Chapter 2 discussed the complex and multi-faceted nature of entrenched disadvantage.
Based on evidence received during the inquiry, Chapter 3 sets out two over-arching principles the Committee considers are essential to deliver successful programs.
These principles are the use of place-based programs and wrap-around services. Evidence of programs that successfully demonstrate these principles in welfare programs are included in this chapter.
Benefits of a place-based approach
The Committee received evidence that place-based community programs are an effective way to improve entrenched disadvantage. A place-based approach is one that reflects an understanding of the community and its people, and the particular circumstances that exist in that community.
The place-based approach is tailored to the people living in the area, and assesses what they currently have and what they need to improve their situation for themselves and their families. It offers a customised response rather than ‘one-size-fits-all’ program.
Place-based approaches use the collective impact model of several groups working together to assist people on welfare support to achieve their goals. Ideally, a place-based model engages with the community and leverages off existing resources in that community. A key function of place-based programs is ensuring that services are coordinated in a way that is beneficial to the recipients.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) noted that ‘place-based approaches are required when addressing complicated or complex problems where the disadvantage is concentrated and the characteristics of the place contribute to entrenched problems and/or intergenerational cycles of disadvantage’.
Many submissions agreed that place-based programs are necessary to deliver successful and sustainable outcomes. The Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) recommended place-based programs as a key reform for reducing disadvantage in remote regions. AMSANT noted the benefits of this approach, particularly by increasing opportunities to gain employment:
Place-based and community driven job creation and employment supports [are required] in remote areas, with a particular focus on transition to work for young people.
Mr Glenn Jessop, General Manager of the Jesuit Social Services, agreed that place-based programs were effective in assisting people from very disadvantaged backgrounds:
We know that in areas of disadvantage people experience long-term unemployment associated with a bunch of other things such as high rates of child protection involvement, mental health inpatient admissions and criminal justice involvement—the list will go on, but I think you get the picture. In that context, we call for local place based solutions.
Logan Together stated that community level action, or place-based community leadership and collaboration infrastructure, is necessary to plan and deliver coherent long-term change strategies:
We need to invest in powerful local “backbone” organisations that can coordinate partners across the health, education and social services sectors – and the community itself – to drive local strategies.
Supporting the continuity of quality service providers is important for effective place-based service delivery. Service providers that are based in the community, or that have already established a rapport with the community, are an important factor in successful welfare programs. This is well recognised in regions supporting Indigenous specific programs.
Professor Shelley Mallett, from the Brotherhood of St Laurence commented:
One of the things that the Brotherhood is very committed to is enabling small locally based organisations to thrive in their communities and to be competitive in grants and tenders and such because they know their communities, they're embedded and they have local networks. We think that that's crucial because it has flow-on effects and positive benefits in the community. People who live in the community can work in the settings but they can also leverage their networks to help them do other things.
Place-based programs also support and create links between welfare providers and the broader community. In its submission, AMSANT highlighted the need for critical partnerships between schools, parents and the community:
Evidence from research examining schooling and education has found that projects characterised by a high degree of Indigenous involvement and control produced significant benefits for participants, and that engaging parents in children’s learning was of critical importance (Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (AIHW, AIFS 2013).Of equal importance is the need to develop partnerships between the school, the family and the community. Opportunity should be provided for parents and communities to participate in the governance of schools through Aboriginal Parents Groups or community controlled school boards. Embedding culture into educational approaches can be a positive and enabling factor, and a form of early intervention in preventing future ill-health.
A place-based program can also deliver a multi-generational service that engages parents and children at the same time. A multi-generational approach provides an opportunity to strategically align resources and efforts—federal, state, local and community—with the purpose of preventing and tackling developmental vulnerability in children living in locations of disadvantage.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence described the importance of establishing Integrated Family & Community Hubs to address entrenched disadvantage:
A variety of early years and family hubs already exist across Australia, which could be built on and their reach and impact strengthened by leveraging multiple funding streams, taking a multigenerational approach and incorporating strong community engagement in their design and operation. Some promising innovations include Doveton College and Tasmania’s Child & Family Centres.
Ms Nicole Rees from the Brotherhood of St Laurence added that:
There's emerging evidence, but it's really still being tested in Australia, that bringing together supports that address both the needs of children and the needs of parents at the same time can have a multiplier effect and is more effective than working in isolation on particular aspects. Bringing together high quality early-learning pathways to economic participation for parents, building parents' capacity as their child's first teacher, and enhancing a family's community connections and social participation are all things that, when you bring them together, can have powerful impacts.
