Aspect February 2019

Aspect Newsletter

From the Executive Director

Editorial: Putting people at the centre of human services

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You might have seen that Centrelink’s automated debt recovery system – or Robodebt – has been in the spotlight this month.

Its astronomical error rate has been in the news, as well as reports that the system costs almost as much as it recovers in debt. The flaws in the system have left it vulnerable to a landmark legal challenge in the Federal Court.

The system has also been under scrutiny in Senate Estimates hearings this month, with the government forced by tradition to defend their policy.

The system works on the flawed logic that the lives of those on the edges of the economy will be the same every week – that they will work exactly the same hours for the same pay. The Department of Human Services then compares the hours of paid work in a sample week with Centrelink benefits over a six-month period. Instead of checking whether these assumptions are correct, people are simply issued with a debt notice. The onus is on them to prove that they don’t owe the debt.

The flaws in these assumptions are so obvious that the system probably wouldn’t pass an undergraduate experimental design class. The mistakes created by this crude design are foisted on those who rely on the system, throwing their lives into chaos.  How do you focus on your education, get your children off to school, or look for work when you are trapped in crippling debt? And how do you prove to a monolithic, anonymous system that you don’t owe it thousands of dollars?

When we published our report on the automation of Centrelink services last year, I was surprised to find the level of interest from journalists. But as I backgrounded the journalists before the launch, I became aware just how many of them had a personal interest.  Many of them had been caught up in the Robodebt net themselves, forced to spend hours and hours finding employment and university attendance records from years before to prove they did not owe the debt.  One after one, they told their about their struggles. Most were also aware that they were university educated, spoke English as their first language, and worked in a questioning profession that helped them through this seemingly hopeless fight. To a person they expressed dismay at how people without these advantages would cope.

The flawed design can be blamed on many things. It is tempting, however, to remember that the lives of those who designed it are very different to those it was thrust upon.  For those with regular full-time jobs, this system might have worked. But those who rely on Centrelink tend to have more differences in their incomes and working hours. They could be employed casually, and they might have more than one job.

I can’t help but see the differences in how this system has been designed compared to others. Recently, a national taskforce was created to help farmers and rural communities in the drought. It has explored the mental health, financial wellbeing, and resilience of rural communities. People from those communities were on the working group along with people from service organisations like Anglicare, and departmental officials.  The service responses put in place were shaped with the people it was designed to help.  Words like dignity, strength, resilience, abounded in our conversations as we designed responses to assist communities cope.

All of this is very different to the punitive approach brought to bear on those unlucky enough to need help through Newstart, the Disability Support Pension, or other benefits that alleviate hardship and poverty.

It is only by hearing from those that who use the system that we can ensure it looks after those who come into contact with it. We will also be more likely end up with a system that achieves what it sets out to do.

Anglicare Australia believes in the inherent dignity of all people, whether they are in hardship because of structural changes to the manufacturing industry, or because of the effects of climate change on the agricultural sector.  Until our welfare system recognises that dignity, we will not have a system which supports people the way we would all like to be supported: With dignity and care in the present leading to resilience, and hope for the future.

National Office News

National Office News: Jobactive, ParentsNext, Robodebt and more

Anglicare Australia gives evidence to inquiry into Jobactive
Imogen at hearingAnglicare Australia has given evidence to a hearing for the Senate Education and Employment References Committee Inquiry into the appropriateness and effectiveness of the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of Jobactive.

Our comments built on our submission, which called for a greater focus on person-centred employment services. We also urged the committee to give primary attention to the experiences of people who have been required to use Jobactive.

In our evidence, we went on to call for:

  • Reform of Jobactive to offer a greater range of support
  • The decoupling of employment service provision from individual penalties
  • The urgent creation of a third party independent body to better regulate employment services, and provide advocacy for people using them.

The final report from the committee extensively quoted the evidence provided by Anglicare Australia.

The final report from the committee is available here. Click here to read Anglicare Australia’s submission.

ParentsNext must be urgently reformed
Anglicare Australia has made a submission to Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into ParentsNext. Our submission focuses on the need for urgent reform of the program.

As an early intervention program that provides personalised support, the ParentsNext program has the potential to help parents to work towards their education and employment goals. However, the focus on compliance and sanctions has hurt the people that ParentsNext should be helping. It has placed severe stress on participants, put vulnerable families further at risk, and stopped providers from supporting people.

