National survey of FaRS-funded service providers

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

3 What do we know about participants in this research?

This section describes:

  • the characteristics of the FaRS and SFVS survey respondents
  • the types of FaRS and SFVS services they provide
  • where their services are offered across metropolitan, regional, and rural and remote areas of Australia.

3.1 Gender, roles and service type

The online survey was completed by 212 participants, representing a range of FaRS and SFVS services across Australia. More than three quarters of survey respondents (n = 169) were female. The sample comprised practitioners (n = 114) and managers (n = 61), as well as survey respondents working in both of these roles (n = 37). A larger proportion of survey respondents worked full-time (n = 131) than part-time (n = 81).

As noted above, due to the survey's sample size and composition, care should be taken when interpreting the results as the findings cannot be generalised to the entire FaRS and SFVS population. The sample is representative of the survey respondents who participated in the online survey. Table 3.1. shows a breakdown of the characteristics of survey respondents.

Table 3.1: Characteristics of survey respondents
  Female Male Total
  n % n % n %
Total 169 80 40 19 212 100
Respondent role
Practitioner 89 53 22 55 114 54
Manager 47 28 14 35 61 29
Both 33 20 4 10 37 17
Working hours
Full-time 100 59 29 73 131 62
Part-time 69 41 11 28 81 38
Service type
FaRS 119 70 25 63 146 69
SVFS 4 2 2 5 6 3
Both 46 27 13 33 60 28

Note: Totals includes non-responses. Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

3.2 Where are FaRS and SFVS services located?

We cover the lower part of New South Wales, our Canberra Services go north to Goulburn, along the south coast, south from Batemans Bay, Cooma, Queanbeyan, and those southern areas … In the Riverina we're funded by New South Wales government departments to deliver a Headspace service, a family referral service, which is linked with Child Protection, and a rural Outreach program funded by Presentation Sisters, which is a religious organisation in Wagga. (Service provider)

In the survey we asked managers and practitioners about their service's primary location. The majority of respondent services were located across metropolitan and inner regional areas of Australia (n = 112). Just over 10% of services were located in outer regional and remote areas (n = 24).

The responding FaRS and SFVS services had a broadly similar distribution across metropolitan, regional and remote parts of Australia. However, a larger proportion of FaRS services (n = 19) compared to SFVS services (n = 3) were located in outer regional and remote areas of Australia. This is an expected outcome given the overall larger number of mainstream FaRS. Table 3.2. shows the spread of FaRS and SFVS service locations across Australia based on the information provided by survey respondents.

Table 3.2: Main service locations by service type
  FaRS SFVS Total
  n % n % n %
Total 146 69 66 31 212 100
Geographic remoteness
Major cities of Australia 74 51 38 58 112 53
Inner regional Australia 31 21 15 23 46 22
Outer regional Australia 22 15 10 15 32 15
Remote/very remote Australia 19 13 3 5 22 11
Services at multiple locations
Respondents' employer provides services at another location 67 46 35 53 102 48

Note: Total includes non-responses. Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Total of FaRS

Close to half of the survey respondents reported that they (or their service) also provided services at a secondary location. The geographic distribution of secondary locations across Australia was similar to the primary locations (see Table 3.3). That is, most secondary locations were either in the same geographic remoteness area or one level further out. No services operated in separate states (with the potential exception of one remote community where their postcode area crossed the border).

Table 3.3: Secondary service locations by service type
  FaRS SFVS Total
  n % n % n %
Total number of services 146 69 66 31 212 100
Major cities of Australia 30 45 16 48 46 46
Inner regional Australia 14 21 6 18 20 20
Outer regional Australia 13 20 8 24 21 21
Remote/very remote Australia 9 14 3 9 12 12

3.3 FaRS and SFVS activities

We offer counselling and community education to people from age three up across each stage of a lifespan. We deal with mental health issues and we work individually and in family groups. We have expertise in domestic violence and trauma-informed counselling. (Service provider)

Overall, survey respondents indicated that FaRS and SFVS offered a similarly wide range of services. The survey responses suggested that regardless of whether services were located in metro, inner regional or outer regional and remote areas, FaRS and SFVS core business was to provide centre-based programs, information, advice and referral to individuals, families, couples and children. Outreach services, in-home support, online services and community events/services were offered by all services to a lesser degree, although regional and remote services were more likely than metropolitan services to offer outreach and in-home services. This is likely a reflection of the sometimes wide geographical area served by non-metro services. Table 3.4 shows a breakdown of the service modes across Australia.

