Social Services

The Department of Social Services is responsible for a range of policies, payments, programs and services that improve the lifetime wellbeing of individuals and families in Australian communities. 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 government and non‑government organisations, including through a delivery network located within state, territory and regional offices, to achieve our mission through the effective development, management and delivery of payments, policies, programs, and services, including those in regional areas.

The Social Services portfolio comprises four non-corporate Commonwealth entities and one corporate entity. For the purposes of this statement, this includes the Department of Social Services, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the National Disability Insurance Agency and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. Please refer to the Human Services section for information on the Department of Human Services.

As at 31 December 2018, the Department of Social Services employed 2,530 staff under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 2,163 staff (85.5 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 328 staff (13.0 per cent) in other capital cities and 39 staff (1.5 per cent) in regional areas. The Department’s footprint includes staff in all states and territories, including regional areas.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies employed 98 staff under the Public Service Act 1999, all of whom are located in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney.

The National Disability Insurance Agency employed 3,109 staff under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 301 staff (9.7 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 172 staff (5.5 per cent) in other capital cities and 2,636 staff (84.8 per cent) in regional areas, including in the National Disability Insurance Agency’s National Office in Geelong, Victoria. The National Disability Insurance Agency is spread across 137 different suburbs or towns; 37 across New South Wales, 32 across Victoria, 31 across Queensland, 14 across South Australia, 11 across Western Australia, five across the Northern Territory, four across the Australian Capital Territory, and three across Tasmania, .

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission employed 99 staff under the Public Service Act 1999.  Of this total, 12 staff (12.1 per cent) were employed in Canberra, 19 staff (19.2 per cent) were employed in Adelaide and 68 staff (68.7 per cent) were employed in Penrith, New South Wales.

New Initiatives

Australian Disability Enterprises - additional support

From 1 July 2018, the Australian Government committed $5.3 million for up to two years to supplement the wages of Australians with disability working in Australian Disability Enterprises. The funding has been made available in response to changes proposed by the Fair Work Commission to the Supported Employment Services Award 2010 (the Award), which covers Australian Disability Enterprises. This funding will create a level playing field for all Australian Disability Enterprises paying the higher wages of the Supported Wage System under the Award, until the Fair Work Commission makes a decision about its proposed changes. Around 1,600 employees with disability across Australia working in 38 Australian Disability Enterprises, including four located in regional areas, will benefit from this funding.

This measure was published in the 2018-19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO).

Ensuring a strong future for supported employment

The Australian Government is providing $67.0 million over the forward years from 2018-19 for development and implementation of an appropriate Australian Government response once the Fair Work Commission has made its decision on the Supported Employment Services Award 2010 (the Award). The Government is committed to protecting the jobs of people with disabilities employed under the Award and ensuring they can continue to access meaningful and gainful employment.

Mutual Understanding, Support, Tolerance, Education and Respect Initiative

The Australian Government is providing $60.0 million over three years from 2018-19 to establish the Mutual Understanding, Support, Tolerance, Engagement and Respect (MUSTER) initiative.

MUSTER will provide grants for projects to build community resilience and increase the ability of communities to connect, contribute and thrive.

The aim of this initiative is to target communities in need, recognising that community cohesion is created at the individual level, and between identity groups, communities of interest and civic organisations.

The MUSTER initiative will take a place-based approach and be targeted to communities in need, which includes regional communities.

The program will support activities and initiatives that:

  • strengthen people’s shared identity as members of a local community;
  • encourage diverse communities to come together in spaces such as schools and libraries;
  • provide support for immersive programs, especially sports and arts; and
  • build strong, socially cohesive communities.

Funded organisations will deliver projects that use a whole of community approach to address disadvantage and support individuals, families and communities.

Successful projects will build cohesion and create a sense of common ground around everyday issues to further understanding and acceptance of diversity.

This measure was published in the 2018-19 MYEFO.

No Interest Loans for Women at Risk of Family and Domestic Violence

The Government will provide $20.1 million over four years from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2024 to expand No Interest Loans for women experiencing family and domestic violence.