Anglicare Australia called for the ParentsNext Targeted Compliance Framework to be suspended, and for the program to be re-aligned as a person-centred, pre-employment support program.

Click here to read Anglicare Australia’s submission.

Robodebt system to face a landmark court case
EColley-GPAP-7010Anglicare Australia has reiterated calls to suspend the Centrelink Robodebt system after news that it will face a legal challenge. Kasy Chambers, executive director of Anglicare Australia, told Pro Bono News she hoped the new voice in the argument against robo-debt would finally shut the program down.

Citing research released by Anglicare Australia members, Executive Director Kasy Chambers said that the welfare services like Centrelink was not working, and was putting more stress on the services Anglicare were meant to provide.

“Rather than talking about housing or relationships we’re having to sit with [people] and work through a telephone call with Centrelink. It’s quite inefficient,” she said.

“We certainly hope whichever colour of government we end up with is looking carefully at this, because we really need to get rid of a system harming people who are coming into contact with it.”

Click here to read the full story.

Housing and Homelessness Strategic Collaboration Group to focus on social housing
The Anglicare Australia Housing and Homelessness Strategic Collaboration Group has met in Canberra on Tuesday 12 February in Canberra. Chaired by Peter Sandeman of AnglicareSA, the group has members from across Australia.

The group heard a presentation on the Everybody's Home campaign, which Anglicare Australia is a member of. The campaign focuses on ending homelessness, improving rental security, funding new affordable rental houses and changing the tax settings to increase investment in affordable rentals and home ownership for new home owners.

Among other items, the group also discussed the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, advocacy ahead of the Federal Election, and the need for major government investment in social housing. This will be priority for the group.

To find out more about the group and its work, contact [email protected].

Research and Media and Communications Networks meet in Sydney
The Research Network and the Media and Communications Network held joint meetings on February 26 and 27 in Sydney. Both networks will participate in a joint session on the findings of Anglicare Australia's 2018 State of the Family research.

The research explored attitudes towards people experiencing poverty. It also reflects on what these attitudes mean for how we as advocates communicate and persuade. The overarching finding from the study was that attitudes are not fixed. They are shaped and reshaped through persuasion and debate. It also showed that Australians are more sympathetic to those in poverty then even they realise.

In discussing the results, Network members discussed how to apply to the results to our public communications and reshape public debate on issues surrounding poverty, inequality, and welfare.

Other opportunities canvassed by the groups included opportunities to conduct polling on social housing, which will be a key issue for Anglicare Australia in the coming months; and the creation of a regular Anglicare Australia report exploring people’s aspirations for their retirement.

To find out more about the research, contact Anglicare Australia Director of Media and Communications [email protected].

Anglicare Network News

Anglicare Network News

Upcoming Anglicare Australia network meetings
This year is well underway with a number of Anglicare Australia's special interest networks settling on the time and place for their next network meetings and forums.

The Research Network and the Media and Communications Network will meet on Tuesday February 26 and Wednesday February 27 in Sydney. Both networks will participate in a joint session on the findings of Anglicare Australia's 2018 State of the Family research, and the Media and Communications Network will have a training session on crisis communications and issues management.

Other confirmed dates include:

  • The CFOs will meet on Wednesday 6 March 2019 in Sydney.
  • The Financial Wellbeing and Children and Family Services Networks will hold a joint forum Wednesday 6 March 2019 in Adelaide.
  • The Clinical and Care Governance Network will meet in Brisbane on 12 June (further details below).

For more information on these meetings or any other network activity, contact the convenors or members of the groups direct, or ask us for assistance at [email protected].

Anglicare Sydney partners with NSW Government to build more affordable housing

Grant M 2017Anglicare Sydney will build 550 affordable properties, delivered over three years, as one of the successful applicants for Phase 2 of the NSW Government’s Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF).

“Anglicare Sydney is delighted to partner with the NSW Government in their initiative to increase housing supply and provide additional support for tenants,” said Grant Millard, CEO Anglicare Sydney.

Minister for Social Housing Pru Goward said the Social and Affordable Housing Fund proved what could be achieved when the Government worked with organisations like Anglicare to deliver great outcomes for vulnerable people.

“By embracing a collaborative approach, the Government and Anglicare are helping people to break the cycle of disadvantage and move towards greater independence,” Ms Goward said.

“I am delighted to welcome the second phase of this innovative program, which will ensure a pipeline of houses for vulnerable people for years to come.”