Mr Cox of Logan Together also commented on the success of the multi-generational approach:
I think that's where you get to the child and family centres in Tasmania. They run effectively a supported playgroup. There's an intentional program of learning for kids and adults.
The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY program) is an example of a successful multi-generational approach. HIPPY is federally funded and runs in 100 communities around Australia, half of which have high concentrations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
HIPPY is a home-based parenting and early childhood learning program that works with families with young children aged 4 and 5 years old in disadvantaged communities.
The Committee heard from Ms Lizzie Adams, the CEO of Goolburri Aboriginal Health Advancement in Toowoomba, about the merits of the HIPPY program that the service delivers in conjunction with the Brotherhood of St Laurence:
In Toowoomba we take them to the park, we take them wherever they want to go and feel comfortable, because that's how you get people to engage. It's not about saying, 'This is how we do it.' Part of HIPPY is when they get their tutor or their mentor who teaches the parents how to be the first teachers of their children, so the parents are going into study for the first time. I would agree with everybody around the table that it is our young, single mums who have that struggle.
The Committee also heard from UnitingCare about its successful Newpin program. Newpin builds on the skills of parents as well as assisting parents with personal development and is a successful program run for combating intergenerational welfare dependence.
Ms Claerwen Little, National Director of UnitingCare Australia informed the Committee:
First, it's preventative in that it prevents harm being suffered by children. This preventative investment is economically prudent. It's more cost-effective to prevent harm to a child than to redress the consequences of that harm in later life. It's also morally preferable. The second feature of the Newpin program is that it focuses on developing skills. Parents engage in parenting groups and personal development programs and have positive and engaged supervised experiences with their children. This helps them build effective parenting skills and strengthens family relationships.
Child and Family Centres/hubs and schools
One specific type of successful multi-generational service is designated child and family centres. The Committee received evidence about the value of Child and Family Centres/hubs. These centres can strategically align resources and services from federal, state and local governments and the community to assist people requiring access to various services.
These centres are often set up within existing schools. Because these centres have multiple purposes, they are regarded as a part of the community and open to all, and not just somewhere where people that are having difficulties go to get assistance.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence informed the Committee that a variety of Child and Family Centres already exist across Australia. Its submission suggested that:
The hubs could be built on and their reach and impact strengthened by leveraging multiple funding streams, taking a multigenerational approach and incorporating strong community engagement in their design and operation. Some promising innovations include Doveton College and Tasmania’s Child & Family Centres.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence further commented that:
… a majority of these centres had a positive impact on parents’ use and experiences of services and supports for young children. Parents found the Centres welcoming, respectful and inclusive places that were helping them develop positive child, family, school and community connections.
In addition, the Brotherhood of St Laurence stated that these centres result in:
Improved understanding and confidence to access local services (increased service networks)
Enhanced parenting skills
Parents in work at Centres eg Empowering Parents Empowering Communities program facilitated by the parents and supervised by practitioners
Effective use of volunteers eg workers and community volunteers co-visiting families visitors to Child and Family Centres are welcomed and met by a community members
Progress towards breaking down silos between different services with the aim of partners such as Child Health & Parenting Nurses seeing themselves as part of a transdisciplinary team at the Centre.
The Salvation Army discussed the benefits of collaborative services within the community and highlighted the following Communities for Children model as a positive example:
… Learning For All workshops which promote a culture in which children and families participate in and belong to a learning community, which includes early Childhood Education and Care services and Primary Schools, and community learning spaces. Schools teams are more aware and better resourced to support children and families; and families are adequately resourced and prepared for learning spaces.
The Salvation Army has had great success delivering early intervention and prevention programs through placed-based, integrated service delivery in partnership with other service providers. It highlighted a place-based program being run in South Australia for families and children at risk of abuse or neglect. The program evaluation stated:
The community hub strategy is based on evidence that in socio-economically disadvantaged communities, coordinated approaches across sectors can improve social and educational outcomes for children in the pathway to school and families can receive more comprehensive parenting support within a ‘one stop shop’ approach.
Evidence to the Committee identified three case studies that demonstrate a place-based approach.
Case study 1 - Logan Together project
Logan Together is one example of a place-based initiative bringing local services together in a coordinated way to deliver a collaboration of critical services to people in need in Logan with a long-term focus.
Logan Together is a 10 year community movement that started in 2015 to improve the lives of the children and families in Logan. It is a collaboration between the community, service providers, community organisations, government partners and the business community.
Mr Matthew Cox, Director, Logan Together, informed the Committee that ‘out of 315 000 people in Logan city, about 15 000 kids aren’t doing as well as we would like. Of these 15 000 children, 5 000 – 6000 kids aren’t doing well.’