No Interest Loans of up to $1,500 are offered to people on low incomes (women experiencing domestic and family violence can access up to $2,000 for household items) as an alternative to other high-risk, high-interest products such as payday loans. No Interest Loans are provided in conjunction with financial literacy education to improve capacity and greater self-reliance.

Good Shepherd Microfinance administer the No Interest Loans program nationally in partnership with the National Australia Bank.

The new initiative will fund loans and associated support for women to re-establish their lives after leaving a violent partner. In addition to basic household items, loans can be used for rental bonds, rental payments, relocation expenses and loan consolidation where appropriate.

Women accessing these loans have access to a specialist loan caseworker to help them regain control of their finances. Loans will be delivered via an expanded network including refuges and domestic violence specialists.

No Interest Loans are available at over 600 locations including regional areas and are delivered by around 170 local community organisations.

This is a component of the 2018-19 MYEFO measure Women’s Economic Security Package.

The Fathering Project

The Government will provide $5.4 million over three years from 2018-19 for a national expansion of the Fathering Project.

The Fathering Project is a not-for-profit charity program that aims to improve child development outcomes by building stronger bonds between children and their fathers.

The objectives of the program are early intervention and prevention support to children and their families, particularly fathers and father figures. Services focus on children aged 0-12 years, but may include children up to 18 years.

The national expansion, including in regional areas, will have a particular focus on:

  • the expansion of the Fathering Project schools program nationally, through the establishment of self-supporting and collaborative fathering groups within schools to support fathers to better engage with their children; and
  • the development of an enhanced digital presence to facilitate better engagement with fathers online, including through the development of a range of resources, guides and tips around effective fathering.

This measure was published in the 2018-19 MYEFO.

Fourth Action Plan (2019-2022) of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022

Women living in regional and remote areas are more likely to experience family and domestic violence than those living in metropolitan areas. Women may also face greater difficulty seeking assistance, leaving a violent relationship or obtaining access to justice.

The Fourth Action Plan (2019-2022) of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 provides support to women and children in rural, regional and remote locations by helping prevent and respond to family, domestic and sexual violence.

These include the following initiatives within the Social Services portfolio:

  • a national prevention strategy,  including tailored outreach initiatives for regional Australians, such as community-led projects to change the societal attitudes and behaviours which can lead to or endorse violence;
  • expanding the number of Specialised Family Violence Services to improve access  to specialised supports for people affected by family violence, including children; and
  • 1800RESPECT, the 24 hour, national family and domestic violence and sexual assault information and counselling service to ensure all Australians impacted by violence have access to counselling and support via phone or online, including those in regional and remote areas.

The Australian Government’s investment under the Fourth Action Plan has been informed by national consultations in metropolitan and regional areas in every jurisdiction, including in regional centres such as Cairns, Kalgoorlie, Alice Springs and Port Augusta. This measure builds on the experience and evidence from previous Action Plans, the Women’s Safety Package (2015-16 MYEFO) and Women’s Economic Security Package (2018-19 MYEFO).

Cashless Debit Card—further extension and expansion

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 individuals and their families, children and communities.

The Cashless Debit Card trial was implemented in the Ceduna region, South Australia, in March 2016, the East Kimberley, Western Australia in April 2016, and the Goldfields region, Western Australia in March 2018. Implementation commenced in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region, Queensland in January 2019.

In the 2018-19 MYEFO, the Government agreed to extend funding for the Cashless Debit Card in the four existing sites to 30 June 2020 and provided funding to expand the Cashless Debit Card to a fifth site.

In the 2019-20 Budget, the Government will provide $128.8 million over four years from 2019-20 to:

  • further extend the Cashless Debit Card in existing sites for an additional year to 30 June 2021; and
  • from 1 January 2020, begin the process of expanding the Cashless Debit Card to replace the long‑term welfare recipients, disengaged youth and voluntary measures of Income Management in the Northern Territory, and the Cape York measure of Income Management, with the process to transition Income Management participants to the Cashless Debit Card.

This proposal is expected to have a positive impact on regional Australia by reducing alcohol consumption, illegal drug use, and gambling in communities and providing improved technology for participants subject to welfare quarantining.