Table 3.4: Types of services offered, by geographic remoteness
( n = 103)
Inner regional
( n = 43)
Outer regional/remote
( n = 51)
  n % n % n %
Service types offered
Centre-based individual programs 80 78 41 95 37 73
Information/advice/referral 78 76 35 81 45 88
Centre-based group programs 77 75 36 84 33 65
Centre-based couple programs 70 68 36 84 33 65
Centre-based parent programs 61 59 36 84 34 67
Centre-based child/youth-focused programs 52 50 28 65 31 61
Telephone services 56 54 22 51 23 45
Centre-based family programs 51 50 23 53 26 51
Outreach services 38 37 27 63 25 49
Case management 43 42 11 26 28 55
Community events/services 28 27 14 33 26 51
Online services 16 16 4 9 9 18
In-home support 8 8 5 12 11 22

Counselling was the primary activity for practitioners in both FaRS and SFVS, although SFVS practitioners reported spending less time on family therapy, education and skills training, mediation, and working with children and young people than did FaRS (see Appendix A, Table A5). This finding reflects the specialised nature and targeted approach of SFVS work relative to the broader FaRS services.

Survey respondents from both FaRS and SFVS reported that their service as a whole spent the largest proportion of time on intake and referral processes, reflecting both the importance and time-consuming nature of such work (see Appendix A, Table A5 and Table A6). Supervision and professional development and trialling innovative approaches to service provision were the next most time-consuming activities for both FaRS and SFVS. Both groups of survey respondents reported a similarly low amount of time on early intervention. In section 6 we discuss issues relating to staff resources and capacity to undertake early intervention work. It is also worth noting that interviews with participants indicated that there were varying definitions of 'early intervention' and that the term could be applied at different points in the service spectrum. Although interviewees indicated that they would ideally like to work with families before violence had occurred, they often had limited opportunity to do so because referrals into the service typically occurred after a violent event or crisis. Therefore, for FaRS and SFVS interviewees, 'early intervention' instead often meant early referral of clients into appropriate services (such as SFVS) when clients disclosed domestic and family violence (or other issues) at the referral and intake stage. As such, 'early intervention' overlapped with referral and intake, the activity on which services spent the most time.

As part of their service provision, both FaRS and SFVS providers reported using a range of information and communication technology (ICT) tools and devices to support service provision (see Table 3.5). These include telephones, text messaging, websites, skyping, video conferencing, online services, social networking sites and smart phone apps. A small proportion of survey respondents from metro (8%), inner regional (14%) and outer regional/remote areas (20%) reported not using any ICT tools and devices at their service. Qualitative interviews with participants indicated that some clients, especially in regional and remote areas, preferred face-to-face contact and the personal relationships that this enabled.

Table 3.5: Service delivery: ICT tools and devices, by location
( n = 103)
Inner regional
( n = 43)
Outer regional/remote
( n = 51)
  n % n % n %
Our service uses the following for counselling, education, consultation, support groups and outreach …
Telephone services 72 70 26 60 35 69
Text messaging 71 69 27 63 31 61
Websites 60 58 23 53 21 41
Skype, video conferencing 41 40 12 28 23 45
Online services 17 17 8 19 17 33
Social networking sites 21 20 5 12 15 29
Smart phone apps 18 17 11 26 7 14
We don't use any of these at our service 8 8 6 14 10 20

During the qualitative interviews, participants also indicated that services commonly have to work across a range of treatment and service provision modes according to client needs. For example, one interviewee reported that a SFVS worker may work with one parent while another worker will work with the second parent and, if appropriate, a third worker may work with the child/children as well. Different modes of contact, or service, could be required by each of these clients. Another interviewee described shared service arrangements, whereby the service could have a FaRS worker who would co-facilitate a youth and wilderness program (an outdoor program) administered by another service because the program addressed issues around young people's experiences of parental separation. Workers indicated that this mode of working across families, couples, young people and children was complex and that careful consideration needed to be given to professional development to ensure workers had the appropriate skills and general life experience to perform these roles adequately.