Click here to read more about Anglicare Sydney’s work on affordable housing.

Anglicare NT and Hawthorn Share Mental Health Message
Hawthorne-visitHawthorn Football Club players have joined headspace staff in Katherine to hold football clinics and share information about mental health.

As part of two days of activities, local Aboriginal elders and staff from headspace Katherine and Darwin met with Hawthorn players to discuss the needs of young people in the region and how the new partnership could provide assistance and raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing.

Developments for a new headspace centre are currently underway in Katherine. The centre will provide early intervention mental health services to young people aged 12-25 years and act as a one-stop-shop for young people who need help with mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs or work and study support.

headpace“Extensive consultations have taken place with young people and stakeholders in the local community to help shape the Katherine service,” said Jade Gooding, Executive Manager Mental Health at Anglicare NT.

“It was really fantastic to see Hawthorn supporting the local community here in Katherine. We’re looking forward to developing our partnership and continuing to prioritise youth mental health in the region,” said Jade.

Hawthorn CEO Justin Reeves said the headspace partnership is a great opportunity for the club to reinforce its commitment to encouraging positive mental health amongst Australians.

Click here to watch a video of the Katherine visit.

Save the Date for June 11 and 12: Compliance or improvement – What’s the evidence?
Anglicare Australia’s Clinical and Care Governance Network will hold a national meeting in Brisbane this June. Please mark the dates in your calendars now.

The CCGN hopes to encourage those involved in quality and risk across our services to be learning from each other across out-of-home care, aged care, disability, and mental health. This meeting will focus on the tension between an increased pressure to demonstrate compliance and our desire to improve the quality of care.

We hope to have a dinner on June 11 with a guest speaker to stimulate thinking on the theme. This will be followed by three key sessions on June 12 focusing on:

  • Quality standards and frameworks across different services – how do they connect?
  • Dealing with the growing pressure on compliance, while keeping the focus on quality of care.
  • The role of the ‘client voice’ and the co-production of services.

A formal invitation will be sent out with the final program, and details will follow soon.

For more information, contact [email protected].

National Awards Profile

Awards profile: Amana Living Arts Festival

Welcome to our series of profiles on the winners and highly commended of the Anglicare Australia 2018 National Awards for Innovation and Excellence. These profiles are featured in the 2019 Anglicare Australia Review.

Amana Living Arts Festival 2WA’s first ever arts festival for seniors was launched by Amana Living in 2018. The 2018 Amana Living Arts Festival ran for six weeks at Amana Living locations and iconic arts venues across Perth.

The Amana Living Arts Festival aimed to improve wellbeing by providing opportunities for creative expression. It delivered 150 arts and cultural events for over 1,000 Amana Living clients from residential care, transition care, retirement living, and home care.

Amana Living believes in the value of remaining creative for wellbeing and quality of life. It is a way of working through grief, anger, and frustration – and creating art can be a valuable way of communicating, feeling valued, and experiencing pleasure.

Amana Living Arts Festival 1The 2018 Amana Living Festival was the first of its kind in WA, going above and beyond standard programs delivered in aged care.  It was also designed to engage socially isolated people in group activities aligned to their artistic interests.

The judges commended Amana Living for bringing creative arts to older people in collaboration with the wider community. There was a major scale to this project, and by all accounts, it had benefits for everybody involved. The judges said they hope to see more programs like this.

Research and Resources

New research and resources: Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, National Disability, Amnesty International and more

Royal CommissionNavigating the maze: An overview of Australia’s current aged care system
Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety
Released following the first hearings in Adelaide this month, this background paper from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety outlines different aspects of the aged care system, the services currently being delivered in Australia and the areas in need of substantial reform. The report is available here.

Emerging MindsEmerging Minds
National Workforce Centre for Child Mental
The Emerging Minds, National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is a workforce development initiative funded by the Australian Government. The project aims to assist people and organisations who work with parents and families, and improve the mental health outcomes of children. The free courses can be completed at your own pace and are specifically designed to help support your practice. The online training courses are available here.

NDSHow is the disability sector faring?
National Disability Services and Centre for Social Impact
The National Disability Services’ Annual Market Survey is a key resource in understanding the state of the Australian disability sector, its challenges and opportunities. A key driver for this research is the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the substantial restructuring of individual organisations and the supply-side of the scheme. The report is available here.

