Social Services: Regional Australia—A Stronger Economy Delivering Stronger Regions 2018–19

The Department of Social Services is responsible for a range of policies, payments, programs and services that improve the lifetime wellbeing of people and families in Australia. The Department administers around one quarter of the total Australian Government budget, with effort particularly focused on vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, families and communities, including those in regional and remote areas.

The Department of Social Services works in partnership with stakeholders including through a delivery network located within state, territory and regional offices to understand need and invest in services for Australians, including those in regional locations.

New Initiatives

Extending the Cashless Debit Card Trial

The Cashless Debit Card is aimed at supporting disadvantaged communities to reduce the consumption and effects of drugs, alcohol and gambling on the health and wellbeing of communities, families and children. Under the Cashless Debit Card, 80 per cent of welfare payments are placed onto a recipient's card, with the remaining 20 per cent placed into their regular bank account. The Cashless Debit Card looks and operates like a normal bank card, except it cannot be used to buy alcohol or gambling products, or to withdraw cash.

The Cashless Debit Card trial was implemented in the Ceduna region, South Australia, in March 2016, and the East Kimberley, Western Australia, in April 2016. Roll out commenced in the Goldfields, Western Australia in March 2018. Once fully rolled out in the Goldfields, the Cashless Debit Card will support a total of 5,800 people in vulnerable communities.

The trial will commence in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region once legislation has been passed.

As part of the 2018-19 Budget, the Cashless Debit Card trial will be extended in Ceduna and the East Kimberley until 30 June 2019.

The Australian Government will also maintain funding for community services to support the trial, such as financial counselling.

50 Years of ABSTUDY—Strengthening ABSTUDY for Secondary Students

ABSTUDY is an ongoing program to help address educational disadvantages faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ABSTUDY helps eligible Indigenous students and apprentices, many from remote areas, with study, living, and travel expenses, including if they need to study away from home. ABSTUDY supports around 20,000 Indigenous secondary students and 10,000 Indigenous tertiary students. ABSTUDY expenditure is estimated to be around $270.0 million in 2018-19.

From 2019, the year of the 50th anniversary of ABSTUDY, this package will help more than 5,000 Indigenous secondary boarding students to stay in school by:

  • increasing travel support - providing practical support to address issues with travel arrangements, including mandating safe travel plans for school student travellers and increasing the maximum number of family or community member visits to the school each year
  • increasing boarding payments by $5,258.60 (2018 value, subject to indexation) per year for around 1,900 secondary students who currently are missing out because of technical quirks in the ABSTUDY payment structure
  • introducing simpler criteria and clearer processes for secondary school scholarships to be approved for ABSTUDY assistance
  • streamlining payments for schools and boarding providers
  • removing the Maintenance Income Test from certain payments that are specific to schooling and boarding, and addressing associated anomalies.

The measure addresses a range of recommendations and issues raised in the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs report on Educational opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and the Review of Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Secondary Students Studying Away From Home  as well as from the 2015 McClure Review and the 2014 Forrest Review.

The measure will assist Indigenous secondary students to stay in school and help address the Closing the Gap targets.

Improved Access to Youth Allowance for Regional Students

The Australian Government  will make it easier for regional, rural and remote students to access financial assistance for tertiary education, by expanding the number of students who are eligible to be considered ‘independent’ under the regional workforce participation rules. Students who are considered ‘independent’ are not subject to the Parental Income Test.

From 1 January 2019, the following  changes will apply to the $150,000 parental income cut-off for the Youth Allowance ‘workforce participation’ independence criterion for regional students:

  • providing an increase of the $150,000 threshold to $160,000
  • increasing the new $160,000 cut-off by $10,000 for each additional child in the family to take into account the extra costs of raising larger families
  • providing students with additional certainty about whether they will meet parental income cut-off, by making the year in which the parental income is assessed the financial year preceding the beginning of the student’s “14 month self-supporting period” (which forms part of the independence criterion). This way students will know before they decide to take a gap year whether their parental income will be under the cut-off.

This is a component of the Response to the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education—additional support for students measure.

