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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Committee met at 0 8.59

CHAIR ( Senator Moore ): Welcome. We will start today's hearing with outcome 1, families and children.

Senator CASH: Good morning. Can I turn to page 33 of the portfolio budget statement. With regard to the expenditure under outcome 1 that has been allocated to support the persons affected by past forced adoption practices, can you provide a breakdown of that expenditure?

Ms Carroll : I might be able to get that started while my colleagues find further detail. As you would be aware, on 21 March the government announced its response to the recommendations of the past forced adoptions Senate inquiry. The government has looked at funding for specialist services and those kinds of things to support their response.

Ms Strapp : The funding is specifically for support services and the set-up of support services over the next few years. It is a total of $5 million in FaHCSIA funding to improve access to specialist support services. That includes $300,000 in 2013-14 which involves setting up a working group of various stakeholders. The main work of that working group will be to do a scoping study to look at what services are out there for people affected by past forced adoption or forced adoption practices as well as setting up the service system. Of course, we need to look at what is already out there. A number of states already have services and supports out there, so we want to look at that first. That will obviously take a little bit of time.

Senator CASH: Is that anticipated to take a financial year—the 12 months?

Ms Strapp : Most of the time. We are anticipating at this stage that sometime in 2014 we will be able to set up those support services and then in the forward years there is funding for those support services.

Senator CASH: that is 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17?

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Senator CASH: That is the actual support service itself being implemented?

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Senator CASH: The departmental expenses?

Mr Lye : That will be mostly staff within the department to support the work of that process.

Senator CASH: Just in relation to the support services themselves, is there anything that has been earmarked yet as what we are going to provide by way of support services or is the brief for the working group literally to look through what will be provided?

Ms Strapp : Yes, that is their brief.

Ms Carroll : Can I just add that in Budget Paper No. 2 on page 95 there is a full summary of the government's response, which covers our department, the department of health and the Attorney-General's Department. It gives you the full suite of support.

CHAIR: Ms Carroll or Mr Lye, is your department coordinating it all?

Mr Lye : The Attorney-General's Department is the coordinator.

Ms Strapp : No, actually, FaHCSIA is coordinating. During the apology the Attorney-General's Department coordinated and now, post apology, FaHCSIA is coordinating.

CHAIR: That was my understanding. From now on it is a FaHCSIA coordination, but you bring in a whole-of-government response?

Ms Strapp : Yes. So we work with all of the departments involved.

Senator CASH: In terms of the forward years and the implementation of the services that the working group is going to advise are required, what modelling did you do to ascertain the figures that are in the budget for the forward years?

Ms Strapp : My understanding is that we looked at what services are out there. Also we currently fund Find & Connect services in each state and territory for forgotten Australians and former child migrants, which involves services around records tracing, counselling and case management. Those are what I guess we thought would be similar supports to what might be needed for people affected by forced adoptions. So we based it on that and also on figures of the projected numbers of people who are affected, although that is a reasonably difficult number to predict.

Senator CASH: How did you work with the projected number of people? What figures did you use?

Ms Strapp : I would have to take the figure on notice.

Mr Lye : We did have a figure that we used. It was, as Ms Strapp said, a bit 'suck it and see' in terms of looking at the total possible client population and then also drawing on our experience from the forgotten Australians and the work that we have done around how many people are likely to come forward and take up the service or who might need a support service. So it was a bit of a triangulation of those things to work out what the service system might look like.

Senator CASH: Is it possible to take on notice to provide to the committee just exactly that triangulation that you talked about, just so that we can see how it all came together to get to those figures?

Mr Lye : Certainly, Senator.

Senator CASH: Can I go to page 33 of portfolio budget statement again in relation to expenditure under outcome 1. It is the expenditure that has been allocated to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Can I get you, Ms Strapp, to also provide a breakdown of that expenditure?

Ms Strapp : Yes. As part of this 2013-14 budget, the government has provided an additional $38 million for community based support services, which includes counselling support and case management. That, along with funding that was provided in the 2012-13 year, brings the total funding to $45 million over four years.

Ms Carroll : Senator, you can see that $7 million in the 2012-13 column and then the other funding that Ms Strapp referred to is the 2013-14 and out years.

Senator CASH: And that takes us to—

Ms Carroll : That takes us to a total of the $45 million across the four years.

Senator CASH: Can you tell me about the components of that funding?

Ms Strapp : We are currently doing an open tender process. That funding will be provided for a broad range of support services, including counselling, case management, training, records tracing and a range of services. At the moment, as we have undertaken an open tender process, I can only tell you the sort of broad support that we are aiming at funding, but I cannot tell you—

Senator CASH: Is that within the tender documentation itself?

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Senator CASH: Is it possible to have, to the extent that you can, the tender document tabled with the committee?

Ms Strapp : Yes, I could do that.

Senator CASH: Just in terms of outlining the services that you are looking for.

Mr Lye : We can provide to you the criteria, which we have here on a separate sheet, to give you a sense of the sorts of organisations—

Senator CASH: That would be appreciated. In terms of the tender itself, has the tender opened?

Ms Strapp : It has closed. We are currently assessing the applications.

Senator CASH: When do you hope to have somebody announced?

Ms Strapp : We would hope to announce somebody in June or the minister would hope to announce somebody or a range of services in June, so we would be funding the services by either late June or early July.

Ms Carroll : If I could just make clear, these services are to ensure that the survivors and the families have broad support services. It is not envisaged that these are the support services that actually assist people who are giving evidence to the royal commission. That is totally separate. That support sits within the office of the royal commission to give support to people who are giving evidence. Attorney-General's would be the right place to ask those questions.

Senator CASH: I have to say thank you for that segue because my next question is actually that. How does the funding that we have just discussed under outcome 1 differ from that being provided by A-G's?

Ms Carroll : The support for people who are giving evidence in the royal commission is quite specific support.

Senator CASH: And I would find that in the Attorney-General's portfolio budget statement?

Ms Carroll : Yes.

Senator CASH: Okay. Is there any crossover between the two departments in terms of the funding of particular groups?

Mr Lye : They are very distinct processes and we are obviously talking with AGD about that. I would just say that in practical terms there will be people who have an established relationship with an existing service provider like Bravehearts or CLAN out there in the community. Those two organisations have received some interim funding to deal with demand related to the royal commission on an interim basis. It is highly likely that a person who has established a relationship with one of these organisations may seek to have them provide some level of support if they go through this process. In practical terms, there will be some bleeding between the things, but we have to be very clear that the royal commission has a job to support people formally as they come through their process.

Senator CASH: Can I ask a question that follows on from the chair's clarification in terms of who is responsible going forward. In terms of the funding that we have discussed under outcome 1, why is that funding now within FaHCSIA and not within the Attorney-General's Department? How was it determined that FaHCSIA would have the lead role going forward and therefore you would have money allocated in your budget to these services as opposed to it staying with A-G's?

Ms Carroll : I think one of the key things is that broad range of support, which are broader community supports, and also the drive off our experience through the forgotten Australians and the past adoption practices. There is a range of things where we have been engaging with the community and not-for-profit providers—

Senator CASH: As a department, do you mean as FaHCSIA?

Ms Carroll : Yes, as FaHCSIA. Certainly, through the process of establishing the royal commission, one of the things that we were very clear about was that we had some expertise in that area about how to work with the community sector and what supports they might provide. Attorney-General's obviously has the responsibility for the royal commission and the understanding of legal services and those sorts of things.

Senator CASH: So you saw that there was a demarcation?

Ms Carroll : There certainly was a demarcation, but, as we have said, because the royal commission is an entity in its own right, the support for people giving evidence needs to sit within the royal commission.

Senator CASH: And yours is more the next stage in terms of service providing?

Ms Carroll : Slightly more broadly.

Mr Lye : There will be a number of people for whom the royal commission raises issues. They will not ever seek to come before the royal commission in a formal sense, but they may seek support.

Senator CASH: And that is where you will pick them up?

Mr Lye : That is right.

Senator CASH: With respect to the resources and support available to persons requiring assistance as a result of the royal commission, how will this funding be distributed by the department to the relevant organisations? Is that the tender process, Ms Strapp?

Ms Strapp : Yes, it is.

Senator CASH: Are there any other process by which the funding might be distributed?

Ms Strapp : At this stage we are just finalising the open tender process, but if it is assessed that there are services that are missing and we have not been able to fund particular services—say, specialist support services for people with a disability; if we do find that we have been unable to fund those services—then there is scope for us to do, I guess, more selection processes to make sure that we cover those groups off.

Senator CASH: If you do find out as a result of this tender process that there are services that you are unable to fund, does that mean that you will require additional moneys to be appropriated or are those services within the current funding?

Ms Strapp : At this stage we would hope that those services would be within this funding.

Senator CASH: I know this is difficult to say because of the number of people you expect to draw down on this, but is there a possibility you have anticipated that further funding would be required in the forward estimates or over the forward years?

Mr Lye : Not at this stage.

Senator CASH: Okay, so it literally is that you are going through a process at the moment?

Mr Lye : Yes.

Senator CASH: In terms of the funding itself, will it be grant or block funding? If it is grant funding, what will be the terms of the funding agreements?

Ms Strapp : I believe it is grant funding and the terms of the funding agreement are generally in line with our current funding agreement arrangements within FaHCSIA.

Ms Carroll : Yes, and because we have that funding for three years we would normally go into a three-year funding agreement. We have a standard funding agreement form that we use.

Senator CASH: So it is not anticipated that you will deviate from the norm at the moment?

Ms Carroll : No, Senator.

Senator CASH: On page 27 of the portfolio budget statement—and thank you for pointing out the figure of $45 million, Ms Carroll—how did the government arrive at the figure of $45 million? Is that, Mr Lye, the triangulation that you were referring to previously?