Centralised National Self-Exclusion Register for Online Wagering

The National Self-Exclusion Register will help protect individuals who are at-risk of, or are experiencing, harm from online wagering, by allowing those individuals to exclude themselves easily from all Australian interactive wagering services, using a single registration process.

Access to the National Self-Exclusion Register could assist more than 240,000 individuals across Australia, including individuals from regional and remote areas, who experience significant harm from online wagering, as well as their families and communities, which may also contribute to improving mental health, financial wellbeing and productivity.

The Government will provide $5.7 million over four years from 2018-19 (and $1.3 million per year ongoing) to the Australian Communications and Media Authority to administer the National Self-Exclusion Register. The cost of administering the National Self-Exclusion Register will be recovered through a regulatory charging arrangement applied to online wagering service providers licensed in Australia from 2020-21.

The National Self-Exclusion Register is one of ten measures under the National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering that will provide all Australians with strong and consistent consumer protections when they gamble online.

This measure was published in the 2018-19 MYEFO.

Improving Social Housing Outcomes

The Improving Social Housing Outcomes initiative will provide a total of $30.0 million across four projects to boost the supply of social and affordable housing in Greater Hobart by 30 June 2021 as part of the Hobart City Deal.

The objectives of the initiative are to:

  • increase the supply of new social and affordable housing and supported accommodation in Greater Hobart
  • house people on the social housing priority waitlist, vulnerable people on low or moderate incomes who are most in need of housing, or people with disability.

The key deliverable of the initiative is to build more than 100 new social housing dwellings that provide people with access to stable, safe and affordable housing in Greater Hobart.

The intended outcomes of the measure are:

  • new social housing dwellings will be built in Greater Hobart and will house people off the social housing priority waitlist
  • new supported accommodation will be built in Greater Hobart and will house people with disability
  • new social housing dwellings  and new supported accommodation dwellings will be managed as social housing or supported accommodation for a minimum of 30 years
  • social housing tenants will be supported to maintain their tenancy.

This is a component of the Hobart City Deal measure.

North Queensland Flood Recovery Package - Flood Education Supplement

The Commonwealth Government will provide additional assistance to isolated families affected by the recent north Queensland floods, who are already eligible to receive support under the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme and ABSTUDY.  For families living in certain flood affected local government areas, who receive Assistance for Isolated Children and ABSTUDY, this will provide a one-off payment of $1,000 per student for the 2019 school year, to be paid as a Flood Education Supplement.

The eligible local government areas are Burdekin, Burke, Carpentaria, Cloncurry, Douglas, Flinders, Hinchinbrook, McKinlay, Richmond, Townsville and Winton.  These local government areas are eligible to receive primary producer grants under the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, because they have experienced significant and immediate financial stress through the loss of their ability to earn an income.

This measure is part of the North Queensland Flood Recovery Package.

50 Years of ABSTUDY—Extending Family Tax Benefit to ABSTUDY Recipients Aged 16 and Over who Study Away from Home

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 $279.8 million in 2019-20.

The Australian Government is investing $36.4 million in the 2019-20 Budget to extend Family Tax Benefit (FTB) eligibility to the families of ABSTUDY (secondary) student recipients aged 16 years and over and are required to live away from home to attend school.

Indigenous boarding students are dropping out of boarding school around the age of 16. In part, this is because families can lose up to $7,000 in FTB Part A each year when their child turns 16. A small number of families also lose FTB Part B, which is an additional loss of around $3,000 each year.

This measure will ensure Indigenous families who need to send their students to boarding school can continue to access FTB payments until the student finishes Year 12. This is an important step to reducing the dropout rate. This will particularly benefit families in regional and remote areas, who do not have ready access to a local school.

The families of more than 2,000 Indigenous secondary students from regional and remote areas who need to study at a secondary school away from home are expected to benefit from this proposal each year. On average, each family will receive an extra $5,900 per year.

This will contribute to the Closing the Gap target to halve the gap for Year 12 attainment by 2020. It also addresses the recommendation from the 2014 report Creating Parity—the Forrest Review, that families with children at boarding school have access to FTB payments during school vacation periods until students finish Year 12. The measure extends FTB to the families of ABSTUDY (secondary) student recipients throughout their study period, in recognition of the costs parents incur during the school year.