Logan Together has agreed on a ‘roadmap’ and vision with all of its stakeholders. The roadmap outlines the 10 year plan to help 5,000 more Logan kids thrive by age 8. It plans to do this using five focus areas: Ready to have kids; good start in life; on track at aged 3; on track at aged 5 years; on track at aged 8 years.
Logan Together initially worked with State and Commonwealth Government partners to attempt to identify all relevant social investment supporting child and family wellbeing. Mr Cox explained the ‘exercise was difficult to achieve given the lack of integrated information systems, however some useful findings resulted. In particular, preliminary data showed that funding for family and child wellbeing in Logan added up to approximately $222.7 million.’
Logan Together is operating on a budget of $1.7 million in the 2018-2019 financial years, jointly funded by Commonwealth, State and local governments, and philanthropic organisations.
Mr Cox discussed the challenges of delivering programs in areas of entrenched disadvantage. Working in isolation without effective communication and collaboration between agencies can result in considerable duplication of programs, increased service delivery costs, and inefficient use of resources:
We need to do stuff about how playgroup and kindergarten and prep and school will join together and how health services and paediatric services and disability services come into that pipeline—critically importantly, in a non-stigmatising environment. As soon as you put a sign that says, 'Broken people, come through this doorway,' you get no customers. You need to have a sign that says, 'Whole community welcome,' then you get your customers.’
Case study 2 - Doveton College
The Doveton College model was identified as an example of a place-based success story.
Doveton College began in 2009 with the Victorian state government, the Federal Government and the Colman Foundation agreeing to establish a unique partnership to plan, build and operate the new facility. The initiative was required to revitalise schooling in a disadvantaged area. Five local schools were closed and one Doveton College was opened as a school that provided integrated community services.
Doveton College has an early learning centre and prep to year 9 school at its centre. It is an example of Australia’s first fully integrated education service offering child and family services.
The benefit of using a school as the place-based centre as the community hub is successful mainly because everyone in the community finds the school to be accessible.
Doveton College developed as a result of the community realising that an intervention project was needed in an area to assist with families and children living with entrenched disadvantage who needed support services in health and education.
Some advantages of providing an integrated education service are listed on the Doveton College website. They include:
Creates strong links between early years services and school
Better collaboration and co-ordination between service agencies
Families have quicker, more efficient access to services
Clearer referral pathways for families and service agencies
Enables ongoing intensive support for vulnerable families
Early intervention improves child and family health
Builds neighbourhood capacity through volunteerism, community hub structure and programs
Increased adult presence at the College encourages parental involvement in the school.
Mr Cox from Logan Together commented on one of the successful aspects of Doveton College, that it implements a multi-generational approach which assists adults to complete studies as well as children:
… last year they had more adult graduates than child graduates. They had 200 adults who went through adult learning programs—English as a second language certificate II, III, IV, those sorts of programs. They've got social enterprises run by parents. We can do it, and it works. If you go to Challis or you go to Doveton, you can see everything we're talking about working at the school level. What we're trying to do is lift that up to a city of 300,000 people. There are 42 schools in Logan. Not all of them need a Doveton College model, I might add. Maybe 10 do. We can see everything we're talking about really working—no nonsense; it really is working. We can see it at a school level. We can see it at a child and family level, and at a centre level in Tasmania. If we can lift it up to a community level and then do it in a handful of places in each jurisdiction, that's not fantasy. There is a credible plan for human development, human capital, for the country.
Case study 3 - Tasmanian Child and Family Centres
The Tasmanian Government has progressively opened twelve Child and Family Centres since 2009 in communities with high service needs. The Centres provide a single entry point to universal, targeted, and specialist early years services and supports for parents and children from pregnancy through to age five years.
The Centres are located at or near primary schools to support smooth transitions to school. A Strategic Framework guides local priorities for the community and their service partners. Strong community engagement was central to the design and implementation of the Child and Family Centres and the provision of all interventions to families.
Dedicated training equips staff and community members to authentically partner and work together. The framework of engagement employed in the development of the Child and Family Centres viewed parents and community members as co-workers, co-designers, co-researchers, and co-producers with the intention of bringing lived experience and practice wisdom together.
Each Centre has approximately three full-time staff funded by the Tasmanian Department of Education: a centre leader, a community inclusion worker and an early childhood specialist (areas with a higher concentration of Aboriginal families also have an Aboriginal engagement worker).