Mr Lye : No, I think the triangulation referred to the past forced adoptions and this is a separate—

Senator CASH: Sorry, we have moved on—okay. How did the government get to $45 million?

Mr Lye : Again, it is based on our experience of this target population that we have worked with before and our broad sense of the numbers of people who we know to be potentially affected. Then we have a bit of information around their use of services to date. So then it is a case of the cost of standing up services across the country. We have some national organisations, we have a national expertise and then we have some with a local expertise.

Senator CASH: Just in relation to the broad sense of the number of people—and obviously this is something that has been talked about within the community generally, and whether or not there will be adequate assistance provided to the people who are going to require it—has the department done any work on modelling the impact of the royal commission on demand for support and counselling services going forward?

Ms Strapp : As Mr Lye mentioned, we have provided interim funding to three organisations—ASCA, Bravehearts and CLAN. They have been providing us with regular data on demand. We have been using that to gauge what sort of demand is out there for people accessing support services moving forward. In addition to that, as part of the selection criteria that organisations had to apply in their application, they did have to also demonstrate that they had received an increase in demand for their services as a result of the royal commission.

Senator CASH: Was that information received before or after the budget was drawn up in terms of the understanding of the numbers that would be using the services?

Mr Lye : Some of that information we hold and some of it is coming through. It is very difficult—

Senator CASH: It is a flawed process, basically, and one of the issues, obviously, with it going forward is that it may well change?

Mr Lye : Yes, and I think the other thing is that we do not fund a private for-profit service that is client based, so you do not get a dollar per head or per person who comes in. We fund organisations and we fund them to stand up a capacity.

Senator CASH: Each person might have a different dollar depending on what their need is as a result of the royal commission?

Ms Carroll : That is right, and they may be referred out to other broader services within the community—Commonwealth or state services. Through the organisations that we fund, they may be referred to perhaps other counselling services et cetera that sit outside of this direct funding.

Senator CASH: What funding is provided to that which is outside the direct funding? Who would be paying for that person to access those services?

Ms Carroll : That would be just part of the normal flow of people. Some of these people will already be accessing some of those services. I guess, as you said before, it is a fluid structure and over time we will get to really understand whether there is enough capacity in these services that have been provided and are they in exactly the right places et cetera. But the royal commission is obviously a very big undertaking and it is going to go for a number of years. We also understand, partly from our service providers, that there will be peaks and troughs.

Senator CASH: I am assuming it is a demand driven process.

Ms Carroll : That is right. What we do know is that there is an announcement effect. When the royal commission was first announced it certainly brought back memories for people and people became worried, hence there was a flow. We did immediate funding out to these particular—

Senator CASH: And that was the interim funding that was provided?

Ms Carroll : Yes, the interim funding to those service providers. Once the public hearings start, we anticipate that again there will be a little bit more of a kind of a lumpy flow as there is reporting of that and images of that in the media trigger memories for people. So again it is not a static thing. We do understand a number of those processes. That is the idea of having I guess basically the funding agreement and the service provider then being able to tailor that funding through the ebbs and flows of the demand.

Senator CASH: Where there is a need for additional support for counselling and mental health services, are those services going to be funded by FaHCSIA or will they be funded by DoHA?

Mr Lye : As Ms Carroll said, that broader service system that is there will work with some of our providers who are funded specially and then they would service this clientele. We have not funded that broader service system. For example, if someone required a mental health service, some of our services are already funded in this space. The Find & Connect services would help a person to access that service. I am not sure of the rebate arrangements through Medicare, but they would access that service and draw down on those resources.

Senator CASH: So there is a possibility that some of the funding may come from DoHA?

Mr Lye : No, we are just saying that they might access that broader service system. What has been funded is a specialist support service through FaHCSIA, but, to the extent that they then go and seek referral for some other issues—and in this client group there may be domestic violence or mental health or housing issues or a whole series of other issues—our specialist services would help them to access that broader service system.

Senator CASH: Has it been anticipated that there may need to be a requirement for additional funding to come from, say, DoHA to look at these additional services?

Ms Carroll : We will be monitoring that as we go forward. Certainly I am part of an interdepartmental committee of Prime Minister and Cabinet, FaHCSIA and Attorney-General's. We meet regularly to discuss the progress of the royal commission and what we are understanding that the key issues are. Certainly we will be engaging more broadly if it is required.

Senator CASH: You are right—again, we get back to the fact that it is a flawed process. You are at the beginning of it. Can I now take you to 2013-14 budget related paper. But can I also ask you to refer—and I hope you have a copy of it—to page 41 of last year's so that we can do a comparison? In relation to page 45 of the 2013-14 budget related paper, you can see that there is 2012-13 and 2013-14. Can I also then refer you to page 41 of 2012-13. I just have some questions in relation to what the figures were and then what the figures are. There appears to be a $90 million increase in the 2012-13 financial year between the 2012-13 and the 2013-14 budget papers. You can see that reflected in the 203, which went up to 296. Last year the 2012-13 budget expenses for family support were a significant departure from the average expenditure for the program over the forward estimates and also from the projected forward estimates in 2011-12 budget paper. If you also have a look at figures, there is a $63.8 million decrease in the 2013-14 financial year between the 2012-13 and the 2013-14 budget papers. Do you have the figures?

Mr Lye : Yes.

Senator CASH: Okay. Why was there a decreased estimate in the 2012-13 budget papers when expected expenditure, as can now be seen in 2013-14, was in line with the 2011-12 estimate? Can you explain the figures to me and how they ended up being what they are based on what they were?

Mr Lye : We will not at the moment try to add in new spending that might complicate the story. But, in terms of the difference in numbers, the explanation is relatively straightforward. In last year's budget the government took a decision to bring forward an amount of money—around $90 million—and pay it to providers in June prior to the—

Senator CASH: Which is now reflected in the increase, is it?

Mr Lye : So that brought money forward and left a lower amount in the current financial year.

Ms Carroll : And that was last year's budget paper.

Senator CASH: Okay. So tell me what figures they were and what they are now. Are they the figures that I called out?

Mr Lye : It was in the order of—

Ms Carroll : Senator, in the 2012-13 budget paper on page 41—

Senator CASH: You had 203,547?

Ms Carroll : Yes, Senator.

Senator CASH: Which became 296,778?

Ms Carroll : No, if you could stay in that budget paper, you will see that in 2011-12 there is 365,045.

Senator CASH: Yes.

Ms Carroll : That is the bring-forward. So the funding came out of 2013 and went into 2011-12.

Mr Lye : The payment, instead of being made in July, was made in June. In this year's budget a similar thing has happened. It is explained on page 155 of the current PBS. A payment of 91.957 has been brought forward into the current financial year from the next financial year. It would be a June payment, so the payment movement is in the order of a matter of a month. It is called an early payment to providers.

Senator CASH: So that then takes us forward to the $63.8 million decrease. If we go to page 45 of the 2013-14 budget paper, you will see 2012-13 and 2013-14; it is approximately I think a $63.8 million decrease. Is this again basically an example of what you have just described, which I would personally possibly describe as an artificial decrease?

Mr Lye : The explanation for the reason that it is not the full value of the 91 million is that you have some other things happening in there, like the royal commission funding and forced adoptions money. That means that the net change is less than the 91 million.

Senator CASH: Okay. But it is the same explanation in terms of—

Ms Carroll : Yes, Senator.

Senator CASH: It is the same explanation as the one I have just been given. Okay. My next question—and it may be explained by what you have just said, Mr Lye—is: why was there such a significant cut in the 2012-13 financial year in the 2012-13 budget papers but not over any of the other forward years given that that cut was not realised? Is that what you have just referred to—the additional moneys?

Mr Lye : That is because of the movement of funds.

Ms Carroll : Effectively the amount of funding stays about static. It is just the year in which—

Senator CASH: And it has just moved. Okay. My next question was then going to be: why is there now such a significant cut in the 2013-14 financial year in the current budget paper but not over any of the other forward years?

Ms Carroll : Again, it is the movement of funds.

Senator CASH: Okay. Whilst I accept the explanation that it is the movement of funds, in terms of the $63.8 million decrease from 2012-14 and 2013-14, have any services or programs been cut to effect that decrease?

Mr Lye : No, Senator. As I said, in addition to the $91 million movement, there has been some adding back in of additional funds. We will fund some additional services over and above the normal ones because of the royal commission and forced adoptions. That is why you get a $60 million-odd difference.

Senator CASH: Okay. If we go to the forward years—2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17—they have not been cut in line with the 2013-14 financial year. Why is that?

Mr Lye : That is because the government's decision in relation to the movement of funds only applies to the current year.

Senator CASH: Okay. There has been a $90 million increase in the amount expended for the Family Support Program in 2012-13 than was budgeted for in the 2012-13 budget. That is the $90 million we have been talking about?

Mr Lye : Yes.

Senator CASH: In terms of the $90 million and the fact that there has been a decrease in 2013-14, will any clients be impacted by the decrease?

Mr Lye : There will be no diminution of service or funding for organisations.

Senator CASH: Again, it is all a movement of funds. Okay. Did the department receive any instructions from any government minister to bring forward expenditure from the 2012 financial year to the 2011-12 financial year and subsequently to bring forward expenditure from the 2013-14 financial year to the 2012-13 financial year?

Ms Carroll : It is a decision of government; hence, it is in all of the budget papers.

Senator CASH: In terms of it being a decision of government it merely appears in the budget papers, as opposed to your department actually receiving instructions that this is to occur?

Ms Carroll : The funding is made available at the different points in the financial year.

Senator CASH: Mr Lye, could I just get you to again take me through, just so that I have a clear understanding, the reasons for bringing forward the expenditure from 2012-13 to 2011-12 and subsequently to bring forward the expenditure from 2013-14 to 2012-13, just so that I have it clear in my mind exactly what has occurred?