This measure builds on the 2018-19 Budget Measure titled 50 Years of ABSTUDY—strengthening ABSTUDY for secondary students, which invested $38.1 million over five years from 2017-18 to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary students who need to study away from home.

National Community and Youth Hubs Programs

The Australian Government has committed an additional $20.4 million in the 2019‑20 Budget to extend and expand the National Community Hubs Program across the country, including regional areas. The investment will see 32 new Hubs created and funding for the continuation of 68 existing Hubs, bringing the total number of Government funded Hubs to 100. This will include expanding the new Hub locations to regional areas, particularly those with high migrant populations and socioeconomic disadvantage, where the community identifies a need.

The Australian Government works in partnership with Community Hubs Australia and the Scanlon Foundation to support migrant and refugee women and their young children to learn English, develop new skills, gain employment and access support services through familiar places in their local areas, such as local primary schools and community centres.

Regional locations, especially those with a high migrant population and/or socioeconomic disadvantage, will benefit from this program that has far-reaching benefits to women, children, families, schools and communities. Each Community Hub is a placed-based model that is highly responsive to community needs. Current regional Community Hub locations include Ipswich, Wollongong, Shepparton, Geelong and Adelaide.

The Australian Government will provide a further $2.2 million to trial a National Youth Hubs Program over 2019-20 and 2020-21. The Youth Hubs will build on the National Community Hubs Program model, targeting vulnerable migrant youth to build their capacity to participate in employment and training and to support their social integration and participation.

Current Initiatives

Regional and Remote Student Access to Education—Additional Support

The Australian Government is addressing barriers to education for regional and remote students. From 1 January 2018, young people from these areas will only have to satisfy the workforce independence provisions for Youth Allowance (student) or ABSTUDY for  14 months (compared to the previous 18 months).

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.

Improved Access to Youth Allowance for Regional Students

The Australian Government has made 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 apply to the parental income cut-off for the Youth Allowance ‘workforce participation’ independence criterion for regional students:

  • increase the $150,000 threshold to $160,000;
  • increase 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; and
  • provide students with additional certainty about whether they will meet the 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 2018-19 measure Response to the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education—additional support for students.

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. Using insights from the Priority Investment Approach, the Try, Test and Learn Fund is trialling new or innovative approaches to assist some of the most vulnerable in society into stable, sustainable employment.

The objective of the Try, Test and Learn Fund is to generate new insights and empirical evidence into what works to reduce long-term welfare dependency. The evaluation of Try, Test and Learn Fund projects will allow the Government to identify what approaches work and use this evidence to transform investment in existing programs, or make the case for new investments.

In the first funding tranche of the Try, Test and Learn Fund, the Government committed $23.4 million for 14 trials focused on young carers, young parents, students at risk of moving to long-term unemployment and unemployed former students. These trials commenced rolling out across Australia in mid-2018 in locations such as Darwin, Caboolture, Wollongong, New England, Newcastle, Greater Geelong and Mandurah.

The second funding tranche of the Try, Test and Learn Fund has up to $50.0 million available and closed on 28 September 2018. It targets older unemployed people, working age carers, at-risk young people, working age migrants and refugees, and any other groups that can be appropriately justified through evidence.

Financial Wellbeing and Capability

In late 2018, the Government awarded Financial Wellbeing and Capability grants totalling more than $330 million over four and a half years.

Financial Wellbeing and Capability services are located throughout Australia in every state and territory, including regional locations. These services include:

  • Emergency Relief
  • Food Relief
  • Commonwealth Financial Counselling and Financial Capability
  • Problem Gambling
  • Money Support Hubs
  • Microfinance

Families and Children

The Department of Social Services delivers a range of programs under the Families and Children Activity that seek to support families, improve the wellbeing of children and young people, strengthen relationships, and enhance family and community functioning, as well as increasing the participation of vulnerable people in community life. The Australian Government will allocate $285.3 million in 2019‑20 to enable these services to continue to be delivered across Australia, with an extensive footprint in regional areas.

Services available under the Families and Children Activity are funded under the following five sub-Activities:

  • 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 2017-18, 23,705 individual clients from regional and remote areas received these services.

