Welcome to our latest What's New at ACWA newsletter for 2021.
Unfortunately, many of us currently find ourselves in 'lock down', dealing with the challenges of delivering services to vulnerable children, young people and families during a major COVID-19 outbreak.
ACWA has been busy advocating in relation to COVID-19 issues as well as progressing a number of other matters affecting our members and the broader sector. We’d like to share some important updates with you below. We would also like to encourage you to visit our new Sector Clearinghouse webpage, which we’ve introduced as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for accessing a wide range of useful sector resources, reports, research and information.
Meeting the Challenge of COVID-19
We recognise the extra pressure the current situation places on providers, and encourage you to check our COVID-19 Sector Information Hub. You can also reach out to us via COVID19@acwa.asn.au if you would like to raise particular issues of concern. We are actively working to assist agencies at this time.
When new rules were announced regarding the movement of workers within the most affected LGAs, ACWA, alongside NCOSS and other peaks, quickly mobilised to ensure that workers across the community sector were added to the list of ‘authorised’ workers and could still present for work in the many residential care, specialist homelessness, or other critical facilities across Greater Sydney. ACWA has also worked to ensure vaccine access for the sector’s workforce, prompting government to clarify that frontline workers delivering care to children and young people living in residential care environments are included in the list of priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
ACWA has also requested that government require mandatory vaccination of all workers providing residential care and ACAs for children in OOHC, while also calling for government to begin a dialogue with the non-government community services sector about what other areas of service provision might require the ongoing mandatory vaccination of workers.
ACWA has worked with the sector, DCJ and Rebbeck Consulting to update the COVID-19 Guidelines for ITC/residential care providers. The updated guidelines draw on the practical experiences of providers in managing COVID-19 situations, and include updated infection control, vaccination and testing advice.
In consultation with DCJ, ACWA has also produced a ‘lessons learned’ fact sheet drawn from our regular forums with providers about the practical challenges they are facing in dealing with COVID-19 in ITC/residential OOHC settings.
Working with the sector, DCJ, the ASU and the PCYC, we have also identified staffing options to augment the existing ITC/residential care sector workforce where COVID leads to staffing shortages. A Contingency Staffing Options for OOHC Providers flowchart sets out options including workforce sharing between providers, accessing community services workers who have been stood down due to public health orders, and utilising PCYC workers if necessary.
We are also creating an advisory panel made up of provider representatives with experience in responding to COVID-19 situations. The panel will respond to requests for urgent advice from providers who are dealing with an unfolding case.
The panel will be a small group of individuals who have particular expertise and experience in managing provider responses to COVID-19 cases. There will also be representatives from DCJ, and Health. If you have experience in managing a COVID incident and are interested being involved in the expert panel, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residential Out-of-Home Care Advocacy
A key aspect of ACWA’s ongoing advocacy with DCJ has been the need to address a chronic funding shortfall in Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) services.
Over the last eighteen months, we have worked closely with providers to prosecute the case for a funding review, including by making a detailed submission to the Minister demonstrating the shortfall in funding within the program.
While it has been a long road, ACWA welcomes the recent announcement that, following the outcome of an independent review, ITC and ITC-SD providers will receive a funding uplift of 13.2% and 16.6% respectively from 1st July 2021.
While this goes some way to recognising the financial pressures experienced by providers in delivering these intensive services to the state’s most vulnerable children and young people, there is still much more work to be done to secure adequate ongoing funding of the ITC Program.
ACWA is continuing to be proactive in promoting Government/NGO co-design to achieve the best possible operational and funding model going forward.
Responding to Insurance Market Failure
In a significant development, government has responded positively to the sector’s joint letter calling for urgent interim support for providers who find themselves unable to secure insurance.
On 27 August, Minister Henskens advised that government would provide a temporary financial indemnity for OOHC and youth homelessness providers contracted by DCJ where they are unable to secure insurance to cover claims for alleged incidents of sexual and physical abuse. The exact terms of this arrangement are still being worked out by DCJ and iCare.
The Minister also committed to working with other states on a long-term national solution to the problem of insurance market failure in relation to our sector.
While we welcome this advice, we note that there is still much to be done in this area. Together with YFoundations, we will continue to advocate on behalf of the sector for a sustainable long-term solution.
Foster and Kinship Care
In Foster and Kinship Care Week (12 – 18 September), My Forever Family NSW launched a carer recruitment campaign that will run throughout September and October. Additionally, their annual Carer Recognition Awards are now open for nominations until Friday 8 October. Agencies are encouraged to share the recruitment TVC from My Forever Family’s Facebook page and promote the awards via their social media channels using material that can be accessed here.
