Family assistance support programs help support and strengthen families through services to enhance family relationship, lower the incidence of family breakdown and prevent child abuse.
The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy aims to strengthen communities by investing in prevention, early intervention and capacity building. Commencing in 2000-01 the Strategy will run for four years, fund community-based projects for strengthening families, develop better relationship and parenting skills, and provide more responsive child care options. A longitudinal study of child health and development was also initiated under the Strategy.
The Commonwealth Government has been funding the Family Relationships Services Program (FRSP) since the early 1960s. The Program aims to enable children, young people and adults to develop and sustain safe, supportive and nurturing family relationships and to minimise the emotional, social and economic costs associated with disruption to family relationships. The Attorney-General's Department (A-G's) contributes part of the funding for the FRSP.
Early Intervention and Parenting projects are aimed at preventing child abuse, improved parenting skills and strengthening families. A key focus of these projects is meeting the special needs of families in rural and remote areas, Indigenous families and families from multicultural backgrounds. Opportunities are also provided for children under five, and their carers, to interact with other children and their carers.
The Commonwealth Financial Counselling Program provides free financial counselling services to people in low-income groups experiencing financial crises due to circumstances such as unemployment, sickness, credit over-commitment and family breakdown.
Youth and student support
Youth and Community Support programs develop new partnerships within and across levels of government and with community organisations to support innovations in youth and family support arrangements around young people’s transition to independence and adulthood.
The Strengthening and Supporting Families Coping with Illicit Drug Use Measure provides funding to state and territory governments to provide services to families where a young person is suffering from the effects of illicit drug use.
Reconnect is an early intervention program for young people, aged between 12 and 18 years, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and their families. Reconnect services offer counselling, adolescent mediation and practical support to both young people and their families.
The Youth Activities Services Program provides innovative structured activities and positive peer support programs after school, over the weekend and during vacations for 11-16 years olds in disadvantaged areas.
The Youth Activities Services Family Liaison Worker Program provides practical support and guidance for young people aged 11-16 and their families, to help them deal with difficulties such as family conflict and lack of communication, and refer them to specialist services as required.
The Job Placement and Employment Program is an early intervention program providing assistance to young people aged between 15 and 21 years (with an emphasis on 15-19 year olds) who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, ex-offenders, refugees or wards of the state.
The Green Corps Program provides young people aged between 17 and 20 years with the opportunity to work on environmental and heritage conservation projects, while undertaking accredited training.
The Child Support Scheme is a joint FaCS and A-G's scheme, administered by the Child Support Agency (CSA). It aims to improve financial support for children of separated parents by obtaining contributions from paying parents for the support of their children, in accordance with their capacity to pay. Parents may make private arrangements for child support to be paid, or have it collected by the CSA. Parents are required to take reasonable steps to obtain child support if they wish to receive Family Tax Benefit Part A at more than the basic rate.
The total amount of child support transferred between parents in 2001-02 was $1,450m. This includes child support that the CSA assessed and parents transferred privately, and child support the CSA assessed and collected.
Child care support policies are designed to help families balance their work and parenting roles by providing flexible child care services to promote quality child care, contributing to the development and education of children; and provide a focus for early intervention initiatives for vulnerable families and children.
Child care services include centre-based long-day care, family day care, in-home care, before and after school hours care, vacation care, occasional care, and Multi-functional Aboriginal Children’s Services. Flexible services that can combine various models of care are also available to meet the needs of families in rural and remote areas. There were 500,027 Commonwealth funded places, across all child care support services, at December 2001.
Housing support policies are in place to assist low and moderate income householders access appropriate affordable housing, and provide supporting initiatives to assist homeless people.
The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program is a joint Commonwealth and state/territory government program, which provides transitional, supported accommodation and a range of related support services to people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness. It also aims to resolve crisis, re-establish family links where appropriate and re-establish the capacity of clients to live independently of the program.
FaCS housing programs are discussed further in Housing.
Community support programs and policies cover a wide range of goals and outcomes. They include developing community capacity and self-reliance by supporting leadership, volunteering and innovative local responses. Another goal is to help people in rural and regional areas to access services that support their special needs and to take advantage of opportunities. They are also designed to help improve the living conditions of Indigenous peoples and other culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Other goals and outcomes involve encouraging partnerships between business, community and government sectors, helping in crisis situations and assisting low-income families and individuals with living costs.
Initiatives under the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy such as the National Skills for Volunteers Program, provide capacity building support to communities. The National Skills for Volunteers Program supports volunteers by providing skills development grants and training resources to community organisations.