Assistance for Isolated Children

Families in isolated areas incur additional costs to educate their children. In 2017-18, the Assistance for Isolated Children scheme provided $74.9 million to the families of 11,330 students unable to attend an appropriate state school on a daily basis because of geographical isolation. In 2019-20, the estimated expenditure is $80.1 million.

In 2019, depending on the student’s circumstances, the Assistance for Isolated Children scheme provides:

  • Basic Boarding Allowance $8,422 (per annum)
  • Additional Boarding Allowance $2,416 (per annum)
  • Second Home Allowance $245.36 (per fortnight, limited to a maximum of three students in a family)
  • Distance Education Allowance $4,211 (per annum).

Settlement Grants

The Settlement Engagement and Transition Support Program commenced on 1 January 2019. The program aims to equip and empower humanitarian entrants, other eligible permanent migrants and their communities, to address their settlement needs in order to improve social participation, economic well-being, independence, personal well-being and community connectedness. Settlement Engagement and Transition Support Program is an enhanced version of the previous Settlement Grants program.

Settlement Engagement and Transition Support includes two components:

  • Client Services will provide clients with settlement-related information, advice, advocacy, and assistance to access mainstream and other relevant services. Services will be delivered in accordance with a needs-based approach.
  • Community Capacity Building will help new and emerging community groups and organisations support their specific communities towards collectively increasing the social participation, economic and personal well-being of community members, to ensure that positive settlement outcomes are sustained in the long term.

Over the next four years (2019-20 to 2022-23), $200.3 million is allocated to Grants for Community Settlement.  The Settlement Engagement and Transition Support program funds a number of organisations based in regional locations and/or servicing clients living in rural and regional areas.

Volunteering

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

In 2019-20, the Australian Government will provide funding of $5.8 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 2019-20, the Australian Government will provide funding of $10.0 million for Volunteer Grants. Volunteer Grants provides funding of between $1,000 and $5,000 to help not-for-profit organisations to support their volunteers through the purchase of small equipment items, the reimbursement of fuel costs or to assist with the cost of volunteer training.

National Disability Strategy 2010-2020

The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 is Australia’s overarching framework for disability reform. It provides a ten year policy framework for all levels of government to improve the lives of people with disability. It is the primary mechanism for implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Australia. The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 is for all Australians.

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.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

From 1 January 2019, people everywhere in Australia can apply for access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), except those in the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, who will be able to access the NDIS from 2020. The NDIS will support an estimated 460,000 people with significant and permanent disability, regardless of where they live in Australia, including around 160,000 people in regional and remote areas. A growing number of people in regional and remote areas are expected to receive support.

The NDIS workforce is expected to grow by up to 90,000 full time equivalent workers over the next five years to a total workforce of up to 190,000 full time equivalent workers.  Of the total workforce, around 30 per cent will be in regional and remote areas.

The National Disability Insurance Agency has begun designing and implementing new NDIS participant pathway reforms for NDIS participants. These reforms are designed to improve the experiences and engagement that participants have with the NDIS. As part of the reforms, the National Disability Insurance Agency is designing and building pathway service enhancements to support NDIS participants, including people living in remote communities.

National Disability Insurance Scheme—Continuity of Support

The Australian Government has committed to provide Continuity of Support to people with disability currently receiving Australian Government services, but who are ineligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in the transition to the NDIS. 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 five Continuity of Support packages including Mental Health, Carers, a Continuity of Support Fund, Mobility Allowance (from July 2020), and the National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service. Existing Commonwealth clients in regional and remote Australia who are ineligible for the NDIS may receive Continuity of Support.

The Australian Government is extending funding to support clients in 14 Commonwealth programs transitioning to the NDIS until 30 June 2020. This extension will ensure these remaining clients continue to be supported, and are given the additional time they need to transition. Clients of Commonwealth Mental Health programs transitioning to the NDIS will be provided with Continuity of Support through the Primary Health Networks from 1 July 2019. Continuity of Support for clients in the other programs will continue to be provided through existing funding arrangements until 30 June 2020, when longer term Continuity of Support arrangements commence.