National Disability Insurance Scheme—Continuity of Support

The Australian Government has committed to provide Continuity of Support to people with disability currently receiving Commonwealth government services, but ineligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in the transition to the NDIS.

Existing funding arrangements expire on 30 June 2019, when the NDIS reaches full scheme in most states and territories. From 1 July 2019, existing clients of transitioning Commonwealth programs who are ineligible for assistance under the NDIS, will have access to a level of support that is consistent with that which they currently receive through four Continuity of Support packages including Mental Health, a Continuity of Support Fund, Mobility Allowance (from July 2020), and the National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service.

National Disability Insurance Scheme Jobs and Market Fund

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) represents one of the largest job creation opportunities in Australia’s history. The NDIS workforce is expected to grow from 73,000 full time equivalent workers in 2013 to approximately 162,000 full time equivalent workers by 2020. The provider market across Australia will also need to grow rapidly to meet the needs of 460,000 participants at full scheme. Importantly, the NDIS is creating local jobs and business opportunities for local people, including in regional, rural and remote Australia.

The Australian Government will invest $64.3 million over four years from 2017-18 for a new Jobs and Market Fund to support the rapid NDIS workforce and provider growth required. Jobs and Market Fund projects will be strategically targeted to address workforce and market gaps identified through market analysis and informed by consultation with the sector. A focus of the Jobs and Market Fund will be developing the capacity of workers and service providers in regional, rural and remote areas.

New Disability Employment Services—Transition Assistance

Transitional funding is being made available to support 14 generally smaller organisations providing Disability Employment Services that might otherwise experience difficulties adjusting to the new program arrangements commencing from 1 July 2018. Total funding of up to $9.9 million is being made available to give them the opportunity to adjust over a two year period to the new program arrangements.

Two providers receiving grants are based in regional areas, and others provide support to around another 600 people living in regional areas. About $1.5 million of the grant funding will support continued provision of services to Disability Employment Services participants living in regional areas.

Integrated Carer Support Services

The Integrated Carer Support Service will introduce a range of new tailored supports and services for carers. The new services will be designed to improve carer wellbeing, increase their capacity and support their participation, socially and economically.

There are approximately 544,000 carers living in inner regional areas and 308,000 living in outer regional and remote areas.

The Integrated Carer Support Service will provide a consistent, integrated approach to delivering carer support services at the national, regional and local levels. The Integrated Carer Support Service will introduce new ways to access those services that will support all carers, including those in regional Australia.

The new early-intervention service model will be rolled out in two stages:

  • From October 2018, new supports and services to assist carers will be rolled out through the Carer Gateway website including online peer support, counselling, coaching and educational resources.
  • From September 2019, the Government will establish a network of Regional Delivery Partners to help carers access a range of local services such as needs assessments, targeted financial support, information and advice, tailored phone and in-person counselling, peer support and coaching, and crisis support where required.

Regional Delivery Partners will also conduct outreach activities, and link to social, health, education, community and cultural groups, to better understand regional needs.

Clients of the Respite and Carer Support, Respite Support for Carers of Young People with Severe or Profound Disability, and Young Carers Respite and Information Services programs who are ineligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be able to access Continuity of Support through services provided under the new Integrated Carer Support Service.

To fund the new services, the Australian Government will introduce a new $250,000 family income test threshold for Carer Allowance payments and the Carer Allowance (child) Health Care Card Only, aligning it with other welfare payments and improving the sustainability of the welfare system.

The Integrated Carer Support Service forms the third and final stage of the 2015‑16 Budget commitment to develop an Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services. An additional $113.3 million will be invested over five years to 2021-22 to roll out the new services.

Current Initiatives

Try, Test and Learn Fund

In the 2016‑17 Budget, the Australian Government announced $96.1 million over four years to support the Try, Test and Learn Fund as part of the Australian Priority Investment Approach to Welfare.

In late 2017, the Australian Government committed around $23 million for 14 trial projects focused on three priority groups: young carers; young parents; and students at risk of long-term unemployment. The trials will run from 18 months to two years in selected locations across Australia including Darwin, Hobart, Greater Geelong, New England, Ipswich, Newcastle and Mandurah.

