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Programme 1.4: Family relationships

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Programme objective

This programme contributes to Outcome 1 by protecting and promoting the rule of law and building a safe, secure and resilient Australia.

Programme deliverables

Provide services to support resolution of family matters.

Achievements contributing to programme deliverables

During 2014–15, the Australian Government provided $156.56m to not-for-profit community-based organisations and one business to provide services throughout Australia to assist Australian families during and after separation and divorce. The department is responsible for family law services, which the Department of Social Services (DSS) administers under a Memorandum of Understanding arrangement.

Children’s Contact Services

Children’s Contact Services provide a safe and neutral place for children to maintain relationships with parents after separation, for supervised time or handovers. The department provided additional one-off funding of $1.3m in 2014–15 to be shared across the 65 government-funded Children’s Contact Services to help them improve services for children and parents for this family law service, including by reducing their waiting times.

Scholarships in post-separation services training for culturally and linguistically diverse and Indigenous people

The department has commissioned Family and Relationship Services Australia to administer a scholarship programme to increase the number of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and Indigenous people undertaking training to obtain qualifications that support the delivery of non-court-based family services or post-separation services. Subsidising training of CALD and Indigenous people in these professions will increase the accessibility of post-separation services by CALD and Indigenous families. Nine scholarships were awarded in May 2015, with five CALD and four Indigenous recipients.

Preliminary work on key projects

Additional research on future need for family law services. The department engaged KPMG in 2014–15 to undertake additional research on the future need for, and service delivery of, family law services. The research will analyse future family law service needs, including the impact of demographic changes, as well as identifying alternative service delivery and funding models. This research will provide the basis for decision-making to secure the future accessibility of family law services to families. The research will be completed in late 2015.

National Family Violence Bench Book. In 2014–15, the department approved a grant for the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration in collaboration with the University of Queensland, TC Beirne School of Law, to develop a national Family Violence Bench Book. The development of a Bench Book was a key recommendation of the joint Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission Report, Family violence – a national legal response. The Bench Book will cover civil and criminal matters at the Commonwealth and state/territory level, sentencing, the relevance of family violence to offences and defences, and dealing with inconsistencies between family law orders and family violence protection orders.

Model Parenting Orders Handbook. In 2014–15, the department engaged Professor Richard Chisholm, a former Family Court Judge, to develop a Model Parenting Orders Handbook. The handbook is intended to assist parties to minimise unintended ambiguities, omissions or consequences, address difficulties arising from a lack of clarity in orders, and improve the workability of court orders obtained by consent, particularly those prepared without legal or judicial assistance. This project will be finalised in 2015.

Evaluations and reviews

Evaluation of the co-located child protection worker

The department provided $50,000 to the Victorian Department of Human Services for a formal evaluation of an initiative involving child protection workers from their department outposted to and working closely with the Melbourne and Dandenong family law court registries. The objective of this programme is to improve integration between the two systems to achieve the best outcomes for children.

Purchaser–provider arrangements

DSS managed contractual arrangements with organisations funded to provide family law services under the Families and Communities Programme (FCP). This arrangement was delivered under a memorandum of understanding between the department and DSS. The FCP brings together a number of existing family, children and parenting services, most of which received funding through the DSS portfolio. During 2014–15, the FCP worked with and supported families, especially those considered to be vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Results against key performance indicators

Key performance indicator

Improved access to justice in family matters

Results

2014–15: Achieved

2013–14: Achieved

The uptake of these services provides improved access to justice in family law disputes:

  • 65 Family Relationship Centres with 79,297 clients
  • 65 Children’s Contact Services with 48,258 clients
  • 40 family law counselling services with 8,466 clients
  • 48 Parenting Orders/Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services with 18,889 clients
  • 18 family dispute resolution services with 16,560 clients
  • 42 regional family dispute resolution services with 7,723 clients
  • 18 Supporting Children After Separation Program services with 11,448 clients
  • Family Relationship Advice Line: Information and advice component—66,330 calls; Telephone and Online Dispute Resolution Service—3,594 sessions; and Legal Advice Service—18,462 calls.

Note – Data from the Department of Social Services (DSS). During the period of 2014–15, DSS commenced transitioning its data collection system from the Family Support Programme Data System to the DSS Data Exchange.

Key performance indicator

Effective administration of the family relationships programmes

Result

2014–15: Achieved. Trend information is not available as this is a new key performance indicator set out in the Portfolio Budget Statements.

In 2014–15, $2m was provided to the Family Law Pathways Networks (FLPN) to facilitate collaboration and coordination between family law service providers at the local community level and to assist families to reach the services they need. In addition, the department announced new four-year grant agreements for the FLPN, providing $8m over four years, from 2015–16 to 2018–19. This long-term funding for the FLPN will provide the family law services sector with the benefit of funding certainty.

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