In the Wings at ACWA…
ACWA is reaching milestones in a number of projects and activities that we have been working on over the last 18 months. We'd like to highlight what’s coming up in the near future…
Workforce Skills Strategy
The Workforce Skills Strategy (formerly Workforce Development and Training) is aimed at developing and implementing an integrated workforce skills development and training strategy across major program areas of the child and family services sector in NSW.
ACWA believes that this critical piece of work needs to be carried out by a project team of experts. Governance of this program will involve the establishment of a Steering Committee, including senior representation from DCJ, ACWA, AbSec (and possibly other peaks), Curijo, the ASU, service providers and other key experts.
There will also be an opportunity for carers, children, young people and families to have an ongoing voice in the process.
More information will follow in the coming months.
Supporting children and young people with disability
The report from our sector project, Falling through the gaps? Delivering the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and young people with disability has now been distributed to ACWA members involved in OOHC along with other stakeholders who contributed to the project.
Planning is underway for collaborative forums with ACWA members in partnership with DCJ, AbSec and other stakeholders, to consider, prioritise and plan actions and initiatives reflecting the opportunities identified in the report.
Social Sector Transformation Fund
ACWA has been successful in attracting $1million of funding as part of Tranche 3 of the Social Sector Transformation Fund (SSTF).
This funding is to deliver leadership training and workforce development services to small and medium organisations in the community services and health sectors.
Details are still being finalised, but the services provided are likely to include workshops, resource development, coaching, communities of practice, and other workforce capacity building activities as needed.
In the near future, ACWA will be advising eligible organisations how to access these services.
This funding is part of a $10 million NSW Government fund for small and medium-sized not-for-profits to help them modernise their operations, so they can remain efficient, effective and viable.
New Child Wellbeing Taskforce
Minister Henskens has announced the creation of a new Child Wellbeing Taskforce.
The Taskforce will bring together DCJ and Education with non-government sector peaks, including ACWA, to develop a plan for a transition out of lockdown that improves services and supports for vulnerable children.
The initial focus for the Taskforce will be promoting awareness of child abuse and neglect to frontline workers, including teachers, improving access to digital devices and internet for at-risk families and enhancing support for young people exiting out-of-home care.
ACWA believes that the success of the taskforce will largely be determined by the extent to which strong partnerships can be formed between key NGO providers and government agencies around critical issues relating to vulnerable children, young people and their families.
Children and Young People with Sexually Harmful Behaviours
Following an approach from the Children’s Court, ACWA is setting up discussions with key stakeholders about establishing a cross-sectoral community of practice focused on prevention initiatives relating to sexually harmful behaviours among children and young people generally, as well as those in care.
This also complements our work in developing online safety resources for children and young people in care, and leverages our participation in the Westpac Safer Communities grants program, which is making a significant investment in this issue.
Upcoming CCWT Courses
CCWT is continuing to run our Calendar program online due to the ongoing public health orders. We are going to wait and see what happens towards the end of the year before making a decision about whether to return to face to face training in February or to leave it until April. We will still continue to run online training as well next year as we have received lots of feedback on the value of being able to access training from your own place.
Keep checking our website and if the course you want is not there, add your name to the waiting list and when we have sufficient numbers we will be in contact with you.
New courses in October include:
Online Supervision: Issues and Strategies
Connecting Well During Challenging Phone and Online Communications
Unpacking the Complexity of Hoarding and Squalor
Loss and Grief Work: Practice Essentials
ACWA has completed two submissions since our last newsletter. These are posted on our Reports and Submissions webpage:
- Draft Children’s Guardian Regulation 2021
- National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Final Development Consultation Paper
Upcoming Events for your calendar
Working Towards Restoration webinar and study: Sep 29
National Aboriginal Wellbeing Conference: Nov 15-16
National Permanency Conference #THRIVE2021: Oct 13-14
SNAICC National Conference: Dec 6-9
Research & Reports
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Child Protection Australia 2019–20
My Forever Family 2020 Carer Survey Report
CREATE Report: Transitioning to Adulthood from Out-of-Home Care: Independence or Interdependence?
Factors influencing therapy use following a disclosure of child sexual abuse
Influence of Placement Stability on the Developmental Outcomes of Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care
Educational Outcomes: Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care
Cultural Identity, Community and Family Connections: Aboriginal Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care