Mr Lye : The rationale for the decision on each occasion was that we have a milestone payment that we make, typically in July, to service providers. It is a milestone payment, but it is not conditional on achievement of certain outcomes, so it is paid automatically at that time of the year. In the past we have had some discussion from organisations around that being timely and not receiving money until after the end of the financial year and there being some issues with that. So the decision was taken to pay that in June to try to ensure that those organisations had continuity of cash flow.

Senator CASH: And why did they require continuity of cash flow?

Mr Lye : In the past, some organisations have indicated that, by the time the payment arrives in July, it is not particularly timely for them and they have experienced cash flow issues. So they have raised that with the department. The decision was taken, because it is not conditional on the achievement of a benchmark, to make that payment slightly earlier.

Ms Carroll : It is within our three-year funding agreement as it currently stands, so it is not reliant on a new funding agreement starting et cetera. So it is about the timing of the payment.

Senator CASH: Within the overall payment?

Ms Carroll : Yes.

Senator CASH: Is that a usual practice to do that type of thing—respond to that feedback and then bring—

Ms Carroll : Certainly it had not happened before. Last year was the first time that we did it. We have done it again this year. Again, it is still within the scope of the three-year funding agreement that we have with those service providers.

Mr Pratt : But at a general level we are of course very sensitive to issues that providers have around things like cash flow. If we can make it easier for them by bringing it forward a month and it means they do not have a cash flow break then ultimately it means they have a better capacity to provide a service to the clients.

Senator CASH: Is that payment approach that we have just talked about—and, Ms Carroll, you said it had not happened before—usual in other departments?

Ms Carroll : I would not be able to speculate about whether it was usual or not in other departments.

Mr Pratt : There is a very large range of payment schedules across different government programs and lots of programs pay a great deal up in advance and others pay part in advance and then milestones throughout. I do not think it is unconventional to adapt those sorts of payment schedules based on feedback, but there would be a wide range of practices across different departments.

Senator CASH: Given that it is unusual and it has not happened before, who ultimately made the decision to make the payment in this manner for the two years?

Mr Pratt : Ultimately it was a government decision to do this. We canvassed these issues, actually, after the last budget. So in this budget—I think it was a rather popular move amongst our providers from last time, so we have replicated it this year.

Senator CASH: In relation to program 1.1, what is the breakdown of subprograms and their respective administered and departmental costs?

Ms Strapp : I can give you the total cost. I can give you a breakdown of the Family Support Program appropriation, which is $151.947 million. That is made up of, for the Family Support Program, $127.789 million and that includes services for forced adoptions, royal commission support services, Stronger Futures Communities for Children and Communities for Children. I can break those down if you like.

Senator CASH: Yes, please, I would like that.

Ms Strapp : Services for those affected by forced adoptions is $300,000 in the next financial year. Royal commission support services is $12.285 million. Stronger Futures Communities for Children is $2.740 million. Communities for Children is $65.790 million. Family and relationship services is $33.607 million. Specialised services is $4.95 million. Community playgroups is $2.222 million. Capacity building is $3.418 million. Program support is $2.060 million and the SACS Award is $0.771 million.

Senator CASH: If I needed a copy of those figures, is that something that I can access easily or is that a departmental document?

Ms Strapp : We could provide that.

Senator CASH: That would be appreciated. Is that all of program 1.1 that you have just outlined?

Ms Strapp : There are also a couple of other services or programs not delivered under the Family Support Program.

Senator CASH: But funded under the Family Support Program?

Ms Strapp : They are under that appropriation.

Senator CASH: What are they?

Ms Strapp : That is a total of $24.158 million and that includes services under Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, which is $11.233 million; the independent living allowance, which is $1.610 million; national leadership projects, which is $2.653 million; Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care—SNAICC—which is $1.388 million; and Indigenous family safety projects, which is $7.274 million. In addition to this, we also fund Find & Connect services as part of family support services, which has an appropriation of $4.708 million for 2013-14.

Senator CASH: And that totals $24.158 million?

Ms Strapp : I believe so.

Senator CASH: In relation to the Family Support Program, are you able to provide a list of organisations that receive grants?

Ms Strapp : I can. I believe we tabled something last year. I can provide that list of all of our grants on notice. It is also available on the FaHCSIA website.

Senator CASH: Where is it on the FaHCSIA website?

Ms Strapp : I will provide that to you.

Senator CASH: Of the total appropriation for the Family Support Program, how much of that comprises grant funding which is yet to be expended?

Ms Strapp : We have $211,000 currently unallocated. Do you mean this financial year or next financial year?

Senator CASH: I will take both if you have both. So this financial year there is $211,000 unallocated?

Ms Strapp : I think that has been committed but not expended yet.

Senator CASH: So that is obviously different to unallocated?

Ms Strapp : Sorry, yes. I do not believe we have anything unallocated at the moment.

Senator CASH: So that 211, just to confirm your evidence, is committed?

Ms Strapp : It is soft committed.

Senator CASH: Did you say 'soft committed'?

Ms Strapp : It is committed; we just have not made the payment yet.

Senator CASH: Does that mean that it can change?

Mr Lye : They are all subject to decisions by the minister.

Senator CASH: But that is for this financial year—in other words, the next four weeks?

Mr Lye : Yes. Senator, I think there might be an amount of $211,000 that is—

Senator CASH: Soft committed?

Mr Lye : No, sorry, that is not currently allocated.

Senator CASH: Okay. Can we just get this right. The $211,000 was unallocated and then it was soft committed and it went back to unallocated.

Mr Lye : Sorry, the correct way to say this for you is that the unallocated funds are $211,000 for this financial year.

Senator CASH: So that is unallocated. Do we have a soft commitment component as well?

Ms Strapp : We do.

Senator CASH: What is the soft commitment component?

Ms Strapp : It is actually $8.452 million. A large component of that would be funding for the royal commission.

Mr Lye : Almost all of it.

Senator CASH: Will that be expended within this financial year? Will announcements be made?

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Mr Lye : It is contingent on the decision that we spoke about earlier that the minister could take.

Mr Pratt : I will probably complicate things here—

Senator CASH: And it is going so swimmingly well!

Mr Pratt : There are four categories. There is expended—so the money is spent. Then there is hard commitment, which is where we have actually done a deal but the money has not yet been spent.

Senator CASH: But you are not about to change that deal?

Mr Pratt : That is right. Then you have a soft commitment, which is where we have indicated that we are likely to spend money in an area but have not yet signed a contract or some condition has not been met. Then there is unallocated.

Senator CASH: Thank you for that.

CHAIR: Mr Pratt, they have always been the same, haven't they? That is a standard approach?

Mr Pratt : Yes.

Senator CASH: It is just that the figures obviously change from year to year in relation to the categories. Ms Strapp, you asked me whether I wanted next year as well. Do you have—

Ms Strapp : I do not.

Senator CASH: That is okay. In terms of the Family Support Program, how many funding agreements are in place?

Ms Strapp : We have funding agreements with 350 organisations, which is all of the organisations funded under the Family Support Program.

Senator CASH: How many of those organisations have met their obligations?

Ms Strapp : I believe the majority of them. There are currently two organisations that we are working with that have not met some of their reporting milestones.

Senator CASH: What are you doing with those organisations?

Ms Strapp : We are working really closely with them. Our state and territory network—our contract managers—have regular contact with those organisations to ascertain why they have not met their reporting milestones. It is things like not providing a performance report or regular data. So they are working really closely with those organisations to ascertain why they have not met those reporting requirements and also to get them to meet the reporting requirements.

Senator CASH: For how long have these two organisations not met their obligations?

Ms Strapp : I do not have that level of detail, unfortunately.

Senator CASH: My understanding in relation to organisations that do not meet their obligations is that you have a standard procedure that you work through to ensure that they do meet them.

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Senator CASH: And, if they do not, there is ultimately a penalty to pay under the agreement?

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Mr Lye : Sometimes the failure to meet a requirement might be related to a staffing issue—a changeover of staff or the skill level of staff. Sometimes they are kind of relatively minor.

Senator CASH: Technical.

Mr Lye : It does not mean that we take them in a non-serious way, but we would not regard them as high risk or that clients are not getting a service.

Senator CASH: In relation to those particular organisations, what are the reasons that they have not met their obligations?

Ms Strapp : At this stage we are ascertaining why they have not. I am just looking at some detail. It appears that we have only recently known—as in the last couple of months—and have been working with them. But, in terms of why they have not, I cannot provide that level of detail.

Senator CASH: Is anybody affected as a result of it? Are any clients affected as result of them not meeting their obligations?

Ms Strapp : I do not believe so.

Mr Lye : We can provide you with some information on notice, but we would not want to name the organisations.

Senator CASH: That was my next question. I knew you would say that, but I thought I would push it just in case.

Ms Carroll : As you indicated, there is a standard procedure. It would be quite normal for our funding agreement managers to be going out and working with the service to see whether there was something quite significant in the organisation. If there was something quite significant—and we have done this in a number of cases—we might put in an Ernst & Young to do a quick audit check. We might be really concerned about the board, misappropriation of funds—on any of those things we move very quickly. If it is about not submitting performance reports but actually we can see clients are still being serviced, the Commonwealth's funding is quite safe and services are being provided then we work in a kind of capacity-building way with the organisations. So it really is about what the problem is.

Senator CASH: The nature of—

Ms Carroll : What the nature of the problem is—and certainly we will move very quickly if we are concerned that funds might be being misappropriated—

Senator CASH: Or clients are not being—

Ms Carroll : or clients are not being serviced appropriately or there is some high risk to a range of things. We need to ascertain the issues and then we can—

Senator CASH: Make the call as to what action might be taken. Just in relation to these two particular organisations, do you know the amount of funding that they have been provided with by the government under their agreements?