AmnestyLaws designed to silence: the global crackdown on civil society organizations
Amnesty International
An alarming global trend has surfaced in which states are introducing and using laws to interfere with the right to freedom of association and to hamper the work of civil society organizations and individuals who participate in them. This report shows how this phenomenon is widespread and increasing in all regions. The report is available here.

Policy, consultations and grants

New consultations and grants

Review of the Social Security Commission Bill 2018
The Selection Committee has called for submissions on the Social Security Commission Bill 2018. This private members bill would establish a Social Security Commission independent of government to research rates of income support.

Submissions close on Friday 1 March 2019. More information is available here. To provide input into Anglicare Australia’s submission, contact [email protected].

Jan Pentland Scholarships now open
Each year the Jan Pentland Foundation makes several scholarships available to people who will make a great contribution to the financial counselling sector but require some financial assistance to complete the Diploma of Financial Counselling. Successful applicants will be required to enrol in the Diploma of Financial Counselling by the end of 2019 and to complete the Diploma in a two and a half year timeframe. The scholarships cover costs associated with the diploma up to $5,000.

Applications close on Friday 29 March 2019. More information is available here.

Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health
This inquiry will examine the effect of mental health on people’s ability to participate in and prosper in the community and workplace, and the effects it has more generally on our economy and productivity.

Submissions close on Friday 5 April 2019. More information is available here. Anglicare Australia will be making a submission. To provide input, contact [email protected].

Inquiry into general issues around the implementation and performance of the NDIS
The Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme is conducting this inquiry, which aims to identify broad systemic issues relating to the implementation and operation of the Scheme. After 30 June each year, the committee reports to Parliament on recurrent issues that have arisen and offers recommendations intended to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Scheme.

Submissions are open, and no closing date has been nominated. More information is available here.

Sector Events

Sector Events, February 2019

Upcoming Anglicare Australia network meetings
The following Anglicare networks have upcoming meetings:

  • The CFOs will meet on Wednesday 6 March 2019 in Sydney.
  • The Financial Wellbeing and Children and Family Services Networks will hold a joint forum Wednesday 6 March 2019 in Adelaide.
  • The Clinical and Care Governance Network will meet in Brisbane on 12 June.

Email [email protected] for more information.

Public Assembly on Housing
On Thursday March 14 2019, St Vincent De Paul Society NSW, the Sydney Alliance and the Everybody’s Home campaign are co-hosting a public assembly on affordable rental housing and clean affordable household energy. The March Assembly is an opportunity for the community to hear about and ask questions on the policies of political parties and key issues for candidates in the lead-up to the NSW and Federal elections. It will be held from 6.30pm on Thursday 14 March 2019 at Sydney Town Hall. Free tickets can be booked here.

National Youth Homelessness Conference
One in four Australians experiencing homelessness are children and young people aged 12-24, and this is widely acknowledged as an underestimate. This conference will look at what has or hasn’t happened to address youth homelessness in the past 10 years, what we have learnt works, what reforms are required and the development of an agenda that we can advocate to Governments. The conference will be held at Melbourne Town Hall on Monday 18 to Tuesday 19 March 2019. Tickets are available here.

National Families Week
Registration is now open for National Families Week 2019. The Week will be held from 15 May, the United Nations International Day of Families, to 21 May 2019. Organisations, businesses and individuals are encouraged to celebrate National Families Week by planning and holding a National Families Week event. More information is available here.

Child Inclusive Practice 
The 2019 Child Inclusive Practice Forum Rebuilding, Restoration and Renovation, acknowledges family breakdown is not a finite concept. Reflecting this our speakers will cover wide ranging topics to enrich the practice of Child and Family Therapists, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners, Family Law and Childhood Specialists. The CIP Forum will be held 3-5 June 2019, at DoubleTree by Hilton Esplanade Darwin, Northern Territory. Registrations are available here.

Anglicare Australia National Conference
Our Stories: The Power to Change is the theme for Anglicare Australia’s National Conference, to be held in Perth from 8–11 September 2019. This year's conference will capture our work and builds on our mission. As Anglicare Australia Network members, we work in hundreds of communities across Australia to build resilience, inclusion and justice. And as a Network, we are always sharing stories of change as we advance our mission. Delegates will be treated to concurrent sessions from experts from across the Anglicare network; outstanding keynote addresses; and networking opportunities throughout the three days. Registrations will open in May.

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