In 2018, the Australian Government is looking to commit up to $50.0 million to trial projects addressing long-term welfare dependency among vulnerable groups including: working age carers on Carer Payment; working age migrants and refugees on income support; Newstart Allowance recipients aged 50 and over; and at‑risk young people aged 16-21 receiving income support. A central feature of the Try, Test and Learn Fund is to generate new insights and empirical evidence into what works to reduce long‑term welfare dependency. Through robust evaluation of each project, the Try, Test and Learn Fund will allow the Australian Government to identify what approaches work and use this evidence to transform investment in existing programs, or make the case for new investments.

Domestic and Family Violence—Third Action Plan

Women living in regional Australia are more likely to experience domestic violence than those living in capital cities (Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, 2014; Personal Safety Survey, 2016). The Australian Government recognises the vulnerability of women and their children in regional Australia to domestic and family violence, including issues in accessing services, a lack of privacy due to services often knowing both the victims and perpetrators, and issues around isolation and social and cultural characteristics of living in small communities.

The Third Action Plan (2016‑19) of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010‑22 includes targeted support for women and children in rural, regional and remote locations. These are implemented across the following six key priority areas:

  • preventing and intervening early to address the attitudes and practices that excuse, justify and promote violence against women
  • improving responses and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children
  • providing greater support and choice for women and children leaving or trying to leave domestic and family violence
  • sharpening the focus on sexual violence as a key component for women’s safety
  • responding to children exposed to domestic and family violence to help them feel safe and to recover from their experience
  • holding perpetrators to account across all systems and targeting responses that work to change their behaviour.

The Third Action Plan will continue the efforts of the Australian Government and state and territory governments to break the cycle of violence, informed by recommendations of the Council of Australian Governments Advisory Panel. The Fourth Action Plan (2020-22) is currently being developed, and will draw on consultations across the community including key representatives from regional areas. Throughout the development process, it will be important to consider how services and supports are accessed and delivered for people that live in regional Australia, given the higher prevalence of domestic, family and sexual violence in these communities.

National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009‑20 is a joint commitment between the Australian Government, state and territory governments and the non‑government sector to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Australia’s children. The Third Action Plan 2015-18 focuses on three strategies:

  • early intervention with a focus on the early years, particularly the first 1,000 days for a child
  • helping young people in out‑of‑home care to thrive in adulthood
  • organisations responding better to children and young people to keep them safe.

Activities underway as part of the Third Action Plan 2015‑18 emphasise prevention and early intervention, and supporting children and young people exposed to risk factors for abuse and neglect, including children and families in regional Australia. As part of this work, the Australian Government is funding the Building Capacity in Australian Parents trial, which will provide support and tools parents need to help their children thrive in the first 1,000 days and normalise families asking for help in the regional Queensland locations and surrounds of Rockhampton, Toowoomba and Ipswich.

Under the Towards Independent Adulthood trial, personal advisers provide intensive, holistic support and mentoring for up to 80 young people in Western Australia, including some young people from regional areas, as they transition from formal out‑of‑home care into adulthood. The Third Action Plan 2015‑18 also includes a focus on the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families to address their overrepresentation in the child protection system.

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009‑20 and the Third Action Plan 2015‑18 form part of the Australian Government’s commitment to supporting the wellbeing of Australian children. There are close links between the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009‑20 and the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010‑22.

Families and Children

The Families and Children’s activity aims to help families improve the wellbeing of children and young people by strengthening relationships, building parenting and financial management skills, providing parenting support, and delivering school readiness programs and home visits. The Australian Government will allocate $274.9 million in 2018-19 to enable these services to continue to be delivered across Australia, with an extensive footprint in regional areas.

Families and Children’s services that the Department of Social Services has responsibility for include:

  • Family and Relationship Services
  • Communities for Children Facilitating Partners
  • Children and Parenting Services
  • Adult Specialist Support Services
  • Young People.

Communities for Children Facilitating Partners services operate in 28 regional areas to support early childhood development and wellbeing. Under this model, a Facilitating Partner is funded to work with each community to identify local needs and tailor services accordingly. Services may include parenting support, home visitation, supported play groups and life skills programs. In 2016-17, 23,772 individual clients from regional and remote areas received these services and 80,728 group clients attended these services in regional and remote areas.