Mr Lye : We can provide that. I do have the details on one of the two organisations, which might give you an idea about the issues. This particular organisation runs playgroup activities, so the funding is likely to be less than about $300,000 a year. They have had a number of changes in the chairperson of the board of governance and some staffing changes as well. Our Broome based staff are working with that organisation—it is up in WA—on that issue. This is quite a typical issue, particularly for more remote services, around attracting and retaining staff. Sometimes we have periods of time where they will not have a CEO or they will not have a chairperson or other board members.

Senator CASH: Thank you for that additional information. How many contract managers are currently employed under program 1.1?

Mr Lye : I think we have been asked this question previously. I am not sure that we are able to disaggregate.

Mr Pratt : It is really not possible to separately identify. We have the equivalent of contract managers all around the organisation, primarily in our state and territory network and our ICCs around the country but some also in national office. Often they will look at a number of different programs and they will have other responsibilities in addition to program management responsibilities. So it is very challenging to try to come up with an estimate of just how many people might work specifically on outcome 1 or a subcomponent of outcome 1.

Senator CASH: What sort of level of detail could you distil from the data that you have?

Mr Pratt : We could drill into it quite a bit but in our annual report there are some indications of the number of staff around the country in the different states and territories—things of that sort—and you can take from that that the majority of their activities will be in program management as opposed to policy.

Ms Carroll : And I think, depending on our state or territory office, they also operate the funding agreement management a bit differently depending on what suits. In Western Australia they have a kind of funding agreement manager that might run with a service provider but across different programs. That service provider might run families programs as well as mental health, as well as community programs—

Senator CASH: Because of the nature of the state et cetera.

Ms Carroll : et cetera. Whereas, for example, in New South Wales it might be that they run their funding agreement management more along the lines of, 'This is the families team and this is the communities team.' So that is an additional reason. What we try to do is be as effective and efficient—have the best relationship with the service providers but also do that add-on engagement with the community about what the issues are.

Senator CASH: I will go to the Family Relationship Services for Humanitarian Entrants program component. How much funding does this program component receive and how many people accessed the program in 2011-12 and 2013 to date?

Ms Strapp : I can provide you with funding for both 2011-12 and 2012-13. In 2011-12, $2.146 million was provided for this program. In 2012-13, $1.42 million was provided to six organisations with 11 outlets. Registered clients were 412; unregistered clients, 1,009. That brings the total clients to 1,421.

Senator CASH: Is that over both financial years?

Ms Strapp : I think that is from the 2011-12 financial year.

Senator CASH: That is the number of registered clients. Is that also, then, the number of people who accessed the program?

Ms Strapp : Yes, it is.

Senator CASH: What is the difference between a registered and an unregistered client?

Ms Strapp : A registered client is someone who has given their permission for our service to provide a level of detail about themselves—some clients do not wish to be registered or to have a lot of detail provided—back to FaHCSIA, which enables us to do some evaluation and work out what the service is providing. That is the difference.

Senator CASH: In 2012-13 is it the same figure: 1,421?

Mr Lye : No. We will not have those results—

Senator CASH: Until—

Mr Lye : until later.

Senator CASH: I will turn to the Community Playgroups component of the program. How much funding does this program component receive, and are you able to provide a breakdown of the funding that has been expended and how it has been expended?

Ms Strapp : I can. In 2012-13, $4.794 million was provided for Community Playgroups. The year-to-date expenditure is $3.296 million.

Senator CASH: The rest of it is committed for the rest of the financial year, so it will be expended?

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Mr Lye : Nine organisations are funded, 11 outlets and—this is for 2011-12—199,079 clients.

Senator CASH: In terms of the nine organisations, are you able to advise on notice who those organisations are and the locations of the outlets?

Ms Strapp : Yes. Generally we fund the national body, Playgroup Australia, and we also fund the state and territory bodies, who then fund under that those community playgroups. Just to give you an idea, we fund around 8,000 playgroups around Australia. That funding is used for around 8,000 playgroups.

Mr Lye : But we do not have a relationship with the 8,000; we do that through the federation of—

Senator CASH: That really would be asking a lot of you.

Mr Lye : Yes, they do a very good job for us.

Senator CASH: I know we have had this discussion before but just remind me: are you able to provide a breakdown of how many people have accessed these services, by location?

Ms Strapp : I can say—

Senator CASH: Or what is the level of detail you can provide in relation to the 199,000 clients?

Mr Lye : We will check.

Senator CASH: What are the objectives or KPIs for this program component?

Ms Strapp : Our KPIs are generally for FSP and they are in the PBS.

Senator CASH: What page?

Ms Strapp : 46.

Senator CASH: So there are no actual KPIs for Community Playgroups as such?

Ms Strapp : We use those FSP KPIs.

Senator CASH: In terms of whether the program providers are meeting their objectives, what information is provided to FaHCSIA?

Ms Strapp : We ask our providers to report every six months, or twice yearly performance reports.

Senator CASH: And you tell them what they have got to report against?

Ms Strapp : We have a template that they have to complete and send back. Some providers do not have to fill out all of the template. They fill it out as per their activities. So some parts of the template are not relevant for some services, et cetera.

Senator CASH: In terms of the funding allocation to supported or facilitated playgroups over the forward estimates, can you give me those figures?

Mr Lye : I am not sure we have got that to hand, Senator.

Senator CASH: That is fine—if you could provide it on notice. Is it grant or block funding?

Mr Lye : Grant funding.

Senator CASH: In terms of the grant funding, are you able to provide a breakdown of organisations that received this funding in 2012-13, which is the nine organisations?

Mr Lye : Yes.

Senator CASH: And you will take on notice to provide those ones?

Mr Lye : Yes.

Senator CASH: How many playgroups in total were funded in 2012-13? That is the 8,000—

Ms Strapp : That study is just an estimate, and I believe that was 2011-12 figures.

Senator CASH: Have you got the 2012-13 figures?

Ms Strapp : No, we do not.

Senator CASH: Because that is in four weeks time?

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Senator CASH: In terms of 2013-14, again, you will not have that information until the end of that financial year?

Ms Strapp : It is fairly difficult to estimate playgroup numbers because they—

Senator CASH: Change.

Ms Strapp : They change quite a lot. People will start up a playgroup and then the playgroup might not keep going, so it is reasonably fluid.

Mr Lye : It is a very informal model of service.

Senator CASH: What, then, are the terms of the grant agreements, based on that—that a playgroup may well start up and then close?

Mr Lye : The state based body works to help facilitate the establishment of playgroups in communities where people are interested in starting them. These are typically groups of mothers and fathers with their children. It is not like formal childcare, obviously; it is a chance for them to get together and socialise and for the children to do the same, so it is a fairly informal exercise. One of the important bits about the model is that it is driven by the families. The playgroup coordinators help to establish and help, I suppose, set some ground rules but really it is about the strength of the community members coming together and running that exercise. That is why you have a very large number and you also have, as Ms Strapp said, some starting up, some not continuing on and some going for years. There is a variety of things that happen.

Senator CASH: The terms of the agreements for this grant funding—the agreement is with the nine organisations in the 11 outlets, who then have agreements with the state based playgroups themselves?

Mr Lye : They are one and the same. The state based are the people we have the—

Senator CASH: Agreements with. But in terms of their own playgroups—

Ms Carroll : Each of the states—for example the Queensland playgroup association or New South Wales playgroup association—would then have a structure within itself for how it supports playgroups—

Senator CASH: Within its own state.

Ms Carroll : across New South Wales, within its own state, and the mechanism to do those things that Mr Lye described, of how to help—and some of that is materials that it can provide new playgroups et cetera and some of it would be assistance via talking to a new playgroup coordinator about how they might handle different issues as they come forward. They are the sorts of things that those state based organisations do. Then they provide that support. So each one will run a bit differently, again, depending on the state.

Senator CASH: The ultimate agreement with the nine organisations, though, would be the same agreement?

Ms Carroll : Yes.

Senator CASH: How they implement their agreement, though—

Ms Carroll : That is right.

Senator CASH: is how they implement their agreement, based on the reasons that you have outlined. Is it possible to get a template copy of the agreement so we can have a look at the KPIs et cetera?

Ms Carroll : Yes.

Senator CASH: Thank you. It would save us going through them; that is all. I turn now to the Find & Connect service. Are you able to provide a breakdown of this initiative by subprogram and their respective administered and departmental costs?

Ms Strapp : I can provide a breakdown of funding for the program. I am not sure I can provide it by subprogram.

Mr Lye : I do not think there is a subprogram on this one.

Senator CASH: So give me what you can give me then.

Ms Strapp : For 2013, $7.613 million was provided for the national Find & Connect services. In 2013-14, $4.708 million will be allocated to Find & Connect services.

Senator CASH: Why the decrease?

Ms Strapp : That is because those organisations are included in the early payments. There is movement of funds.

Senator CASH: Do you have statistics as to how many people used the Find & Connect service in 2012-13?

Ms Strapp : There were—I believe these might be 2011-12 figures—154 registered clients and 1,212 unregistered, which brings a total of 1,366 clients accessing Find & Connect services.

Senator CASH: And 2012-13 you will not get until the end of the financial year—is that what happens? In terms of the usage itself, are you able to break that down as to whether it was telephone usage or internet usage?

Ms Strapp : I can break it down not by telephone usage but by what sort of support the service provided.

Senator CASH: Thank you.

Ms Strapp : Actually I do have more recent data—

Mr Lye : Senator, I think the data we have got here for Find & Connect is for 1 July 2012 to 31 March 2013.

Senator CASH: So it is the most relevant data.

Ms Strapp : It is 20 May 2013—this data that I am about to read out.

Senator CASH: So not the previous data?

