Reform Q&A

Reform Q&A

In November 2015, the NSW Government commissioned David Tune AO PSM to carry out an independent review of the out of home care system in NSW. 

The review was commissioned in response to the growth of the out of home care population and continuing poor outcomes for the most vulnerable children and families. 

The purpose of the review was to: 

  • create a future vision and long-term strategy for out of home care;
  • understand the demand drivers for out of home care, including the entry and exit pressures on the system;
  • propose solutions for the unsustainable growth in the number of children in out of home care and the out of home care budget;
  • understand the causes of overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the out of home care system, and the poorer outcomes for many of these children;
  • propose solutions to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in the out of home care system and improve outcomes for these children and young people; and
  • review the ongoing appropriateness of programs funded by the Keep Them Safe reforms.

An interagency team, with staff from FACS, DPC and Treasury, was established within DPC to carry out the review. Project oversight and guidance was provided by a Project Reference Group comprised of senior representatives from DPC, Treasury, FACS, the Ministry of Health, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice and Aboriginal Affairs.

The independent review concluded that despite significantly increased government expenditure, the number of children and young people in out of home care has doubled over the past 10 years, and continues to increase. Moreover, the system is failing to improve long-term outcomes for children and to arrest the devastating cycles of intergenerational abuse and neglect. Outcomes are particularly poor for Aboriginal children, young people and families.

The drivers of demand for out of home care are complex – including socioeconomic disadvantage, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and mental health issues – and cut across the portfolio responsibilities of many agencies.

However, current expenditure is focused on programs that are provided within agency silos and are difficult for clients to navigate. Furthermore, interventions are often not evidence-based, and are not tailored to meet the multiple and diverse needs of vulnerable children and families.

The review identified the following whole of system issues:

  • the current system is not client-centred. It is designed around programs and service models instead of the needs of vulnerable families
  • vulnerable children and families have needs that cross the boundaries of government agencies. The current approach to shared responsibility across government agencies has not improved the outcomes for children and families with complex needs
  • FACS holds primary accountability for very vulnerable families with little influence over the drivers of vulnerability or the levers for change
  • expenditure is crisis driven, not well-aligned to the evidence and does not effectively target clients.

Their Futures Matter: A new approach sets out a future vision and long-term strategy for out of home care, and for improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families in NSW more broadly. It is a landmark reform for NSW, and provides a roadmap to deliver the type of transformational change that is needed to turn the system into one that works for children and families.

The reform sets out a cohesive and accountable system where client outcomes, strong evidence and targeted services are delivered based on the needs of children and families. It requires an unprecedented level of collaboration across NSW Government agencies.

The reform is different to those attempted before in key respects. The Government will:

  • apply an investment approach to service design and delivery to guide investment, target responses and ensure the system is focused on providing evidence-based services
  • use data to identify the most vulnerable groups so we can prioritise their needs
  • introduce child and family-centred tailored support packages to ensure vulnerable children and families get access to the services they need
  • establish a single commissioning entity within FACS that will be responsible for driving the reform process
  • align cross-government funding for vulnerable children and families

The reform will change the way we work, to invest in better futures and find new and better ways of working with vulnerable families by addressing the drivers of vulnerability.

The investment approach to service design and delivery ensures that effort and funding is focused on providing evidence-based services which drive the best outcomes, as well as promoting a cost-effective system.

It involves undertaking actuarial analyses of the lifetime costs of children and young people in out of home care and families in the system to model the future liability to government based on their expected service use. Services are then commissioned based on a better understanding of the life trajectories of vulnerable children and families and their outcomes.

This approach takes a whole of system view in order to:

  • establish a high quality, transparent cross-government dataset to measure the effectiveness of interventions and outcomes and, in partnership with the Data Analytics Centre;
  • tailor and target responses to specific cohorts of clients;
  • focus investment on interventions that will improve the long-term outcomes for clients at the earliest opportunity; 
  • ensure continuous improvement with a test, learn and adapt approach to investment; and
  • reduce long term costs associated with poor outcomes and maximise efficiency.

These system reforms will be supported by increased investment in evidence-based services. As part of the 2016-17 Budget, the NSW Government committed an additional $190 million in funding for services for vulnerable children and families.

This included funding for an additional 900 places for children in intensive family preservation and restoration services, half of which will be dedicated to Aboriginal families. These programs improve long-term outcomes for families and provide a targeted and holistic response for:

  • families with children at imminent risk of entering care; and
  • families with children in care for whom restoration is identified as a case plan goal.

If you would like more information, please email or connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, where we will be regularly posting updates about the reform.