The Emergency Relief Program provides grants to charitable, community and religious organisations so that they can assist individuals and families in emergency financial crisis. The program also provides training support for paid and voluntary workers in the sector. The Volunteer Management Program provides funding for centres to provide referral services to community organisations and training for volunteer managers.
Remote Area Allowance offsets some of the additional costs associated with living in remote areas of Australia. It recognises that income support customers do not receive the full benefits of the zone tax offset amounts that are available to taxpayers. A quarterly Telephone Allowance payment is paid to pensioners, long-term allowance customers and eligible Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders to assist with the cost of domestic telephone services. Pharmaceutical Allowance is paid to pensioners and some other income support customers to help with the cost of Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme prescription items.
Commonwealth Concessions Cards, the Pensioner Concession Card, the Health Care Card and the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, are also part of Community Support policies. They are issued mainly to assist eligible individuals and/or their families with the cost of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescription items.
Labour market assistance
Labour market assistance policies are designed to foster a culture of self-reliance in the community by promoting appropriate understanding, expectations and behaviours.
The Australians Working Together (AWT) initiative, which is being progressively implemented from 1 July 2002, provides assistance to people of workforce age including job seekers, parents, people with disabilities, the unemployed, mature age people and Indigenous Australians. Initiatives include a Working Credit to encourage people on income support to take up full-time, part-time or irregular casual work, Training Credits, a Literacy and Numeracy Training supplement, more places in employment services and initiatives to assist Indigenous Australians.
The Personal Support Program (PSP), which commenced on 1 July 2002, helps those people on income support payments who face multiple non-vocational obstacles to employment. These barriers include homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, psychiatric disorders or domestic violence problems. The PSP has broad objectives that recognise social as well as economic participation. Social outcomes are often more achievable and appropriate to participants with these sorts of multiple barriers to employment.
JET is a joint program of the FaCS, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Department of Education, Science and Training. JET is a voluntary program that assists with skill development and entry or re-entry into the paid workforce. Assistance provided includes: development of a plan to achieve labour market readiness; access to education, training and employment assistance; referrals to government and community services; and child care assistance. People receiving Parenting Payment, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance, Widow B Pension, Carer Payment and some Special Benefit recipients are eligible to participate in JET.
The Voluntary Work Initiative was introduced in 1996 and aims to improve the take-up and effectiveness of voluntary work among income support customers of working age, particularly Newstart and Youth Allowance customers. Initiatives are also being developed that aim at increasing take-up by Indigenous customers and customers of a multicultural background, as well as extension of the program to meet the needs of new AWT customers from 1 July 2002. Volunteering Australia manages the scheme on behalf of FaCS.
Support for people with a disability
The Disability Services Act 1986 (Cwlth) was introduced to expand opportunities for the participation of people with disabilities. Under the Act, the Commonwealth Government provides grants for the provision of services to people with disabilities, particularly in the labour market.
Under the Commonwealth/State Disability Agreement, the Commonwealth has responsibility for the provision of employment services for people with disabilities. Disability employment services assist people with disabilities in job search and job placement, and provide individualised on-the-job training and support. The Commonwealth also provides funds to assist the states and territories in the planning, policy setting and management of accommodation and other related services for people with disabilities. Areas such as advocacy and research and development continue to be a responsibility of both levels of government.
In 1994 the Commonwealth Disability Strategy was adopted as a 10-year policy and planning framework for Commonwealth government departments and authorities, to improve access to their programs, services and facilities for people with disabilities. The Strategy was adopted in response to the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cwlth), which makes discrimination on the grounds of disability unlawful.
Programs for Support for People with a Disability include the Disability Employment Assistance Program and the Employer Incentives Strategy. The Disability Employment Program provides funding for job seekers with disabilities to find and maintain employment. The Employer Incentives Strategy encourages employers to provide durable job opportunities for people with a disability, including workplace modifications, supported wage assessments and grants to address change in business recruitment practices.
Support is also provided through Rehabilitation Services to improve function and independence in people with a disability so that they can remain in or return to suitable employment, and live independently. Advocacy is another program designed to enable people with a disability to more fully participate in community life, and achieve and maintain their rights as citizens. The Advocacy program involves families of individuals where possible and appropriate.
Print and Caption Translation Services assists people with a disability to access recreation information, captioned television news and videos. It also subsidises the production of printed material in formats accessible to people, who by reason of their disability, are unable to access information provided in print medium.