What’s New at ACWA: March update

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2021. It would be safe to say that ACWA has hit the ground running in terms of the scope of work we will be focusing on this year. ACWA’s priorities for 2021 reflect our commitment to working with our member agencies, government and non-government stakeholders to improve efficiency within our service system and, most importantly, to drive better outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families in NSW.

Below is a snapshot of some of our latest activity, much of which builds upon the sector development work we initiated last year, as outlined in our 2020 Annual Report. Further down, you’ll also find details of the new training and professional development opportunities that our CCWT team will be rolling out this year, to support the sector’s passion for enhancing the skills and qualifications of our workforce.

New arrangements for Therapeutic Home-Based Care
As reported in our September issue of What’s New, ACWA has been working in consultation with Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) providers and the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) on tackling challenges associated with the provision of Therapeutic Home-Based Care (THBC). On the back of this intensive work, we are pleased to report that new arrangements and costing agreements for this model of care have now been settled. These changes, which will be implemented shortly, will increase the capacity of service providers to deliver THBC and, critically, help address the existing gap in services for children and young people whose needs are better met in a home-based care setting.

Expanding Innovative Carer Models
On a related issue, ACWA is undertaking focused collaborative work with member agencies to explore opportunities to expand the availability of innovative carer models for children and young people who are not having their needs met within the existing system. As a starting point, ACWA hosted a roundtable last November to identify effective models currently operating in the out of home care sphere, which could potentially be upscaled. In the wake of this event, ACWA is close to finalising a paper that will outline consistent key features across the models, as well as key differences, such as cost specifications, the nature of supports provided, and carer qualifications and attributes.

Residential out of home care sector advocacy
ACWA continues to pursue with DCJ action to address serious longstanding issues that are adversely affecting the ongoing viability of the residential out of home care sector. This includes the need for DCJ to improve the efficiency of key aspects of the system for which it has responsibility, and to advocate to its Treasury colleagues the necessity to address the inadequate funding of ITC services. On this point, ACWA, with the support of residential care providers, has provided detailed evidence to the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, Gareth Ward, supporting our sector’s claim that funding under this program is inadequate. Our recent submission to the NSW Government’s upcoming budget also emphasises the need for additional funding to address this chronic funding shortfall in ITC services. ACWA will continue to facilitate discussions between DCJ and service providers in a bid to resolve these critical issues. In addition, ACWA is firmly of the view that a decision regarding the ongoing role of non-ITC services needs to be settled. In this regard, it is important to recognise the large number of children and young people who are well supported by these providers. From our perspective, given the continued demand for these services, it is vital that non-ITC providers are given contract certainty.

On the associated issue of Alternative Care Arrangements (ACAs), ACWA can report that, as at February 28, there were 86 children and young people in these placements. This represents a substantial drop from the peak of 199 in October 2019. While this significant decrease is welcome, it nevertheless points to the need for targeted work to stop children and young people from entering ACAs through placement breakdowns and, where placement breakdown does occur, ensuring there are other viable and effective options available to them. Reflecting the Minister’s strong interest in reducing ACA numbers, DCJ brought relevant service providers together for a forum in December to discuss with Minister Ward what more needs to be done to drive down the ACA population. Based on this discussion, ACWA has prepared a report for the Minister outlining the key issues the sector believes need to be tackled to continue to lower the number of children and young people in ACAs, together with proposed strategies for consideration and further action. Click here to view a copy.

Capturing PSP data
The collection and analysis of useful data is critical to measuring the progress of any program towards achieving its intended goals. With this in mind, ACWA, in collaboration with AbSec and DCJ, has initiated a project to identify what data is needed to validly and reliably determine whether the PSP is having a positive impact, to look at what is currently collected and identify the current PSP data gaps and limitations, to assess what valid and reliable data can feasibly be collected now to drive improved outcomes, and to explore what additional requirements are needed (e.g. infrastructure, governance, technical capability, other supports) for DCJ and the NGO sector to collect and effectively use this data. The Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP) is undertaking this work over the next three months, guided by a Project Advisory Group that will comprise participants from ACWA, AbSec, DCJ and a small number of NGOs. You can read a copy of the project outline here. ACWA is also providing funding to ensure that the ACCP receives a comprehensive briefing from the Centre for Evidence and Implementation, to ensure that this project complements, but does not duplicate, the work being carried out under the current PSP Evaluation.

Insurance and Worker’s Compensation issues
ACWA has been approached by a number of member agencies expressing concern about the growing difficulty the sector is facing in obtaining insurance cover for sexual abuse and molestation. There are also broader insurance issues and related concerns around Worker’s Compensation that need to be considered. In response to this, ACWA hosted a virtual forum on March 5 to identify the key problems, and to discuss ways the sector can work together to address this major issue. Please feel free to read a copy of our Insurance Issues Paper, which was presented during the event. ACWA will continue to keep the sector updated on next steps and further developments on this issue.