The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters is a two‑year, home‑based parenting and early childhood learning initiative that currently operates in 66 regional or remote communities of high disadvantage.

The Department of Social Services has also established a dedicated taskforce to work in partnership with the Northern Territory Government, non-government organisations and local communities on the implementation of the Commonwealth response to the recommendations and findings of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

Financial Wellbeing and Capability

Services funded under the Financial Wellbeing and Capability activity operate in regional and remote locations as well as major cities across Australia, assisting the most financially vulnerable and disadvantaged people and families.

This includes support through the provision of emergency relief and material aid, financial counselling and capability including literacy and budgeting support, as well as access to microfinance schemes. Funding is also provided to support a national financial counselling helpline, providing access to financial counselling for people who are unable to attend a face-to-face service.

In 2018-19, around $100.0 million will be allocated to continue services under the Financial Wellbeing and Capability activity.

Approximately 214,000 people in regional or remote locations access Financial Wellbeing and Capability services. This equates to 44 per cent of all clients accessing these services nationally.

Income Management

Income Management is part of the Australian Government’s commitment to a strong social welfare safety net, reducing social harm in areas with high levels of welfare dependency and supporting vulnerable people, families and communities. Income Management currently supports around 25,000 people across Australia.

Income Management ensures that part of an individual’s welfare payments is directed towards meeting priority needs such as food, clothing, housing, utilities, education, and medical care. People can spend their income managed funds by organising direct payments to people or businesses such as stores, landlords, or utility providers, and by using the BasicsCard. Money that is income managed cannot be spent on alcohol, tobacco, pornography, home brew kits or gambling.

Income management will continue to operate in different forms across Australia, with a total investment of $72.3 million in 2018-19.

Assistance for Isolated Children

Families in isolated areas incur additional costs to educate their children. In 2016-17, the Assistance for Isolated Children scheme provided $70.9 million to the families of 11,032 students unable to attend an appropriate state school on a daily basis because of geographical isolation. In 2018-19, the estimated expenditure was $76.3 million.

In 2018, depending on the student’s circumstances, the Assistance for Isolated Children scheme provides:

  • Basic Boarding Allowance ($8,249)
  • Additional Boarding Allowance ($2,366)
  • Second Home Allowance ($240.30 per fortnight)
  • Distance Education Allowance ($4,124).

Regional and Remote Student Access to Education—Additional Support

From 1 January 2018, the period young people from regional and remote areas of Australia have to earn the amount required to satisfy the workforce independence provisions for Youth Allowance (student) or ABSTUDY, was reduced from 18 months to 14 months. Students will continue to be required to earn at least 75 per cent of Wage Level A of the National Training Wage ($24,042 for 2016-17 and $24,836 for 2017‑18) during the reduced period.

This initiative recognises that students from regional and remote areas face additional costs in pursuing tertiary education and have a much lower participation rate in higher education than students from major cities.

National Rental Affordability Scheme

The National Rental Affordability Scheme aims to increase the supply of new affordable rental housing by offering financial incentives for 10 years, to build and rent dwellings to low and moderate income households, at a rate that is at least 20 per cent below market value rent.

The National Rental Affordability Scheme is now closed to new dwelling allocations but will continue to operate until the current ten year incentive periods are complete.

In 2018-19, the annual National Rental Affordability Scheme incentive is $11,192.13. Australian Government expenses for 2018-19 are estimated at $310 million.

As at 31 December 2017, there were 34,413 dwellings available for rent in the National Rental Affordability Scheme, of these:

  • 4,901 (14.3 per cent) dwellings are located in inner regional areas
  • 2,764 (8.0 per cent) dwellings are located in outer regional areas
  • 272 (0.8 per cent) dwellings are located in remote areas
  • 39 (0.1 per cent) dwellings are located in very remote areas
  • 26,437 (76.8 per cent) dwellings are located in major cities of Australia.

