What’s New at ACWA: September Update

Welcome to our latest newsletter, which heralds the announcement of a number of exciting new initiatives that ACWA has in motion, in collaboration with our sector colleagues. You will also find an update on the advocacy efforts that we are undertaking, in step with our member agencies, to address critical systemic issues that are impacting the sector, and the vulnerable children, young people and families who rely on the programs we deliver.

Joint telepractice venture to support children and families across Australia

ACWA has joined forces with Karitane, the Parenting Research Centre, the Department of Communities and Justice, Key Assets, Life Without Barriers, Social Futures, The Smith Family, Uniting Children, Family and Youth Services and My Forever Family in a major new collaborative venture that will boost capacity within our sector to deliver strong telepractice services to vulnerable and isolated children and families. You can read a copy of the joint announcement here.

We are very pleased to be working with agencies on this important initiative, that will bring enormous and long lasting benefits to the community, and flows directly from the work of the Vulnerable Children and Young People Collaborative Sector Group, which was established by ACWA in March to address the critical issues affecting children and families as a result of COVID-19.

In terms of next steps, ACWA is now seeking expressions of interest from NGOs who are keen to participate in a Community of Practice that will guide and support the development of telepractice service delivery solutions within the sector.

In a pleasing development, Karitane CEO Grainne O’Loughlin, has been selected to speak about this initiative at the upcoming Digital Health Institute Summit, which will be held from November 5 to 25. She will present her paper, Telepractice capacity-building in the NGO sector: A NSW-led collaborative approach, as part of the  Global Speaker Showcase, which is set to reach a wide national and international audience.

New project to deliver stronger outcomes for vulnerable children and young people with disability

ACWA is equally pleased to announce details of a key sector project we are undertaking, ‘Falling through the gaps? Delivering the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and young people with disability’.

The core purpose of this collaborative initiative, which will commence in November, is to identify practical pathways, initiatives, tools, training and other resources that will enhance sector capability and practice in this important area.

Lyn Ainsworth, a long serving former senior executive with disability service provider Aruma (formerly House with No Steps), has been appointed to lead this project. Please click here to find out more.

Joint workforce training strategy proposal receives the greenlight

In other major news, ACWA has made significant progress in our efforts to deliver a joint Workforce Development and Training Strategy for the child and family sector.

Under current arrangements, training is delivered through a number of different entities, including peaks, DCJ, Curijo and individual organisations. While important cross agency collaborative work already takes place in the training and development sphere, there is no agreed overarching industry strategy for identifying the training that is required, and how to best deliver training in a way that is efficient and addresses core competency requirements via well targeted and high quality products.

Our advocacy efforts on this critical sector requirement have been rewarded with Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, Gareth Ward, and DCJ Deputy Secretary, Simone Walker, both strongly endorsing the need to address this issue.

Having now received the greenlight, plans are now underway to advance this initiative. ACWA fully appreciates that the key to the development of a ‘fit for purpose’ workforce development and training plan that meets the needs of the sector, is that the plan be developed based on the advice of both non-government and government training and practice experts. In this regard, we recently issued an expression of interest to agencies interested in contributing to this work. This call has been met with enormous support and enthusiasm, and ACWA will be shortly convening a preliminary meeting for interested players.

If you would like more information regarding this initiative, please email Linda Watson: linda@acwa.asn.au

Lock in your end of year learning experiences, including opportunities to boost your restoration practice skills

 While still on the subject of training and development, we’re pleased to announce that our CCWT team has just topped our online training calendar with a variety of new workshops that will be rolled out between now and the end of the year.

This includes our exciting new Restoration series, which CCWT is presenting in partnership with Eleonora De Michele, a leading expert on restoration and preservation practices. This series starts on October 12, and all workshops are followed by a group coaching session. If you have five or more staff who wish to attend, contact CCWT for a group discount: 02 9281 8822 or linda@acwa.asn.au

Advocating for new Therapeutic Home-Based Care Arrangements

ACWA has been examining ways to expand the number of innovative carer models that are currently available to children and young people who are placed in residential out-of-home care.