Streamlining PSP administrative processes 
ACWA has participated in a working group with DCJ and a small number of NGO representatives to identify some ‘quick wins’ to help reduce the admin burden experienced by agencies. As a result, DCJ released a Changes in Applying for PSP Packages Fact Sheet in November, and has recently hosted a Q&A session with Permanency Coordinators and NGOs to talk through the changes. We understand that a recording of this session will soon be available for those agencies who were unable to attend. This work is ongoing, and ACWA invites member agencies to contact us with any suggestions for further streamlining or areas that require greater focus. We would also be keen to hear from agencies that may be interested in contributing to further workshopping of potential improvements to PSP admin systems and processes. If interested, please email Sharon via sharon@acwa.asn.au

In addition to our systems advocacy efforts outlined above, ACWA has been working with our member agencies and non-government peaks to prepare the following submissions in response to proposed government policies and practices that impact the sector, as well as the children, young people and families we work with:

Furthermore, our Pre-Budget Submission 2021-2022 captures a range of critical sector issues that ACWA is focusing our attention on this year, and reflects our genuine desire for greater efficiency within the service system.

Joint Workforce Development and Training Strategy update
ACWA has been working hard to progress our joint efforts with DCJ, AbSec and other key stakeholders, to design and implement an integrated Workforce Development and Training Strategy that will deliver a disciplined and consistent approach to identifying, and equipping child and family workers with, the requisite skills and knowledge needed to deliver a high quality response to vulnerable children and families in our community. We believe a joined up response to workforce development and training will achieve far greater efficiency than the fragmented approach that currently exists within the sector. ACWA, in consultation with a range of stakeholders, has developed a Briefing Paper outlining the approach that will underpin the delivery of this significant sector initiative. You can click here to read the latest copy, which incorporates input provided by AbSec. However, we note that we are awaiting final feedback on this paper from DCJ.

Online safety resources for the out of home care sector
The sector would be only too aware of the susceptibility that children in care face when it comes to online safety risks. With the support of a grant from the eSafety Commissioner, ACWA is seeking to address this issue by working directly with children and young people in care, as well as carers and care leavers, to co-design high-quality eSafety resources that address their unique needs, vulnerabilities and strengths.

In March, ACWA will begin running a series of national stakeholder consultations to inform the co-design and development phase of the project. Between April and June, we will be hosting a series of co-design workshops with children and young people in care, carers and recent care leavers, to gather their insight into what it takes to be safe online. In this regard, ACWA is keen to draw on the support of our member agencies to help facilitate a strong level of participation via your carer and care leaver networks. We ask that you keep an eye out for forthcoming information regarding how you can help promote these sessions across your networks.

Visit ACWA’s eSafety Project webpage for more information on this initiative. In the meantime, visit the eSafety Commissioner’s website to find a range of existing online resources designed to support your work with children, young people, parents and carers.

Supporting vulnerable children and young people with disability
Since commencing our sector projectFalling through the gaps? Delivering the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and young people with disability last November, ACWA has carried out an intensive consultation process with those directly involved in supporting vulnerable children and young people with disability as well as a range of other important stakeholders, in order to capture a critical picture of issues that may be adversely impacting the level of support these children and young people receive.  To date we have conducted one on one consultations and distributed a survey to gather a broad range of perspectives.  ACWA is engaging with AbSec, DCJ and the Minister's Office throughout the project.

In terms of next steps, ACWA is currently hosting a series of focused workshops, designed to enable a broader range of staff and carers to contribute their perspectives, to explore the critical issues arising from this data, together with potential responses that will lead to better outcomes in this area. If you would like to find out more about this project, please contact: lyn@acwa.asn.au

Upcoming CCWT courses: Time to take your pick
CCWT's training program is well and truly up and running for 2021. We have a range of longstanding training favourites on offer, together with some exciting new learning and development opportunities specific to the NSW community services sector.

Click here to have a browse through our workshops, then take your pick and make your booking.

In an exciting development, this year CCWT has introduced our new Essentials range of courses, which are designed to provide key skills for workers who are new to the sector, or moving into a new area of practice. CCWT is delivering these courses at a reduced price, in keeping with our commitment to building the skills of the community services sector.

Special member offer: This year, ACWA member organisations will be able to access further reduced rates when registering five or more staff members for the same workshop. If you would like to find out more about this discount, or about any of our training options, please phone CCWT on 02 9281 8822, or email: ccwt@ccwt.edu.au

Our Community Leadership Program is back for 2021

We’re now taking enrolments for our 2021 Community Leadership Program. This program is designed to unlock leadership potential within middle managers and team leaders, and comprises workshops on adaptive leadership, team leader profiling, coaching and neuroscience, as well as webinars, a workplace project and individual coaching sessions with highly experienced, accredited coaches.

This year’s program will look a little bit different, as we’ve decided to go virtual so that participants can be confident that their learning will go ahead, no matter what 2021 may throw at us!

Book by March 19 to receive your Early Bird Discount (saving $300 per registration). Click here to find out more.