Career Pathways Pilot for Humanitarian Entrants

The three year, Career Pathways Pilot will help humanitarian entrants, who already have professional or trade skills and/or qualifications, find jobs that match their skill set. New arrivals with vocational level English are eligible to participate in the Pilot within the first five years of settlement. Participants may be unemployed, or if already working, underemployed.

The Career Pathways Pilot was announced in the 2016-17 Budget with an allocation of $5.2 million from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

Career Pathways Pilot participants are assisted to access training and support to find employment opportunities that match their skills. The Career Pathways Pilot complements Government employment assistance programs already available to Australian refugee jobseekers.

The Career Pathways Pilot is expected to benefit up to 1,200 humanitarian entrants. Career Pathways Pilot sites are located in six settlement locations around Australia and include two regional locations in Hobart and Toowoomba.

Settlement Grants

Settlement Grants support both humanitarian entrants and other eligible migrants in their first five years of life in Australia, with a focus on social participation, economic wellbeing, independence, personal wellbeing and community connectedness.

Settlement Grants currently fund 90 organisations that deliver services in both metropolitan and regional and rural areas. Grant funding priorities and allocations are determined through assessment of settlement needs ensuring that funded services are targeted towards those communities and locations in greatest need of settlement assistance, and is responsive to changing settlement patterns and emerging communities.

Over the next four years (2018-19 to 2021-22), $203.3 million is allocated to Grants for Community Settlement. In the 2017 calendar year, Settlement Grants delivered services to 8,086 clients in regional and rural locations.

Volunteering

The Department of Social Services administers two streams of funding to support volunteering: the Volunteer Management Activity and Volunteer Grants.

In 2018-19, the Australian Government will provide funding of $5.7 million for the Volunteer Management Activity to support the delivery of Volunteer Support Services and one-off innovation and collaboration projects to encourage, support and increase participation in volunteering in metropolitan and regional areas across Australia. Volunteer Support Services provide volunteering information and support to individuals, volunteers, volunteer managers and volunteer involving organisations. Under the Volunteer Management Activity, 52 community organisations are funded to deliver 72 Volunteer Support Services. Over three quarters of these are located in regional areas.

In 2018-19, around $20.0 million will be allocated to Volunteer Grants. This is expected to benefit regional communities at similar levels to previous years, which resulted in around 44 per cent of grants and 47 per cent of funding being allocated to regional Australia.

National Disability Strategy 2010-2020

The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 is Australia’s overarching policy framework for improving the life of Australians with disability, their families and carers. It provides a shared vision across all levels of government of a more inclusive Australian society that enables people with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens.

There are approximately 930,000 Australians with disability living in inner regional areas and 515,000 in outer regional and remote areas.

Under the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020, the Australian Government released a Plan to Improve Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People with Disability in October 2017. The Plan recognises the particular difficulties faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in remote communities and includes funding for a trial of integrated health and education approaches to support students with disability in remote communities.

There are approximately 34,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability living in inner regional areas and 38,000 living in outer regional and remote areas. The Allied Health in Remote Schools project will trial an integrated approach to identifying and addressing developmental delay and disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote communities. These issues can reduce attendance and engagement with education, leading to further problems and reduced long-term outcomes. Allied health professionals will deliver targeted services to give practical support to children to assist them to meaningfully engage with their schooling.

The trial is a joint project between the Department of Social Services and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, with funding of $2.2 million over three years to 2020-21. The project will include recommendations on options for a potential broader program.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

On 1 July 2016, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) commenced transition to full scheme across Australia (except Western Australia). On 12 December 2017, the Western Australian Government joined the nationally-delivered NDIS. The NDIS will be fully rolled out and available to all people in New South Wales and South Australia from July 2018, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory from July 2019 and Western Australia from July 2020. The NDIS in the Australian Capital Territory is now fully operating.

The NDIS will create new employment opportunities in regional Australia, in response to additional demand for services from NDIS participants. As the NDIS rolls out across Australia, a growing number of people in regional and remote areas are expected to receive support. By 2019-20, the scheme will support an estimated 460,000 people with significant and permanent disability, regardless of where they live, including around 160,000 people in regional and remote areas.

National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards

The Quality and Safeguarding Framework was released by the Disability Reform Council on 3 February 2017. The Framework will provide nationally consistent protections for National Disability Insurance Scheme participants from full scheme.

