National survey of FaRS-funded service providers

Overview of services and service provider perspectives
Research Report – August 2018

1 Introduction

1.1 Background to the study

The Department of Social Services (DSS) commissioned the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) to undertake research for the purpose of investigating the activities of DSS Family and Relationship Services (FaRS) funded service providers, with a focus on Specialised Family Violence Services (SFVS). FaRS are a key point of contact and intervention for families experiencing difficulties, including domestic and family violence (DFV). Because FaRS are a universal service that aims to strengthen family relationships, prevent breakdown and ensure family and child wellbeing, they can provide an early intervention 'triage' regarding family violence for all families accessing services. Within the broader FaRS network of services, a small number of agencies also provide SFVS. However, DSS is currently seeking a greater understanding of how FaRS (including the SFVS) are dealing with DFV and/or how they interact with other agencies or services.

Three overarching questions guided the research:

  1. What services are being provided by FaRS and SFVS funded service providers?
  2. What are some of the challenges and gaps experienced in delivering these services?
  3. What does integration and/or linkage of FaRS services with funded and non-funded family services look like at this point in time?

This research consists of:

  1. an online survey developed as part of a consultative process with DSS and FaRS and SFVS service providers
  2. targeted qualitative interviews with FaRS and SFVS service providers.

The survey and interviews focused on the types of services provided; whether these services connected to other relevant services; how respondents identified and managed risk; and the successes and challenges that services experienced when attempting to meet the needs of women, children and families. In particular, the research aimed to share respondents' strategies, approaches, perceptions and experiences for meeting, managing and responding to local community needs.

1.2 Structure of the report

The report begins with a brief description of the research methodology. The research findings are then presented in four sections which address the three overarching research questions. The first section describes the characteristics of the FaRS and SFVS survey respondents and the types of FaRS and SFVS services they provide. The second part explores the relationships between services, the referral pathways of FaRS and SFVS service users across metropolitan, regional, and rural and remote areas of Australia, and co-location arrangements within DSS and non-DSS funded services. The third section describes how services attempt to address community needs. The final part of the report describes issues related to staffing capacity training and retention.

Appendix A presents tables showing the descriptive analyses of the online survey data. Only results relevant to the key overarching research questions are discussed in the body of the report. Appendix B shows the interview schedule used by researchers during the qualitative interviews.

The results of this quantitative and qualitative research are presented in the form of summaries and tables derived from the survey results. These are drawn together with quotes and summaries taken from the information provided during the qualitative interviews, which expand on the survey findings. Throughout the report, FaRS and SFVS service providers who participated in the online survey are referred to as 'survey respondents' and those who participated in the qualitative interviews are referred to as 'interviewees'.

Although SFVS are a subset of FaRS, in this report the term 'FaRS' refers to services without an SFVS. SFVS, in contrast, can include both SFVS that also have a mainstream FaRS component and the small number of SFVS that indicated (in their survey responses) that they were a standalone service.