Ms Strapp : It is not the previous data. So maybe take this into account. The total was 1,891. That was total clients and sessions. Seven hundred and eight attended a counselling session; 427 sessions were for records searches; 55 were for records releases; 31 were for family reconnection; 182 were for support; and 478 were for 'other'.

Senator CASH: What is 'other'?

Ms Strapp : It could mean general referral, advocacy—a range of services. It could be some form of case management other than counselling or—

Senator CASH: I will turn now to the Communities for Children program. How many projects are currently being funded under this initiative, and are you able to provide information on how many of these projects have been targeted at children over the age of four?

Mr Lye : I am not sure we can provide that for you, Senator: the over the age of four issue. As with these other data that we are giving you, we will have registered and unregistered clients. For unregistered clients we are unlikely to be able to break down some of those details for you.

Senator CASH: The age, yes, because they obviously are providing that information. Generally, though, do you have how many projects are currently funded through the initiative with you?

Ms Strapp : For C for C Direct we currently fund 209 projects. For Communities for Children facilitating partners we fund 52 sites. Under the Communities for Children Facilitating Partners model they decide what gets funded, so we do not have the figure for how many projects are funded under that model. Under Communities for Children Indigenous Parenting Services we fund 98 organisations with 299 outlets.

Senator CASH: I am now going to move on to family tax benefit A, unless Senator Siewert—

Senator SIEWERT: I do want to follow up very quickly on the forced adoptions money and I do have family tax questions as well. If I ask anything that was asked and you answered while I was out of the room, tell me to go and read Hansard. In terms of setting up the committee process, how are you doing it and how far advanced are you?

Ms Strapp : You might have seen on 16 May, I think, Minister Collins announced Adjunct Professor Nahum Mushin as the chair of the implementation working group. Shortly after that she also announced an expression of interest process.

Senator SIEWERT: I did see the first one but I think I missed that one.

Ms Strapp : First of all we sent an email out to all of the stakeholders. Attorney-General's Department have a mailing list to which they were kind enough to send out this email for us consulting those stakeholders on the actual expression of interest before we put it out. The expression of interest was then put out, I believe, last Monday—

Mr Lye : 28 May.

Ms Strapp : 28 May, and the expression of interest closes next Monday. So there was a two-week time frame for people—

Senator SIEWERT: It is a pretty short time frame.

Ms Strapp : It is. The reason for that short time frame is that we have received feedback, as has Professor Mushin, that people are keen to see something happen. Based on those expressions of interest and the draft terms of reference, which detail how we think the membership could look in terms of having representatives from mothers, fathers, adoptee adults, academics—the department will provide a recommendation to Minister Collins, who will make a decision on the membership of the reference group. We hope to hold the first meeting in July.

Senator SIEWERT: So there is a two-week time frame, which sounds like the end of June, to make a decision?

Ms Strapp : As soon as possible.

Senator SIEWERT: Where are you getting advice from about the mix? I realise you have just talked about the mix but, as you know, this is a very sensitive area and I am just wondering who you are talking to about getting advice on whether you have the right mix—the sensitivity in getting the right mix of people.

Ms Strapp : We have been using Professor Mushin, using his advice and also the advice of the Attorney-General's Department. I believe Professor Mushin has also been talking to stakeholders that he knows, and I also believe Minister Collins has been talking to some stakeholders as well around what the membership could look like.

Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the process, you went through to the end of the year working it out and will hopefully be starting the services in the beginning of next year?

Ms Strapp : It really will depend on what is already out there and whether we need to start additional services, start new services. So part of the next six months will be around completing a scoping study and utilising the working group to work out what exactly what the service system should look like for people affected.

Senator SIEWERT: And that is including working across the agencies, so with Health and Ageing as well?

Ms Strapp : Yes. You are aware that their services are already up and running. Health and Ageing will be involved in the working group, as will National Archives, who are putting together an exhibition.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I ask for a clarification statement? I am sure others are as well, but I know Senator Smith and I are keen on asking around rural counselling, particularly the new lot of rural counselling. Do we ask that here or in—

Ms Strapp : Here.

CHAIR: I am clarifying as well because I would have thought rural counselling would be outcome 3. Why is it families? Help me out.

Ms Strapp : It depends what counselling you are talking about. Are you talking about financial counselling?


Ms Strapp : That is outcome 3.

Senator SIEWERT: But in terms of the broader rural counselling, that comes here? So if you are doing general rural counselling it comes here and the financial counselling is in outcome 3?

Ms Strapp : Family counselling.

Ms Carroll : Family counselling comes here. At different points we have had different programs. Family counselling comes under this outcome. The financial counselling will be outcome 3.

Senator SMITH: So the Family Support Program is this outcome?

Ms Strapp : Yes. Senator, I think we have a clarification on some of our figures.

Mr Lye : Senator, we were saying for just about all our client figures prior to when we started talking about Find & Connect that they were 2011-12. In fact what our helpful people have done, and I did not look at their notations—it is all from 1 July 2012 through to 31 March 2013. So it is not a full-year figure but it is more recent than we said it was. So we can correct the transcript where we have—

CHAIR: That would be fine, Mr Lye. I am sure Senator Cash will be looking over those when we look at the figures. So it is actually closer to where we are but not a full year?

Mr Lye : That is right.

CHAIR: Senator Brown has another question on forced adoption. We may as well clear that area before we move on.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I just want to get an understanding about the link between what the federal government is doing and what state and territory governments are doing and how that is going to work together. I know when some of the states made their apologies they also committed to do certain tasks, and also funds. I am interested in how that is all going to come together.

Ms Strapp : As part of the government's response to the inquiry into forced adoptions the government committed to work closely with states and territories around their responses to their own apologies. Under the standing council on community and disability services advisory council there is a cross-jurisdictional working group that will discuss the different approaches. The department intends to progress and work with the states through that working group around what sorts of responses they have implemented—and some of them have already implemented responses—to forced adoptions. We will also be taking into account when we are looking at the scoping study and the sorts of services that are already out there what services states and territories already fund and how additional services that we might want to fund might work really closely together with those state and territory services.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Are you able to provide a list of what states and territories did commit to? Do you have that information? I am particularly interested in the counselling area where commitments have been made across states and territories and the federal government has made that commitment as well and how that will work, particularly when some have already started their commitments, as you have already indicated.

Ms Strapp : Obviously we do not want to duplicate services that are already there, so that will be part of our scoping study. But I can provide you on notice what we can find out about what states and territories are already providing.

Senator CAROL BROWN: But will you also be looking at whether what has been put out is actually working?

Mr Lye : That will be part of our process.

Ms Carroll : I think that is part of the point of the scoping study: to actually take the time to look at what is already available, what states and territories have committed, what we know works and what is most successful. So by taking a quite considered approach then when we go to fund our set of services we will know how they will fit clearly with what is already out there and what works.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Obviously there would be people that have been affected who already access counselling services that they would be paying for themselves; they have their own counsellor. I am just interested to see what actually is being put in place, so hopefully we can get it right.

CHAIR: How are we going on 1.1?

Senator SMITH: I have questions around the Family Support Program.

CHAIR: That would be now.

Senator SMITH: In previous estimates I have talked about the Family Support Program specifically and outreach services and those sorts of things in Western Australia across that great south-eastern wheat belt district. Previously you have advised me that you are confident that clients that were previously accessing the RRFSS program would be absorbed into existing programs. Can you give me an update that that has actually been the case?

Ms Strapp : Yes, Senator. My colleagues in the WA state FaHCSIA office have been in regular contact with Centrecare in Western Australia. The last contact they had was on 20 May and prior to that they had a face-to-face meeting in April to discuss client demand, where Centrecare confirmed that there was no unmet need in terms of outreach and counselling services in the wheat belt region. We are closely monitoring that. Centrecare did mention that they had had an increase in client numbers due to the fact that they have been able to employ two new staff members, two new workers, and they have also implemented, I think, an awareness campaign. But according to Centrecare and our other services there is no unmet need in the Esperance region.

Senator SMITH: Obviously the discussions you have been having with Centrecare and others are very attuned to the fact that we have had large community meetings attended by almost 1,000 distressed farmers and others. What I am hearing is that you are alert to the specific requirements of the wheat belt and that great south-eastern goldfields area.

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Senator SMITH: There has been a constant debate about mobility of services versus outreach of services. Can you update me on your thinking with regard to that? There does seem to be an underlying tension about whether having mobile services, which still require people to reach out, as opposed to services that might go more deeply into a community or might go into people's homes—can you share with me where your thinking is up to on that? It was canvassed, I think, in the pilot programs and was a key positive feature of that. But from discussions last week with the department of agriculture I am not quite convinced that we are doing enough around outreach. So this is an opportunity to convince me that it is okay.

Ms Strapp : I guess the feedback we get from services in the region is that outreach support is provided and works really well. I think that is generally for the Family Support Program—that outreach services are generally successful in engaging hard-to-reach clients. I have got broad feedback on how outreach is going and I believe that organisations in that region use outreach fairly regularly. As opposed to mobile services—I am not sure I can really touch on that.

Senator SMITH: So you have been meeting with Centrecare, 20 May was the most recent discussion and you are quite satisfied that—from my point of view it sounds like there is a lot of attention being given to the issue in that part of the country, so that is a good thing. The community action plans that have been developed and specifically the one around the Esperance area—are you satisfied that that is delivering on expectation?

Ms Strapp : I would have to take that on notice.