Services and supports in the Centres are provided by state and local government, non- government organisations and community members. While they vary according to local needs, they typically cover:
early learning programs (eg early literacy programs, supported playgroups, toy library, adjunct care, Early Education & Care services are co-located at 3 Centres);
support for transition to formal schooling through partnerships with schools and Launching into Learning;
child health and early childhood intervention services (eg speech pathology, community paediatricians at some sites);
family health services (eg Child Health & Parenting Nurse, family planning, midwifery services, antenatal programs);
adult education (eg literacy education, art workshops, Get Active programs);
family support services (eg outreach services, counselling, transport to appointments); and
The second principle identified by the Committee as a key element of successful welfare programs is the provision of wrap-around services. Wrap-around services are individualised, co-ordinated and take a holistic approach. These services consider an individual’s needs and work collaboratively with other support services to deliver a coordinated response to improve that individual’s circumstances. Wrap-around services can assist with a crisis, but generally work towards building long-term capabilities for individuals and families.
Benefits of a wrap-around approach
The Committee received evidence on the benefits of developing wrap-around services. These services are often delivered by larger community not-for-profit organisations with significant experience in service delivery for disadvantaged Australians. Wrap-around services require the provider to have strong connections with a variety of service sectors such as healthcare, education and training, and employment.
Ms Kim Brooklyn from UnitingCare West discussed the benefits of an employment wrap-around program that is being run by UnitingCare in Queensland:
We started off with 14 people. We have employed all of those. We have 12 people still working for us, three years later. There were supports around them. There was the education and training. There were supports from our people services but also from our staff, around buddying and supporting people into the employment place. We tried to have a culture that was really inclusive, and I think it was really well demonstrated by the fact that we still have 12 of those 14 people working for us. It's a really exciting program.
Save the Children told the Committee about one of their successful wrap-around programs:
One of the things that we know from our work at Save the Children is that no organisation alone can work with these families. It's very important, for those families who are experiencing complex needs and multiple risk factors, that you work as a group, a service system, to wrap around these families to ensure they get the services that they need and, indeed, transition between the services that they need. No family stays static, so the service system needs to be able to flex and wane around the child and the families. The Play2Learn program is primarily funded by the Department of Social Services through the Communities for Children initiative and directly through Children and Parenting Support. We have done quite a lot of work in terms of the return on investment for that. Over 12 months, we found that the social return on investment ratio was one to four, so we're fairly proud of that.
Ms Wendy Fields, Head of Policy and Programs, The Smith Family, described how they provide wrap-around support services to people in need:
Our family partnership coordinators work with the family to articulate what the issues are. That's not always at the point of crisis. It's ideally at the point of crisis, but we're there in the long-term to work with the family around understanding what the issues are and how they might get the support that they need in that community. So it's a support-and-referral model. It's not a case management model. It's a partnership-and-coordination model.
Wrap-around services benefit from being designed in collaboration with all the stakeholders. These stakeholders may include individuals, service providers, and government organisations.
Co-design facilitates collaboration between agencies working to improve the wellbeing of people who are struggling with housing, education and employment and other complex issues. Co-design increases the likelihood that cohorts or individuals receive programs that are tailored to their needs.
Social Ventures Australia (SVA) provided an example of where a co-designed program enabled a participant to gain valuable skills and work experience. The program was a SVA Industry Employment Initiative designed with service delivery partners. The program delivered wrap-around support for job seekers such as homelessness, and or drug and alcohol related issues, in addition to assisting with work ready skills:
Bill participated in a three-week bespoke training program co-designed by the employer and the IEI. This program helped build his confidence, taught him industry-based content that was relevant to the role on offer and included a personal presentation and grooming module which ensured that he met the five-star standards of the hotel. It’s the first real support, Bill says, that he received during his period of unemployment. His prior experience with job agencies had him doing little more than applying for jobs. ‘It’s 100% better. I’d rather do (training) than spend a month with no job,’ he says.
The Committee identified two case studies that show programs that provide wrap-around services.
Case study 4 - Sticking together
SYC is a not-for-profit transition organisation that provides support for people experiencing homelessness and disconnection from their community and employment. SYC has multiple funders represented by service contracts with federal and state governments, local government partnerships, projects funded by philanthropists, charities and corporate partners.
SYC’s Sticking Together project supports young people to develop work readiness skills and capabilities to enable them to ‘stick’ in work. It is a coaching model that was developed in collaboration with the Queensland University of Technology and The Australian Centre for Social Innovation and co-designed with young people themselves.