Under the Framework, a new Commonwealth agency, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, will offer safeguards for an estimated 460,000 people with disability and their families, of which around 160,000 are regionally based. It will regulate providers; manage complaints and reportable incidents; and oversee investigations. The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission will start operating in New South Wales and South Australia from 1 July 2018 and in the other states and territories in July 2019 and in Western Australia by July 2020.

National Disability Insurance Scheme Appeals

In 2018-19, the Australian Government will invest a further $11.2 million in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Appeals program. NDIS Appeals was set up to ensure that all people with disability affected by reviewable decisions of the National Disability Insurance Agency, have access to support when they are seeking a review of those decisions in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. While the focus of NDIS Appeals is the provision for advocacy support, funding for legal assistance is available where a case raises complex or novel legal issues. NDIS Appeals support is available across Australia including in 10 regional areas.

National Disability Insurance Scheme—Boosting the Local Care Workforce

In 2018-19, the Australian Government has committed $15.8 million to the Boosting the Local Care Workforce Program, designed to assist disability and aged care providers to expand their workforce to meet the growing number of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants.

The program has a particular focus on boosting local job opportunities in rural, regional and outer suburban areas and includes three initiatives designed to develop the immediate capacity of existing disability service and aged care providers. The program will deploy up to 25 skilled Regional Coordinators to work with existing local service providers to help them adapt to the NDIS. The program will also engage up to 10 nationally focused Specialist Coordinators to identify areas of market underutilisation and workforce gaps. Additionally, eligible disability service providers will be assisted financially to access relevant professional services and grants that will help them prepare their businesses to deliver services under the NDIS.

National Disability Advocacy Program

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring people with disability have access to effective disability advocacy that promotes, protects and ensures their full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, enabling full community participation. Through the commitment to the National Disability Strategy 2010-20, all levels of government are responsible for supporting disability advocacy.

As a demonstration of the Australian Government’s commitment, funding of around $20.0 million will be provided in 2018-19 to around 60 advocacy agencies across Australia, including 10 in regional locations, under the National Disability Advocacy Program. Approximately 13,000 people received individual support in 2016-17, and a broader group benefitted from agency support. A search tool on the Department of Social Services website enables people to identify their nearest National Disability Advocacy Program agency.

In 2016-17, people with disability, advocacy agencies, the National Disability Insurance Agency, state and territory governments and key stakeholders such as public guardians were consulted via a formal review of the National Disability Advocacy Program. Findings of the review will provide a direction and model for the provision of services funded under the program from 1 July 2020, with a focus on improving national coverage of the National Disability Advocacy Program and access for people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds, and better coordination of systemic issues that impact on the broader population of people with disability.

Disability Employment Services

The Disability Employment Services program provides specialist employment assistance to people whose primary impediment to employment in the open labour market is disability, injury or a health condition. The Australian Government will provide around $800 million in 2018-19 to support this important initiative.

In 2016-17, through Disability Employment Services, the Australian Government invested more than $319 million (40 per cent of the program’s expenditure) assisting people with disability in regional Australia seeking employment in the open labour market. Subject to labour market conditions, a similar amount is expected to be spent in regional areas in 2018-19.

In regional Australia, Disability Employment Services are currently delivered by 71 organisations from nearly 1,000 locations. Regional Australians currently comprise nearly 40 per cent of those receiving support through Disability Employment Services, or over 74,000 of the approximately 195,000 participants registered in the program.

From the commencement of Disability Employment Services in March 2010 until February 2018, more than 141,000 participants in regional Australia have been placed in a job.

In the 2017-18 Budget, the Australian Government announced reforms to Disability Employment Services, to improve the overall performance of the program from 1 July 2018. The reforms follow extensive sector consultations in 2015 and 2016 with people with disability and their families; service providers; employers; and peak organisations representing the interests of these groups.

Changes to the program include:

  • improving participant choice of provider and say in the services they receive and how they receive them
  • engendering greater competition between providers to drive performance
  • strengthening the link between provider revenue and performance in supporting participants into employment
  • undertaking a trial of possible expansion of Disability Employment Services eligibility for school leavers
  • indexing provider payments at an estimated cost of more than $300 million over the next 10 years.