Mr Lye : Senator, one of the difficulties for us in answering some of these specific questions is that we devolve a great deal of responsibility to our Western Australian office and in turn we devolve a lot of responsibility to organisations like Centrecare. It is part of the model. They are what we call the place expert. So in terms of issues like outreach and the idea of outreach versus mobile services or strategies to try to get people to access a service or go to their home, we actually trust their expertise in making that sort of thing happen. As Ms Strapp said, the employment of two workers and a number of awareness strategies that Centrecare have employed have increased the level of traffic into the service. At the broader program level we have a vulnerable access strategy which we have been implementing over the course of the three-year contract that currently applies under FSP. That strategy is really around getting all organisations to think about clients who might not come into a service for a range of reasons—

Senator SMITH: Older male farmers might be a—

Mr Lye : Precisely. They are probably not a group of people that would come to mind in the middle of Sydney but they are obviously a group of people who Western Australian services need to be thinking about or rural services need to be thinking about. So what we have had organisations do is go through this process of thinking about and documenting and then trying to enact a plan of action to try to target these groups of people who may not be coming into our services. Our Western Australian office has worked with the organisations around agreeing those plans. At the Canberra level we have benchmarked those plans and we have had the Institute of Family Studies do some work to see what the overall quality looks like and what the promise in practice looks like coming out of those. That is by way of trying to explain our role in that and in letting Centrelink be the expert on the ground.

Ms Strapp : Centrecare.

Mr Lye : Centrecare, sorry.

Senator SMITH: So the—do you call it the vulnerable access plan?

Ms Strapp : Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Client Access Strategy.

Senator SMITH: So that is really a mechanism whereby people identify and share ideas about how best to deal with these vulnerable and disadvantaged clients?

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Senator SMITH: And is there funding attached to that or is it really just drawing people's attention and getting people to think in advance of crisis?

Mr Lye : It is part of the overall agreement that organisations have with us. They go through that process of putting the plan together. They talk to partner organisations and other stakeholders. We have a large number of organisations who would say that they struggle to access Indigenous clients, so we get them to go through a series of steps to think about how they might make their service more available and ready for Indigenous clients. In the Western Australian case, I think you are right: your older farmer who may not want to come out to say, 'Look, I'm struggling' to a service—that has got to be in Centrecare's thinking or other partner organisations' around how they achieve that access.

Senator SMITH: And types of services will be more comfortable for a particular type of person to access. Men's sheds are, I think, a powerful example of an effective mechanism to draw older men together to discuss. I agree with your point, Mr Lye, that it is important to have the delivery at a grassroots level by people who are in those communities. I absolutely agree with that. What I am keen to ensure is that in that devolution of implementation we are not seeing a devolution of responsibility or accountability. This is why this process is so important, because it allows me to bring Centrecare's concerns over a 12-month period. It looks like, if there was a gap, that gap is being narrowed. Could you share with me what discussions you had between you and the department of agriculture with regard to the agricultural assistance package—what sorts of coordination or discussions happened between you?

Ms Strapp : I believe that the department of agriculture has had discussions with our financial counselling counterparts in the department.

Mr Lye : And us. There has been an ongoing IDC/working group as that policy has been done, so we have been party to all those processes. We would describe the relationship with the department as good.

Senator SMITH: I will not traverse outcome 3 but again one of the criticisms at a grassroots level in Western Australia has been the fact that the agricultural package deals with and addresses financial counselling issues—a bit of a concern to make sure that there was that linkage between personal and emotional counselling, because it is hard to imagine someone having financial distress without having emotional or interpersonal relationships being stressed as a result of that. So I am keen to make sure that there has been a discussion around making sure that those services are fitting.

Mr Lye : While it is in outcome 3, financial counselling also sits within the responsibility of my group. So we are very interested in the operation of that against the FSP program. I can say to you that financial counsellors are dealing with highly complex matters and part of their training is to identify the issues that require other forms of attention, just as in the FSP program there is an awareness of the family counselling responsibilities. Those two service systems talk to each other and so they are attuned to that. The financial counsellors are dealing with usually fairly complex circumstances where people may have accumulated debt and very difficult and complex circumstances to work through, so there is that level of—

Ms Carroll : Senator, in some cases the same service provider might actually run both of those programs for us. So it would depend on who was funded.

Senator SMITH: So they are funded differently but the shopfront—

Ms Carroll : That is right; in some cases it may actually be the same service provider. Can I just clarify that the actual rural financial counsellors component that I think you are speaking about is funded through DAFF; it is not funded through us.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, we had a long conversation and I think we are also going to follow up with Human Services about how it is actually going to operate.

Ms Carroll : That is right. Our broader financial counselling services will still obviously support people in those locations, and we can talk about how that operates at—

Senator SIEWERT: Can we talk about that in financial management?

Mr Lye : Outcome 3.

Ms Carroll : That is right.

Senator SIEWERT: About how theirs is going to operate with yours?

Ms Carroll : Yes, that is right.

Senator SMITH: The Western Australian state government's suicide prevention plan I think ceases at the end of this year. Are you responsible for liaising and discussing with them about what happens at the end of this year? Is there an implication for that on the Family Support Program?

Ms Carroll : More generally we try to work with state governments around a range of things but at the end of the day the funding decisions of the state government are the funding decisions of the state government. We certainly would be, at that local level—again, it really comes down to looking at the implications at that local level that Mr Lye talked about, and certainly our Western Australian state office would be looking at what the broader implications might be. But we obviously do not have any impact on the actual funding decisions of the Western Australian government.

Senator SIEWERT: On that point, with DoHA's programs do you work with them on the family support? How do you link in with what they are doing in terms of their funding and with the various states, whether it is Western Australia or New South Wales for that matter? How do you facilitate that communication?

Mr Lye : There are two processes. One is the Commonwealth-state processes where the Family Support Program and the linkage between the Family Support Program and state based programs has been almost a standing agenda item. Western Australia is probably an example of a jurisdiction where there is a lot of attention paid to the interaction between FSP and state funded services. In relation to the DoHA service connection there are processes that operate at the Western Australian level with our Western Australian state office. Our state manager interacts quite closely with his colleagues across Western Australian departments and also Commonwealth departments. Usually that is where that connection is made. We take advice from our Western Australian state manager around those kinds of issues.

Senator SIEWERT: That is good for Western Australia but what about on a national level? Particularly I am thinking in terms of, as Senator Smith just articulated—there is the state suicide prevention strategy but also there is an enormous amount of work that has been done and is being done at a national level on suicide prevention.

Ms Carroll : Suicide prevention is probably a good example. One of the things that FaHCSIA has been leading with DoHA at a national level is looking at, in particular, Indigenous suicide prevention across Australia. We have had a number of meetings and looked at what the best strategy might be—who knows what, at what point in time and how we share that information at a local level. One of the thing for, for example, the Commonwealth department of health is that they are not in as many remote locations as FaHCSIA is, so often our staff that are on the ground have more up-to-date knowledge but we do not actually fund those services. So one of the things that we have been working on is what the protocols of engagement are when you hear about something, know about something—how you pass that through. There are some good examples in Mt Isa of how the department of health, we and the state government have worked together very quickly sharing information and looking at what service supports need to come in around it. Around suicide prevention we have had a very targeted strategy of engagement both across the Commonwealth and then also with the state and territory governments.

Senator SIEWERT: It is on my list for discussion in cross-portfolio. I have got a number of questions under that exact area because of the Kimberley, for example, so I will bear that in mind when I am asking the questions on Friday. At the moment, I am more focused on following on from what Senator Smith was talking about in terms of how you keep up with what DOHA is doing from a national perspective on the regional stuff. I take on board what you have just said, particularly about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, but on the broader issues is the process that is operating the same as that you just articulated? Does the same sort of process operate in any area?

Ms Carroll : You would have the same sort of process and, basically, it would come together around particular topics—it might be new initiatives, issues that we have identified. For example, for the Family Support Program we have a discussion paper at the moment. Through that discussion paper process on the future directions of the Family Support Program, there have been discussions with state and territory governments, as part of that. Also, we certainly would look at engagement across the Commonwealth with the department of health, with DEEWR—those sorts of other departments—to get input into the future direction. So we come together around particular topics, as well as having some standing meetings that we get together around.

Senator SMITH: Mr Lye, when we look at issue of financial stress or emotional stress across regional communities, when we look at the country as a whole, where does Western Australian—I mean, sure Senator Smith comes to estimates, writes letters and has briefings et cetera. Where do Western Australia's financial and emotional stress concerns rate, compared to other jurisdictions? I am not here to look after Queensland or New South Wales, so I do not have much sight into that. How would you rate the concerns in Western Australia with others—north Queensland, for example, or parts of South Australia?

Mr Lye : We will probably have to try and give you a kind of quantitative response by looking at demand, I think, in our service system, across the financial counselling components we run, emergency relief and Family Support Program. We could take that on notice and try and come back with something meaningful, to give you a sense about that.

Senator SMITH: It would be heavily influenced by climate and those sorts of considerations. When I mentioned the Community Action Plan, that might have been a bit confusing, because that actually sits underneath the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention. My apologies for that. My last point actually goes to the minister. I was wondering whether you ask your colleague to respond to my letter of 5 February this year. It sounds like there might be some good news to convey.

Senator McLucas: Certainly, Senator.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I want to get more of an overview about how the access strategy for vulnerable and disadvantaged clients is going. Are you able to provide me with an update?

Ms Strapp : As part of the reforms to the Family Support Program in 2011 we introduced the Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Client Access Strategy, which requires all of our organisations—apart from ones that have a small amount of funding—to put together a plan on how they are going to ensure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our community are able to access our services, knowing that it is generally those people that are hard to reach or that those people that are most vulnerable are unlikely to access our services. Within this strategy, services are asked to describe what they are doing well and what they propose to do in the future to strengthen the access to priority groups over the course of their funding agreement, as well as accessing how their actions will be evaluated. As Mr Lye pointed out, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, via the Child Family Community Australia resource, completed an analysis of the VADCAS in October 2011, which is published on their website. It provides an overview of how organisations are using the VADCAS and how they can share those good practices with other organisations. Part of the strategy is about sharing best practice between organisations. The CFCA report found that services could demonstrate a really high level of collaboration and a higher degree of willingness to conduct things like outreach or different strategies around social media or transport in order to ensure that vulnerable groups were able to access their service. I have a couple of examples of strategies that were implemented. A service in Western Australia utilised outreach strategies and worked in their local Centrelink office once a week, to ensure that some of those hard-to-reach families knew about their service, knew what their service offered and could easily access them. A service in Port Douglas, the Port Douglas Community Services Network, employs staff from hard-to-reach groups, often employing them as a volunteer and then having them in a lot of circumstances as the reception staff—so that the first person someone encounters when they walk into the service is a community member—to make them feel comfortable with that service. The workers also understand the challenges faced by some of the people that the services are trying to reach. So the majority of our providers have a VADCAS in place and we have received really positive feedback from providers that the VADCAS has really helped them to think about what they are doing well and what they could improve, and how they can use other services' experiences to improve their service.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How many providers are using it?

