should have should contact their Funding Agreement Manager to discuss.
A spokesperson for the Department said the ‘significant investment’ includes over $225 million a year for services that work to improve family functioning and the wellbeing of children by supporting parents and caregivers through services and programs that aim to ensure children are able to thrive and reach their fullest potential.
As well as the initial letter, providers will receive a letter of variation from the department in early 2020. This letter will include further details of the extension such as funding amounts.Providers that do not wish to participate in a funding extension are encouraged to contact their Funding Agreement Managers to discuss an exit strategy.
The 12-month extension provides an opportunity for the department to continue working with families and children service providers to ensure services continue to be effective and meet the needs of families and communities into the future, in line with consultations held in 2018 on the future of key families and children’s programs.
The extension period also offers a window during which the department can review the future of these services in their broader context, including the future of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, which is due to cease in 2020. The review will inform the early consideration of funding arrangements under the Families and Children Activity from 1 July 2021 onwards.
Changes effective 1 July 2020
Minor changes to some operational requirements will come into play from 1 July 2020, relating to standardising reporting requirements so that they are consistent across each program, and build better evidence around what is working well for children and families.
In addition, the spokesperson noted, the department is seeking to minimise the administrative burden to providers with simple and consistent reporting processes while also collecting useful information from providers.
The changes include:
- Requiring providers to submit, and report against an Activity Work Plan (AWP). This is already a requirement for most providers delivering these programs and this change makes the AWP requirement more consistent across programs.
- Requiring providers to report on strategies to identify and address barriers clients may face in accessing services, particularly vulnerable client groups. This requirement will be incorporated in the updated Activity Work Plan template.
- Requiring providers to monitor and comply with the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework. Further information on the Child Safe Framework, and providers’ obligations, is available on the National Office for Child Safety website.
- Providing more guidance on the operational processes of each program to ensure providers can access useful information on their operational requirements. To better support providers, the department will update existing Operational Guidelines, and may create new ones for programs without guidelines.
- Providers will be encouraged to list services on public facing online directories to provide easy access to information for families looking for support available in their local area. The department will provide information on the best way to do this in early-to-mid 2020.
Further details about these changes will be communicated to providers as they are finalised.
Data support needed
The department is seeking to more effectively define, promote, and measure the outcomes being achieved by families and children programs, and to use this information to ensure clients using these services are being appropriately supported.
A Data Exchange was developed to improve the way the department collects and uses administrative data. While not a funding requirement, the department is encouraging all families and children service providers to participate in the Data Exchange Partnership Approach.
The benefits of the Partnership Approach are said to include:
- The ability to demonstrate the outcomes that service providers are achieving for their clients
- Access to an extended suite of reports that create easy to understand visualisations using the provider’s own data reports in Qlik
- Access to whole-of-government data sets, which helps providers to gain a richer picture of the context in which their services operate.
In addition, the spokesperson said, the Partnership Approach provides the opportunity for organisations to record and share the outcomes that their clients are achieving with the department.
For more information on the recent DSS announcements, please see the fact sheet, here.