Agencies Focus on Tracking Key Outcomes for Children Accessing Permanency Support Services

ACWA’S Best Practice Unit (BPU), in partnership with the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), brought together a full house of leading experts and academics, NGO managers and practitioners, policy makers, data analysts, private and public legal practitioners, and training specialists for the sector’s first ever ‘Client and Performance Outcomes Day’.

Participants at the October 4 event engaged interactively with expert presenters, with the discussions focused on the practicalities of achieving measurement and procurement practices that deliver better outcomes for children accessing permanency support services.

The keynote speaker, Associate Professor Robyn Mildon (Executive Director, Centre for Evidence and Implementation), highlighted that improving outcomes, rather than compliance, should be the focus of regulations and monitoring. Robyn skilfully unpacked what evidence informed programs and practices should look like on the ground in child focused service delivery, calling on agencies to be “critical consumers” of research and other evidence who work in close partnership with universities, implementation experts, peak bodies and other intermediaries to achieve innovation.

She neatly encapsulated the ethos of evidence informed practice where the outcomes for the individual child are at the forefront of decision-making, saying: “An outcomes-based approach encourages us all to focus on the difference that we make, and not just the inputs or processes over which we have control. Each service implementer has an interest in achieving outcomes because he or she is accountable to the population served by their service.”

Participants also heard from Daniel Barakate (Director, Projects, Performance and Innovation, FACS) and Marilyn Chilvers (Executive Director of FACS Research and Analysis), who gave insightful presentations on the application of two key outcomes frameworks for practice that focuses on the child – the NSW Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) and NSW Human Services Outcomes Framework, respectively.

A practitioner panel facilitated by Jamie Hodgson (State Director, Key Assets) joined by Alister Whitehead (Therapeutic Foster Care Caseworker, MacKillop) and Kate Spalding (Project Manager, Implementation, Parenting Resource Centre) shared important practical learnings from their agencies’ hands-on experience of the NSW QAF trial.

The expert presenters also addressed the relationship between the NGO sector and government that would best support children achieving desired outcomes. Associate Professor Ann Nevile (Centre for Social Research and Methods, ANU) detailed the critical role of Government in enabling service providers, observing: “Service providers will be able to achieve good outcomes for clients when governments see their role as creating the right enabling environment rather than purchasing contractually specified outputs from non-government organisations.”

Wearing her hat as a doctoral researcher, Jenny Mason (General Manager, Policy and Research, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and former Director-General of then DOCS), spoke compellingly on the theme of ‘Killing the golden goose: purchaser provider relations in the OOHC Sector’. Adele Brooks (Principal Policy Officer, Partnerships FACS) shared a funder’s perspective on monitoring outcomes and compliance, while Associate Professor Gaby Ramia (Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney) powerfully summarised the important ‘take-homes’ from the day to close the program.

Participants were overwhelmingly positive about the usefulness of this Outcomes Day, and gave invaluable suggestions on potential future collaborative work to support evidence informed outcomes measurement and procurement practices. While one policy maker commented: “This was an excellent day”, a OOHC Manager and expert practitioner agreed it was: “a very helpful, interesting and well-constructed forum on outcomes reporting”. Likewise a measurement training expert welcomed the “fabulous, really valuable information.”

Robyn Mildon: Outcomes Based Practice and Translating This into Child-Focused Service Delivery
Daniel Barakate: Working Together to Develop and Trial a QAF for OOHC
Marilyn Chilvers: Linking the QAF and FACS Application of the NSW Human Services Outcomes Framework
Jenny Mason: Killing the Golden Goose? Purchaser Provider Relationships in OOHC
Ann Nevile: Relationships Between Third Sector Agencies and Government
Adele Brookes: A Funders Perspective on Monitoring Outcomes and Compliance