As a result of the recent grant selections process, 88 organisations have received offers to deliver Disability Employment Services in regional Australia from 1 July 2018.

Community Mental Health

Family Mental Health Support Services are community‑based mental health services that provide early intervention support for children and young people with early symptoms of mental ill‑health, or who are at particular risk of developing mental illness later in life.

Through an increased investment since early 2015, Family Mental Health Support Services are now delivered in 100 locations across Australia. Funding of $46.3 million has been allocated in 2018-19 to 52 service providers delivering support to children and young people in 58 regional or remote locations. Family Mental Health Support Services can be accessed by participants either on an individual basis or as part of a group session. A total of 75,046 participants accessed Family Mental Health Support Services in 2016‑17. Of the 18,477 participants accessing Family Mental Health Support Services on an individual basis, 8,893 or 48.1 per cent were located in regional and remote Australia.

The increased investment in Family Mental Health Support Services in regional Australia allows more vulnerable children and young people to access support and achieve better mental health outcomes later in life.

The Community Mental Health, Individual Placement and Support Trial provides employment support, as part of a broader strategy aimed at tackling high youth unemployment.

The trial targets vulnerable young people with mental illness up to the age of 25, who are at risk of disengaging from education and employment and who are at risk of long‑term welfare dependency.

The Individual Placement Support model integrates employment and vocational support with clinical mental health and non-vocational support, and focuses on the needs of people with mental illness seeking to remain in education and/or employment. Professional employment specialists located in headspace sites will provide vocational and employment assistance, in tandem with clinical support. There are 14 trial sites being rolled out nationally over three years. Nine of the 14 trial sites are being delivered in regional or remote Australia.

National Carer Gateway

On 14 December 2015, Carer Gateway commenced, allowing carers in regional areas to obtain practical information and resources to support them in their caring role via a national phone line and website. The website features an interactive service finder that helps carers connect to local support services and includes information on services delivered by phone or online. Services offered by this program will form part of the Integrated Carer Support Service.

National Respite for Carers

The National Respite for Carers program assists carers in their caring role. Funding of $63.4 million has been allocated in 2018-19 for 54 Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres to assist carers with short term and emergency respite options, based on assessed need, and to provide advice and coordinate access to respite services in a carer’s local area. Of these centres, 34 are located in regional areas. The National Respite for Carers program also allocates a further $11.9 million in 2018-19 to support the National Carer Counselling program, Carer Information Support Service and Consumer Directed Respite Care. Services offered by this program will form part of the Integrated Carer Support Service.

Young Carer Bursary Program

The Young Carer Bursary Program was a 2013 election commitment to assist young carers, aged 25 years and under, in greatest need across Australia including in regional areas, to continue to study and to relieve the financial pressure on them to undertake part‑time work in addition to their educational and caring responsibilities.

From 2015 to 2017, the first three calendar years of the program, 988 bursaries were awarded. For 2017 a total of 113, or one-third of Young Carer Bursary Program recipients, were from regional Australia. Bursaries are currently valued at $3,000 each. Services offered by this program will form part of the Integrated Carer Support Service.

Counselling, Support, Information and Advocacy—Carer Support

In 2018-19, approximately $3.4 million was provided to 17 Counselling Support Information and Advocacy carer support services in regional Australia to provide specific information, education and training for carers to assist them to understand and manage situations, behaviours and relationships associated with care needs of the person they are caring for. The type of activity and support provided varies depending on the needs of the carer. Services offered by this program will form part of the Integrated Carer Support Service.

Dementia Education and Training for Carers

The Dementia Education and Training for Carers initiative aims to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia. The initiative provides training and education for carers of people with dementia, with 22 services in regional Australia. There is an emphasis on increasing the competence and confidence of carers by providing courses that aim to enhance their skills or processes that connect a carer to information.

The Australian Government has allocated $1.1 million to the Dementia Education and Training for Carers initiative in 2018-19. Services offered by this program will form part of the Integrated Carer Support Service.

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