On July 3, ACWA hosted a day of member consultations focused on fostering collaborative practice in two critical areas for the sector – the evaluation of the Permanency Support Program (PSP); and carer recruitment and authorisation, particularly in relation to addressing the high number of children in Alternative Care Arrangements (ACA).
Both sessions were well attended by member agencies, Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) representatives and key stakeholders, including OCG, AbSec, FAMS, My Forever Family NSW and the Department of Education staff.
Session 1: PSP Evaluation Advisory Committee Co-Design
The first session of the day was a co-design workshop aimed at settling on a process for establishing an advisory committee to guide the evaluation of the PSP.
A consortium appointed by DCJ, comprising the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI), its partners Monash University, the Cultural & Indigenous Centre Australia and the Melbourne Institute, will conduct this evaluation.
To kick off the discussion, CEI representative Vanessa Rose provided a high level overview of the approach and design of the evaluation, explaining that the effectiveness of the PSP will be dependent on (among other things) how successfully it has been implemented from both the system and client perspective.
Discussion then turned towards the evaluation team’s plans to establish an independent advisory committee that would enable stakeholders and service providers to feed critical frontline information into the evaluation. Participants welcomed this proposal, emphasising that membership of this committee would need to include representatives from Aboriginal service providers and organisations, as well as rural and regional services, and would need to reflect the different types of practice across the PSP service continuum.
By the end of the session, agreement was reached that the method for selecting committee members should be consultative and follow an ‘Expression of Interest’ process, involving the Department, ACWA, AbSec and the evaluation team. As a first step, selection criteria will be developed based on the feedback obtained at this very productive co-design session. The CEI will also prepare a summary of the major issues that were raised by members.
Session 2: Carer Journey Mapping – What’s working and how can we do better?
The second session of the day, an ACA Taskforce Carer Mapping Workshop, began with My Forever Family NSW presenting the results of a small survey conducted into assessment and authorisation processes for general foster care and for relative/kinship care. The survey revealed the average timeframe of the carer journey to be between 7.8 and 10.4 months.
Workshop participants agreed that some streamlining was desirable, and recognised that the process should take no more than 4.1 months if everything was running smoothly. There was robust discussion around some of the barriers to a streamlined process, including the availability of timely ‘Shared Lives’ training, stretching of resources across the full range of practice areas and, importantly, the time taken in obtaining Community Service Checks. DCJ representatives acknowledged that there had been a backlog in CS checks. However, this has now been cleared, and agencies were advised that they can expect to receive clearances within 25 days. DCJ also committed to improving this timeframe, while NGOs agreed that, for the most part, assessment of the vast majority of potential carers could proceed while the checks were being carried out.
The session ended with a commitment from NGOs to aim for a carer authorisation timeline of around 4.1 months, and for ACWA, DCJ and NGOs, through the Carer Mapping Working Group, to explore a process for better data collection, monitoring and benchmarking.
ACWA was pleased to welcome so many members to these sessions, and we look forward to building on this opportunity to promote a culture of true collaboration and collective problem solving into the future.