National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards

In 2017-18, the Australian Government committed $209.0 million over four years to establish the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. It began operations in New South Wales and South Australia on 1 July 2018, and will commence in all other jurisdictions from 1 July 2019, except Western Australia, which will begin on 1 July 2020.

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission will offer nationally consistent safeguards for an estimated 460,000 participants in the NDIS and their families, of which around 160,000 are regionally based. The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission works to improve the quality and safety of NDIS services and supports, investigates and resolves problems, and strengthens the skills and knowledge of providers and participants. It will regulate providers, manage complaints and reportable incidents, and oversee investigations.

National Disability Insurance Scheme Appeals

In 2019-20, the Australian Government will invest a further $5.3 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 of advocacy support, funding for legal assistance is available where a case raises complex or unique legal issues. NDIS Appeals support is available across Australia including in most regional areas with offices in towns such as Broome, Albany, Kalgoorlie, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Broken Hill, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Mildura, Shepparton, Mt Isa, Cairns and Rockhampton.

National Disability Insurance Scheme—Boosting the Local Care Workforce

In the 2017-18 Budget, the Australian Government committed $33.0 million to the Boosting the Local Care Workforce Program (from 2017-18 to 2019-20) which includes $6.6 million for 2019-20. The Boosting the Local Care Workforce Program focusses on assisting disability and aged care providers to build their businesses and grow their workforces.

The Boosting the Local Care Workforce Program has engaged a group of 25 Regional Coordinators to work in locations across Australia. Regional Coordinators are working with existing local service providers and businesses in the disability market to help them improve workforce planning and business capability; and link them with government employment and other relevant services. With a third of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants residing in regional, rural or remote locations, there are significant employment opportunities in these areas.

In addition, a group of up to 10 nationally-focused Specialist Coordinators are working to address disability and aged care sector market and workforce issues, and eligible service providers will be able to apply for financial assistance (valued up to $20,000) for tailored business advice and support to help them transition to the NDIS. Finally, the Boosting the Local Care Workforce website will provide the latest information and resources, including an NDIS Demand Map, to help service providers identify opportunities and succeed in the NDIS.

The Boosting the Local Care Workforce Program has engaged a group of Regional Coordinators who are located across Australia with six in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (Sydney, Blue Mountains, Dubbo, Coffs Harbour, Nowra and Canberra/Southern New South Wales), five in Victoria (Dandenong, Broadmeadows, Ballarat, Wodonga and Mildura), four in Queensland (Brisbane, Townsville, Southport and Rockhampton), three in Western Australia (Perth, Bunbury and Broome), three in South Australia (Adelaide, Port Augusta and Mount Gambier), two in Tasmania (Hobart and Launceston) and two in the Northern Territory (Darwin and Alice Springs).  

National Disability Insurance Scheme—Jobs and Market Fund

In 2018-19, the Australian Government committed $45.6 million to the Jobs and Market Fund over three years from 2018-19 to 2020-21, to support the growth of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) market and workforce in capacity and capability to meet the needs of NDIS participants.

There will be a number of grants rounds under the Jobs and Market Fund, including targeted rounds to support market and workforce development in thin markets and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants. This will improve access to supports for NDIS participants and boost employment in rural, regional and remote areas.

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 Government’s commitment, funding of around $20.0 million was provided in 2018-19 to around 60 advocacy agencies across Australia, including in most regional locations, under the National Disability Advocacy Program. Approximately 13,000 people receive individual support each year including around 4,000 from regional areas. 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 2019-20 to support this important initiative.

In 2017-18, through Disability Employment Services, the Australian Government invested more than $300 million (38 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 2019-20.

In regional Australia, Disability Employment Services are currently delivered by 86 organisations from nearly 1,615 locations. As at the end of January 2019, regional Australians comprise nearly 38 per cent of those receiving support through DisabilityEmployment Services, or over 82,000 of the approximately 217,000 participants registered in the program.

From the commencement of Disability Employment Services in March 2010 until January 2019, more than 170,000 participants in regional Australia have been placed in a job.

In the 2017-18 Budget, the Government announced reforms to Disability Employment Services, to improve the overall performance of the program. 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.

The new Disability Employment Services program commenced on 1 July 2018. 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.