As a first step to this broader work, ACWA has been working with DCJ and ITC providers in relation to enhancing Therapeutic Home-Based Care (THBC) packages in order to, among other things, attract more carers with appropriate qualities and skills into the system, by providing higher levels of compensation for THBC carers, relaxing formal qualification requirements, and developing a more flexible eligibility criteria for children and young people to enter the program.

Earlier this month, ACWA submitted to DCJ for its consideration a collective proposal for increasing service provider capacity to deliver THBC. This proposal, which can be downloaded here, reflects the outcome of an intensive consultation process undertaken by ACWA with service providers, which included a series of one on one discussions and a full-day day workshop.

DCJ has indicated its support for the proposal and has started progressing the implementation of the new process with providers, such as settling a THBC Qualities fact sheet and a new Agreement for THBC Carers. DCJ also provided us with encouraging feedback regarding our joint proposal, noting:

ACWA and its member agencies have provided significant input into addressing THBC implementation barriers for providers through the development of consultation papers and proposals for DCJ consideration. 

ACWA expects to be receiving formal advice from DCJ shortly regarding next steps, together with a clear timeframe for commencing the new arrangements.

Tackling the administrative burden of PSP on NGOs

Over recent months, ACWA has taken significant steps to highlight a range of critical issues in relation to delivery of the PSP, not least that of the administrative burden experienced by NGOs. Along with colleagues from a number of our member agencies, ACWA has met with DCJ Deputy Secretaries, Simone Walker and Simone Czech, to kick-start a process of identifying ‘must have’ data and the most efficient way of capturing it without duplication. A small working party will look at current ‘pain points’ and work to find both immediate and longer-term solutions that can be applied within the ChildStory framework.

Capturing and utilising critical PSP data for system improvement

ACWA has also pursued strong advocacy with DCJ around the urgent need to collect, analyse and utilise key outcomes data to drive continuous improvement across the sector. In this regard, we have proposed a project that will look at current available data, identify gaps and limitations, and design a framework under which reliable and consistent data can be collected and used effectively.

Given the current administrative burden on NGOs relating to the PSP program, see above, ACWA recognises that any work in this sphere will need to be mindful of not imposing an unreasonable burden on providers. We anticipate announcing some positive action in this area very soon.

Supporting guaranteed funding of Intensive Family Preservation programs

In the light of shortened funding extensions recently granted for Intensive Family Preservation programs that left providers with no guaranteed funding beyond December, ACWA has also written a detailed letter to Minister Ward, which uses case studies to illustrate the critical importance of this work in keeping vulnerable families together, and children from entering the out-of-home care system. In this communication, we call upon the Minister to strongly support urgent advice from Government that ongoing funding will be guaranteed for IFP programs. You can read a copy of ACWA's letter here.

In addition, ACWA has joined Fams and AbSec in writing to the State’s Premier, Treasurer, Attorney General and MPs, outlining our shared concerns and seeking an urgent and favourable decision regarding the continuation of these crucial services, ahead of the November 17 State Budget. Click here to read a copy of this joint letter.

Advocacy in relation to ITC and residential care services

 ACWA continues to work with all providers across residential care provision, including ITC, ITC-SD and interim care, to advocate for greater clarity and transparency around contracting data and processes across the sector.

More specifically, ACWA’s advocacy on behalf of ITC providers in relation to funding constraints and service delivery challenges under the current contract, has led to a direct request from the Minister that DCJ works constructively with providers to seek some consensus on ways to alleviate their concerns. This is set against a backdrop of providers having comprehensively analysed their costs and having collectively determined that, if additional funds aren’t allocated to this program, they will be put in the unenviable position of having to consider whether to transition their services out of the ITC program.

This dialogue is now underway, with an initial meeting held recently between DCJ representatives, including Deputy Secretary Simone Walker, and ITC service providers, to identify priority issues.

There is a lot of work to be done in this sphere, and ACWA remains committed to pursuing positive results in this critical service area.

Joint Peaks Submission: Privacy Codes of Practice for the TFM Human Services Dataset

ACWA, in conjunction with fellow child and family peak bodies, provided a submission to the Stronger Communities Investment Unit (SCIU) on its discussion paper relating to the Privacy Codes of Practice for the Their Futures Matters (TFM) Human Services Dataset (July 2020).