Ms Strapp : 331 out of 350 providers are using it. That excludes small providers that receive less than $80,000 per annum.

Senator CAROL BROWN: You said it was put together in 2011. How long have the providers used the strategy?

Ms Strapp : My understanding is that it was implemented—I think they had an amount of time in order to start putting it together and work with FaHCSIA around what they put in it. Then these strategies were required back in 2012. I think by 1 July 2012 but I would just need to check on that.

Mr Lye : It is early days but the signs are reasonably positive.

Senator CAROL BROWN: That was my next question. You indicated some of the actions that have been taken and they sound very good. But I just wondered, do you have a broader feedback from the sector as to what they think about the access strategy and if it is working for them, and have they embraced it?

Mr Lye : The feedback has been quite positive because I think people have been—it has legitimised two things. One is their desire to try and make sure they reach the group of customers. But it has also made them feel as though they are being supported when they do not quite know what to do. I think the classic example is organisations who know and want to access Indigenous families in their community but do not feel culturally competent or have strategies in place. What the VADCAS has done is legitimise them to have conversations with providers in their location, with FaHCSIA, to get advice and then to formulate a plan of action to then target that group of people. So in the statistics, I think we have probably got Indigenous client numbers of around 9.4—

Ms Strapp : 9.7.

Mr Lye : 9.7 per cent, against the population of 2.6 per cent. hard-to-reach That is a good start, but you would expect, if you are targeting the vulnerable and disadvantaged, to have a reasonable weighting of Indigenous customers coming in—that is one example; the one that was used in WA—but also people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I am assume that the reason the department has put the access strategy together was because there were many, many vulnerable people falling through the cracks and not accessing services that were available.

Mr Lye : Yes. Our research has shown that people with three or four indicators of disadvantage or vulnerability—people with very complex things going on in their lives—are the least likely to come to a service. That fuelled this effort to try and target this group of people who most need our services.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So it is a positive act to actually go out and look for clients that actually need these services.

Ms Strapp : Yes.

Ms Carroll : There is a fair bit of research, not just our own research, that backs up the fact that those with multiple and complex needs often find it the hardest to access services. So this is quite a proactive action, to make sure that our services are reaching out and helping to find those individuals to provide that support.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I look forward to hearing your first report. Thank you.


CHAIR: That is it for 1.1. We will now move to 1.2, family tax benefit.

Senator CASH: Are you able to provide a breakdown of how many people currently receive family tax benefit A, by rate of payment and the number of children? I will ask the same question for family tax benefit B.

Mr Whitecross : There are currently, as at December 2012, 1,564,900 families receiving family tax benefit part A. There would be additional people who would secure access to family tax benefit part A for the 2012-13 financial year, through lump sum claims, for example. We estimate that the total number of people who will receive family tax benefit part A for the 2012-13 year, will be about 1.66 million. In relation to the breakdown, there are 553,400 families who receive the maximum rate. These are, of course, point-in-time figures.

Senator CASH: Is it all at December 2012?

Mr Whitecross : December 2012: 252,000 receive a rate which has been reduced due to the maintenance income test; 322,900 receive a broken rate, with an income below the high income free area; 296,000 receive the base rate at the full value of the base rate; 98,400 receive a tapered base rate, that is, a base rate reduced under the income test for the base rate; 30,300 receive a broken rate under the standard FTB income test but with an income above the HIFA, the high income free area; and 11,900 receive entitlements to FTB part A for regular care children but not for children in their normal care.

Senator CASH: Are you able to break it down in terms of number of children? Is that an analysis you have?

Mr Whitecross : I will see if I have got that here. In relation to numbers of children, there are 615,800 with one child; 573,800 with two children; 255,000 with three children; 84,700 with four children; 24,000 with five children; and 11,500 with more than five children.

Senator CASH: Can I get you now to do the same for family tax benefit B now please?

Mr Whitecross : The number of people currently receiving family tax benefit part B, as at December 2012, is 1,343,800.

Senator CASH: The anticipated?

Mr Whitecross : Is 1,430,000. You wanted a rate breakdown. We break family tax benefit part B into three rate categories: single people, who all receive the maximum rate, 631,300; partnered people who receive the maximum rate, 313,600; and partnered people who receive a broken rate, 398,900.

Senator CASH: Do you have an analysis in terms of children as well?

Mr Whitecross : I do. I know the number of children does not actually affect the rate of payment for family tax benefit part B but we know something about their circumstances from their FTB part A claims. There are 543,700 with one child; 486,600 with two children; 211,000 with three children; 70,600 with four children; 21,000 with five children; and 10,500 with more than five children.

Senator CASH: Do you also have statistics in relation to how many people receive both FTB part A and FTB part B?

Mr Whitecross : Who receive both payments?

Senator CASH: Both payments.

Mr Whitecross : I will see if I have got that.

Mr Lye : It is 1,663,783.

Mr Whitecross : That is people who get either A or B but not necessarily both at the same time.

Senator CASH: Okay, I understand that.

Mr Lye : We are just checking that.

Mr Whitecross : I might need to double-check on a number for people who get the two payments concurrently.

Mr Lye : We will come back to you.

Senator CASH: Thank you very much. I am now going to move on to the schoolkids bonus.

CHAIR: Would schoolkids bonus be 1.2 or 1.3?

Ms Carroll : It is 1.2.

Senator SIEWERT: I have got family tax benefit too. Is it okay if we stay on that? I am looking at the budget measure where the government is going to bring forward the income reconciliation periods for family tax benefit and childcare assistance—is this where I ask that?

Mr Whitecross : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you explain where the $562 million in savings in that measure comes from?

Mr Whitecross : Yes.

Ms Carroll : That is the measure that reduces the time for the reconciliation?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, from two years to one.

Mr Whitecross : There are 113,000 families who currently do not finalise their entitlements in the first year, after the end of the entitlement year. We have looked at those customers, at when they actually do finalise their entitlements and at other things about their characteristics, and we have estimated that 69,500 are expected to bring forward their claims, or reconciliations, into the first year. That leaves around 43,500 who would fail to get their affairs in order within the first year, which is where the savings come from. We are projecting that, over time, the number of families that fail to get their affairs in order in the first year, would decline to 29,800 by 2016-17, as people better understand the new rules. They are the customer numbers. The savings are in two forms. If you are a lump sum claimant and you do not get your claim in within the time limit, you will not be entitled to family tax benefit. If you have not claimed during the year and you do not claim in the year after the entitlement year then you will not get family tax benefit for that entitlement year. That is one source of savings. The second source of savings is where people have received FTB as instalments and then do not lodge their tax return to finalise their entitlements within the year, they will still be entitled to their instalments but they will not be entitled to end of year supplements.

Senator SIEWERT: Any of the top up?

Mr Whitecross : Yes and top ups. So there are savings from that.

Ms Carroll : I just wanted to reinforce that there is also a special circumstances component to this. People can make a case, if they believe they have special circumstances, under which there are reasons that they are not able to finalise their affairs within that period. That is there to make sure it does not penalise people who, for whatever reason, might have something very complicated going on in their life.

Senator SIEWERT: So there are a couple of questions out of that immediately, picking that one up. What are those special circumstances? Can you provide those on notice or have you got them?

Mr Whitecross : It is just a special circumstances test. The kinds of circumstances that have been suggested for the equivalent special circumstances test in the tax system are things like, you have lost all of your documents in the flood or—

Senator SIEWERT: So it is the normal special circumstances, is that what you are saying? There is nothing different to this?

Mr Whitecross : Yes. There are not specific criteria for these, just a special circumstances—

Senator SIEWERT: Okay.

Mr Whitecross : It is some unusual set of events, which means that it is not reasonable to have expected you to meet the requirement.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay, thank you. Of the breakdown of the 43,500 who will fail to bring forward in the first instance, have you done a breakdown on the income levels of the families—of that 43,000, the cohorts that are likely to miss out?

Mr Whitecross : I have not got that information with me but the average losses are around $2,200 for the instalment customers, which suggests that they have got relatively high incomes and are receiving relatively low values of payments.

Senator SIEWERT: That is the biggest cohort?

Ms Carroll : Yes.

Mr Whitecross : Yes. And the average loss is around $4,800 for the lump sum customers, who wait until the end of the year to lodge their claims.

Ms Carroll : Part of that is because if you are on income support you are automatically reconciled. If you are on an income support payment it does not work in the same way. The average that Mr Whitecross was referring to means that the majority of these customers will be towards the top end of the income spectrum.

Senator SIEWERT: Why would your low income people—not income support but low income—not also be picked up there?

Ms Carroll : The majority of those—so the analysis that we have done, and we can take on notice getting you further analysis to get to that average amount—indicates that mostly they will not because the amount of family tax benefit that they receive would be greater. So looking at the average amount indicates that the majority of the people will be at the top end of the income spectrum, not at the bottom end.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you take on notice what the breakdown of the income is? Are you able to do that?

Mr Whitecross : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: I am interested in all families but in particular the most vulnerable low-income families and how this is going to impact them.