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 $53.4 million has been allocated in 2019-20 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 67,088 participants accessed Family Mental Health Support Services in 2017-18. Of the 16,984 participants accessing Family Mental Health Support Services on an individual basis, 9,169 or 54 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 (the 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.

Nine of the current 14 trial sites are delivering services in regional or remote Australia and of the 932 trial participants in 2017-18, 53.7 per cent were located in these areas. The sites are located in:

  • Darwin, Northern Territory
  • Shepparton, Victoria
  • Bendigo, Victoria
  • Hobart, Tasmania
  • Albany, Western Australia
  • Broome, Western Australia
  • Port Augusta, South Australia
  • Dubbo, New South Wales
  • Mount Isa, Queensland.

An additional ten trial sites will commence service delivery from 1 July 2019. Seven of the 10 new sites are located in regional areas of Australia.

Integrated Carer Support Service

A range of new services will be introduced during 2019 to support carers as part of the Integrated Carer Support Service. The new services are designed to improve carer wellbeing, increase their capacity and support their participation, socially and economically.

The Integrated Carer Support Service will provide a consistent, integrated approach to delivering carer support services at the national, regional and local levels. It will introduce new ways to access those services that will support all carers, including those in regional Australia. There are approximately 308,000 carers living in outer regional and remote areas.

New digital services are being designed and tested, and will be rolled out through the Carer Gateway website by July 2019. The new digital services include:

  • Digital counselling services to help carers manage daily challenges, reduce stress and strain, and plan for the future
  • Online peer support, connecting carers with other carers for knowledge and experience sharing, emotional support and mentoring
  • Online coaching resources with simple techniques and strategies for goal‑setting and future planning
  • Educational resources to increase skills and knowledge of carers relating to specific caring situations, to build confidence and improve wellbeing.

From September 2019, the Australian Government will establish a network of Carer Gateway regional delivery partners who will deliver and coordinate access to a range of local carer services including:

  • Needs assessment and planning to help carers identify and access services based on their personal needs and circumstances
  • Targeted financial support packages for carers with a focus on supporting increased participation in employment or education. Packages will encompass the current Young Carer Bursaries and will be expanded to include other items such as respite and transport
  • In-person and/or telephone information and advice, coaching, counselling, peer support and education
  • Emergency respite to assist carers in crisis
  • Assistance navigating relevant, local services available to carers through federal, state and local government and non-government providers.

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

As part of the 2019-20 Budget, the Government will boost support of Australia’s unpaid carers through an increase in funding for financial support packages valued up to $3,000.  Under the measure, up to 25 per cent of all financial support packages will be reserved for young carers to continue participation in education and training.

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.

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.

National Carer Gateway

The Carer Gateway allows 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. Carer Gateway has supported over one million visitors since its inception. Carer Gateway will be expanded as new services are rolled out as part of the Integrated Carer Support Service.

National Respite for Carers

The National Respite for Carers program assists carers in their caring role. The program will cease at the end of November 2019 with new carer services being delivered under the Integrated Carer Support Service. Carer Gateway regional delivery partners will commence delivering these new services from September 2019 allowing time for existing carers to transition to the new services.

Young Carer Bursary Program

The Young Carer Bursary Program assists 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.

In 2018, a total of 102 Young Carer Bursary Program recipients were from regional Australia. Bursaries are currently valued at $3,000 each. The Australian Government has extended and expanded funding for the program until 2021-22, including an increase to 1,000 bursaries each year.

Counselling, Support, Information and Advocacy—Carer Support

The Counselling, Support, Information and Advocacy program assists carers in their caring role by providing information, education and training. The program will cease at the end of November 2019 with new carer services being delivered under the Integrated Carer Support Service. Carer Gateway regional delivery partners will commence delivering these new services from September 2019 allowing time for existing carers to transition to the new services.  

Dementia Education and Training for Carers

The Dementia Education and Training for Carers program assists carers of people living with dementia in their caring role. The program will cease at the end of November 2019 with new carer services being delivered under the Integrated Carer Support Service. Carer Gateway regional delivery partners will commence delivering these new services from September 2019 allowing time for existing carers to transition.  

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