The intention is for the SCIU to initially prepare a privacy impact assessment as a precursor to developing a Privacy Code of Practice and a Health Privacy Code of Practice (Privacy Codes) to sustain the Human Services Dataset as an enduring asset for the NSW Government. The current Public Interest Direction is due to expire on 13 July 2021.

By way of background, in July the SCIU consulted ACWA, together with representatives from Fams, YFoundations and Youth Action. Our discussions principally focused on the potential for the very valuable insights gained from the Human Services Dataset (and future iterations) to be utilised to inform decisions which promote the safety, welfare and wellbeing of certain cohorts of children and young people, in accordance with the information sharing provisions contained in Chapter 16A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. It was agreed during the meeting that the peak bodies would provide the SCIU with a joint submission regarding the above issue - along with brief additional observations regarding the future inclusion of other data sets, including from the NGO sector.

ACWA agreed to prepare the submission and commissioned former inaugural Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner and both Commonwealth and NSW Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, AO to review it. In doing so, ACWA also undertook to seek input from additional peak bodies with a relevant interest who did not participate in the July meeting - AbSec, CAPS and CREATE. Pleasingly, Professor McMillan endorsed the submission, as did all other peaks involved.

Our central argument is that, in undertaking the privacy impact assessment and related submission to the NSW Privacy Commissioner, the SCIU should consider recommending that the 'Statement of Objectives' (of the kind currently in clause 6 of the Privacy Commissioner's Direction) includes a statement reflecting that the existence of the Code does not inhibit the insights gained from the analysis of the linked agency dataset from being utilised for the purposes of targeted child protection work consistent with the objects of Chapter 16A.

Our submission highlights that, given the purpose of the creation and ongoing maintenance of the Human Services Dataset is to improve the long-term outcomes for vulnerable children and young people and their families, specifically recognising that both legislative instruments - the Code and the Chapter 16A - sit alongside each other and have similar objectives, is highly beneficial to promoting effective service delivery to those most vulnerable in this state.

Click here to download a copy of the joint Privacy Code submission.

Responding to the Job Ready Graduates – Higher Education Reform Package 2020

ACWA also provided a written submission to the Australian Government’s Job Ready Graduates Package Discussion Paper, voicing our opposition to proposed fee hikes to Social Work and related degrees.

Our submission, which you can download here, outlines the importance of Social Work and related degrees to the growing NSW community services sector, and recommended they be exempt from any fee increase. Our response further emphasises ACWA’s position that Social Work and all related community service degrees (such as Social Science, Social Welfare, Youth Work and Psychology) should receive the fee reductions that Health and Education degrees are proposed to secure under the planned reforms.

ACWA also used our voice as a member of national peak, CAFWAA, to reiterate our position. You can read a copy of CAFWAA’s submission here.

New CaringLife platform supports children in care to keep their memories safe

ACWA is pleased to share with you information about a new online platform and app called CaringLife, that gives children and young people in out-of-home or alternative care a secure place to store and access all the photos, videos and important memories and documents from their time in care.

The ACWA Board has recently reviewed this platform, which won the Minister’s Innovation Award at the Victorian Protecting Children Awards 2019, and has indicated that PSP and other out-of-home care providers in NSW might find it a very helpful tool in allowing children / young people and carers to capture and keep all the memories of their time together in one secure place.

Developed by foster carers, Emma Stirling and Anthony Denahy, CaringLife was recently launched in Victoria following a hugely successful pilot program in 2018 with the Victorian Government. The platform is currently used by 12 agencies in Victoria - with a further three set to come on board soon - and is supported by the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, The Australian Childhood Foundation and the Foster Care Association of Victoria (FCAV), as well as the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Some of our member agencies who are already using this platform in Victoria have reported that the app has received positive reviews from their children and young people, as well as their carers and case managers. If you are interested in finding out more, you can watch a recording of the virtual launch here.

If you would like further information, or would like to start using CaringLife for your children and young people, please contact Anthony and Emma: hello@caringlife.com