While full implementation of the Permanency Support Program (PSP) does not start until 1 July this year, a number of incremental changes have been coming into effect since October 2017. To support implementation of these changes, FACS has funded ACWA to conduct a needs analysis of the sector through our membership.
ACWA began this process by hosting a series of focus groups with out-of-home care (OOHC) workers across the state in late August and September 2017. We spoke with frontline practitioners and managers to get their views about where the gaps lie in their knowledge and organisational practice, and how they would like those needs met. Summary reports from each of the focus groups can be found below.
ACWA used the findings from these focus groups to then develop a statewide online survey that was sent to OOHC agencies in October 2017. A total of 132 practitioners, from all districts, and comprising a mixture of both managers and frontline workers, responded to this survey. ACWA would like to thank all the agencies and individuals who helped us achieve this value level of participation. We greatly appreciate the engagement of our members through both the focus groups and online survey.
What we heard
Respondents observed there was a lack of understanding among staff of the PSP program and what it meant for their day-to-day practice, indicating the need to permeate knowledge about the PSP more widely within agencies.
There was also evidence of a strong consensus across the NGO sector around key practice and skill development needs, and the breadth of associated support needed to achieve practice change in line with the reform.
Competence in assessing parents’ capacity for restoration was considered a top priority in both the survey and focus groups. Other identified priorities were to strengthen casework practice in locating family members of children in care, and working and engaging with Aboriginal children, families, agencies and communities.
There was a thirst for both joint training and information sharing with FACS. Respondents perceived that their capacity for collaboration with FACS would be enhanced by clarity on roles and responsibilities (as set out in the new Permanency Case Management Policy), joint training, expert guidance, and mechanisms for discussion of local permanency issues.
The findings also indicated an appetite for coaching, mentoring and other forms of group learning, particularly in the areas of restoration, guardianship and adoption practice, as preferred modes of support. Localised communities of practice emerged as another proposed mode of support with strong social validity.
ACWA will be releasing the full report from our needs analysis in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we encourage our members to review the information about the Permanency Support Program on the FACS website, as well as examine the summary reports from our focus groups (see below) in your team meetings and discuss how the feedback reflects the support needs within your own agency.
You may also want to encourage colleagues to subscribe to the PSP sector e-newsletter, titled ProSPects, by following this link. FACS sends the e-newsletter whenever there are important PSP updates to share with the sector.
Focus Group Summary Reports
PSP Needs Analysis Report 1: Orange-Bathurst
PSP Needs Analysis Report 2: Lismore-Ballina
PSP Needs Analysis Report 3: Maitland
PSP Needs Analysis Report 4: Reforms Forum
PSP Needs Analysis Report 5: Best Practice Unit
PSP Needs Analysis Report 6: OOHC Forum
PSP Needs Analysis Report 7: Wollongong
PSP Needs Analysis Report 8: Western-Far West-Murrumbidgee
PSP Needs Analysis Report 9: Southern-Shoalhaven