The Sticking Together Project utilises an intensive coaching model to build rapport with participating young people and their employer(s) over a 60-week period. In addition to employment-related skills, support is provided by the coach in non-vocational skills development and overcoming other barriers to employment a young person might face, including home, health and relationship challenges. Support is provided when the young person is in work and during periods of unemployment. Support is also provided to employers to help them manage the employment relationship and ‘stick with’ the young person.
The findings were positive and resulted in sixty-six per cent of participants not requiring welfare benefits by the end of the program.
Case study 5 - Empowered communities
Empowered communities is an Indigenous designed and led model and aims to increase Indigenous ownership and give Indigenous people a greater say over decisions that affect them. It brings Indigenous leaders and communities into a more balanced partnership with Government and corporate organisations. Empowered communities was launched in August 2013.
Empowered communities are currently running in the following eight regions around Australia including urban, regional and remote communities: Cape York, Queensland; Central Coast, New South Wales; East and West Kimberley, Western Australia; Goulburn-Murray, Victoria; Inner Sydney, New South Wales; North East Arnhem Land, Western Australia; NPY Lands, Central Australia.
The Committee heard from Mr Robert Ryan, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, about Empowered Communities:
At Empowered Communities we are looking at joint decision-making in a number of regions, with a view that it would expand across all the regions. In inner Sydney and the East Kimberley and Cape York, they're already starting, and that is a process where government works with the Empowered Communities leaders, and the Empowered Communities leaders actually set up community panels, so they are informed themselves by the community. They get all the data that government has and have that available, but they then make their own decision.
The view is, hopefully, that there is then a joint decision that goes to the minister. But sometimes we anticipate that won't be the case. The department will have a different view, and then the minister ultimately makes the decision. But he has committed to a 75 per cent weighting on the advice that he'll get from EC leaders, which gives the department only 25 per cent to play with. It's early days, but it seems to be a very successful way of doing exactly that—making sure that the department gets a level of understanding about how the community views these things and assesses them—that we would probably struggle to get otherwise.
In its submission, the Cape York Partnership stated:
Indigenous people must be the principal actors driving their own development through local (place-based) development agendas across Cape York. This is the only way to address the problem of intergenerational welfare and entrenched disadvantage. Indigenous agency, development, empowerment and productivity are all prisms by which all public policy objectives and expenditure should be considered at a regional and local level, including an unwavering focus on rebuilding social norms, lifting education outcomes, and engagement with the real economy.
The submission continued to outline the success of this approach:
In Cape York we are now applying these principles to everything we do and we can see the change happening before our eyes. Local groups have formed and are engaged, have a clear vision and are focused on outcomes. Local people want local development agendas that address short, medium and longer term priorities in every community and for these agendas and plans to become the driver of progress as stable and intergenerational blueprints.
The momentum, however, is really on a knife’s edge and Cape York communities are at a critical juncture for their future development pathways and for their very survival.
The Committee received evidence demonstrating the benefits of place-based and wrap-around services for supporting people out of disadvantage and into job readiness and employment. The Committee believes the approaches identified in the case studies are working well and should be continued.
The Committee supports place-based services that connect with the community and assist with the coordination of services for people living in specific areas. By tailoring the assistance to the local community needs, service providers that are connected with local social services and the community are able to deliver continuous and longer term support for people trying to improve their parenting skills, or get training and skills for long-term employment.
Targeted, wrap-around support services are also essential. This is especially important to effectively engage children and families where the barriers to education and employment are complex and multi-faceted. The Committee believes this style of program delivery will assist to reduce duplication of services and improve the effectiveness of welfare programs.
The Committee is impressed with the innovative and coordinated approach of the Logan Together model. The Committee recognises that this project is planned to run for ten years in order to deliver significant positive changes for approximately 6 000 young children growing up in Logan. The Committee encourages Logan Together to meet its targets in or before 2025 and is encouraged by the work of the Department of Social Services in developing new flexible funding arrangements for such projects.
The Committee notes several models of service provider coordination that are currently being assessed by the Department of Social Services. These include Logan Together which has created a community hub, Doveton College model which is based around a local school, and the various family and community centres in different states and territories.
The Committee was impressed with the program Sticking Together delivered by SYC Adelaide, to support people on welfare support into sustainable employment. Appointing mentors or coaches for participants to help guide them through the process of finding a job and sticking with it is critical in assisting participants to complete the employment program.
The Committee sees merit in the Australia Government encouraging collective investment for service providers to deliver supported employment programs like Sticking Together.
The Committee recognises that communities are able to best help themselves when service providers collaborate and become invested in delivering streamlined and coordinated services.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government continue to prioritise funding for place-based and wrap-around services that can demonstrate evidence of successful programs for people living with entrenched disadvantage.