Mr Whitecross : We are obviously talking about a projection so—

Senator SIEWERT: I understand that. Are you going to be doing anything about educating recipients to let them know about this, so that they know the circumstances have changed?

Mr Whitecross : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: How are you going to do that?

Mr Whitecross : We are working with both the Department of Human Services and the Australian Tax Office, to ensure that the messages get out to customers who are going to be potentially affected by this, about the requirement to lodge their tax return or to make a claim in time to meet the one-year rule. There will be a range of activities in there but we are still working through the details. It will include things like communication with tax agents and with our DHS families through materials on websites and other things. But we are still working through the exact details now.

Senator SIEWERT: I hear what you have just said about the exact details, but is it your understanding that DHS is going to be—and I can ask them tonight—contacting all people who receive these payments to let them know, rather than just going through the tax agents et cetera?

Mr Lye : They obviously have a separate communication channel to the tax office and the tax agents, via the website and via regular correspondence with families.

Senator SIEWERT: Website is fine. But I tell you what; I bet you most people do not go on the Human Services website every week, to check on the update of their payments. So, sorry, that does not cut the mustard in terms of telling people what is going on.

Mr Whitecross : I appreciate—

Senator SIEWERT: It is like: we posted it in Alpha Centauri approach—

Mr Whitecross : Yes. My point is that the way the communication is going to work is that it will be targeted around the detail of their behaviour. As Ms Carroll has already indicated, there are a large group of customers who are automatically reconciled in July. A lot of customers already lodge their tax returns in July, so there is no real imperative for us to communicate with a large number of customers who are already going to be lodging their tax returns or are already going to be being reconciled without our having to communicate a change that is really irrelevant to them. We will be trying to construct the communications to get to the people who are at risk of missing out on entitlements if they do not get their affairs in order by the end of the financial year. That is how we will be approaching it. We will, clearly, be trying to make sure that all the people who need to know, know, but without wasting resources communicating with people who do not need to know.

Senator SIEWERT: I take your point, but will that be via direct communication with the cohort that currently uses these particular methods?

Ms Carroll : We are working with Human Services right now. We do not have all the details of how that would work. We are looking at how best to get to those different cohorts. Are most of them online and therefore getting correspondence through email? What is the best form of communication? the exact details Certainly, we would be asking Human Services for their advice on how best to get to this particular customer group and get their attention.

Senator SIEWERT: I have one more, which is a clarification. Are you able to get categories around those income areas to us by the end of the day, rather than take it on notice, where it is going to be a while before I get it?

Mr Whitecross : You mean the income distribution around—

Senator SIEWERT: The income distribution about the income levels of the families that are affected.

Mr Whitecross : I will need to check with my guys about whether they have got that to hand. If they need to do a special run I do not think it will be done today, but if they have got that to hand we may be able to.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you, that would be appreciated.

CHAIR: We will take a break. I believe Senator Cash has a few more questions in 1.2. Then we will go to 1.3 until 12 o'clock with AIFS.

Proceedings suspended from 11:00 to 11:15

CHAIR: We will reconvene.

Mr Pratt : Madam Chair, with your approval I would like to table some material from last night.

CHAIR: Sure.

Mr Pratt : Senator Cash was after a list of projects around gender equality that Ms McKenzie was delivering, and we have got that.

CHAIR: Lovely. Thank you very much, we will accept that. Senator Cash, you are going into questions on 1.2?

Senator CASH: I am going into schoolkids bonus.

Ms Carroll : Just before we do, Senator, you asked earlier about the numbers of families that were on both FTB part A and FTB part B.

Mr Whitecross : The number for December, again, is 1.24 million.

Senator CASH: The figure of 1,663,783, how is that different to the figure you have just given me?

Mr Whitecross : The 1.6 figure you have got is the number of families receiving either A or B and the 1.24 is the number receiving both A and B.

Senator CASH: Thank you very much. I will go to the schoolkids bonus and, in particular, to page 48 of the current budget papers? It is a similar exercise to what we did earlier in relation to the comparison with page 44 of the 2012-13 budget papers. You will note that in the 2012-13 financial year there is an increase of $153 million in the 2013-14 budget. Basically we go from $1,254.478 million to actual $1,407.431 million. What is the reason for the $153 million increase? Is it a structural increase?

Mr Whitecross : There are a couple of factors which are responsible for the increase. One factor is that there was an administrative scheme associated with the original ETR payment and the administrative scheme was not factored into the original estimate. So the actual cost of the administrative scheme added to the cost.

Senator CASH: What was the value of the administrative scheme within the $153 million increase?

Mr Whitecross : I am trying to find a number for that. It was in the order of $70 million, but I—

Senator CASH: So what accounts for the other $83 million increase?

Mr Whitecross : The other factor which has affected estimates for schoolkids bonus is that the original estimates were based on FTB customer numbers as we understood them at the time. However, the number of customers claiming FTB has increased and as a result of that increase in FTB customer numbers the number of families eligible for schoolkids bonus has also increased.

Senator CASH: Do you have the numbers that the original estimate was based on and the numbers that the actual was based on in terms of recipients of FTB?

Mr Whitecross : I do not think I have got those numbers with me.

Senator CASH: Could I get you to provide them on notice? Does that account for $83 million or are there other components of the increase?

Mr Whitecross : I believe those are the two factors.

Senator CASH: Okay.

Ms Carroll : One of the things that happened with that second component is that people tested their eligibility for family tax benefit when they knew about the schoolkids bonus, so they came in and asked if they were eligible. In that process, a number of people—more customers—came into the family tax benefit system.

Senator CASH: There does not appear to be a commensurate increase for 2013-14. What is the reason for that, as opposed to budgeted versus actual?

Mr Lye : That is in this year's PBS.

Senator CASH: Yes, so 2013-14 when it was a forward estimate was $1,213,774, and in the budget $1,272,988, but in terms of 2012-13 compared to 2013-14 there is not an increase. If there was an increase in the number of people accessing it, why is there not a reflection in that figure?

Mr Whitecross : Well I think there is a reflection in that figure, but there may be other factors influencing the overall estimate. The administered scheme is a one off arrangement—

Senator CASH: So that is only factored into 2012-13?

Mr Whitecross : Yes, but the ongoing increase in take-up of family tax benefit is factored into—

Senator CASH: You are saying it is factored into the forward estimates budget?

Mr Whitecross : It is factored into forward estimates, yes.

Senator CASH: So it is the administrative component that has come out, but you are saying the increase in those families receiving FTB has been factored in, and that is why there is not a commensurate increase, it is only that increase?

Mr Whitecross : Yes.

Senator CASH: Okay.

Mr Whitecross : There may be other things affecting the ons and offs in the estimates process which might also—

Senator CASH: What might those other things be, given that I am assuming the criteria for eligibility for the schoolkids bonus remains the same? If you have factored in the increase in the number of families receiving FTB, what would be the other factors that will change?

Mr Whitecross : The impact of other measures on coverage of the FTB system.

Senator CASH: Such as?

Mr Whitecross : We revised the estimates taking account of our predictions about how many people are going to claim lump sums, for example, or how many people are going to fall within the new cut-outs as new budget measures come in.

Mr Lye : Families could have wage growth. There is a whole plethora of reasons why those estimates vary or change from year to year.

Senator CASH: I will take you to the answer given to question No. 1, the question that I asked in relation to the schoolkids bonus at the February estimates hearing? It was in relation to some research. The answer provided was:

The research was conducted by Taylor Nelson Sofres Australia … to inform the development of the schoolkids bonus campaign.

In response to a request to table the research it says:

The research is unable to be tabled at this time, as it is still being used as part of campaign formulation.

Given that some time has now passed, are you now able to table that research?

Ms Bell : We are still using that research to formulate various parts of schoolkids bonus communications activity.

Senator CASH: The answer is 'no' for the same reason. Can you at least advise the committee what the scope of the research was? Are you able to table the brief that was given to TNS by the department?

Ms Bell : TNS carries out the developmental research on the creative concept research for schoolkids bonus communications and campaign activities. We can take on notice the brief that was provided not just to TNS but to all researchers who pitched for that piece of work.

Senator CASH: I will take you now to the answer provided to what was question on notice 2, again in relation to the schoolkids bonus and again in relation to the research. The answer provided states:

Research conducted for the schoolkids bonus showed that many parents are confused about the different types of family assistance available …

How has that research and its findings influenced the communication strategy of the department, particularly in light of your evidence, Ms Bell, that you were unable to table the research because you were still utilising it for the communications component of the campaign?

Ms Bell : The TNS research was used to formulate background information for the development of the advertising campaign. I think question on notice 2 references the families kits.

Senator CASH: That was the families kits.

Ms Bell : The families kits is a broader communications activity which takes into account the household assistance package payments, the schoolkids bonus payments, the dad and partner payments and payments around family tax benefit.

Senator CASH: The research which was:

conducted for the schoolkids bonus showed that many parents are confused about the different types of family assistance available, and they want clear, accessible information about the Government’s support for families including family tax benefit, schoolkids bonus …

Is that the justification for the kits for the children?

Ms Bell : There were elements of TNS research and also other research we have done in the families space, including the household assistance package, that indicated people were confused about the number of payments that they were entitled to and what they needed to do to ascertain eligibility—for example, if there were particular things they needed to do, such as register for schoolkids bonus. The families kits were designed to provide extra information about the range of payments that families have access to.

Senator CASH: We came to this at the last estimates; how did you then determine that the way to address that was to send kits to children?

Ms Bell : We had, as I said, a variety of pieces of research that showed there was confusion about the range of payments. We looked at a variety of mechanisms to address that, including the campaigns, but also below-the-line activity, so unpaid advertising. One of those was to use the family kits. The bulk of the information in those kits is directed at parents, because it is core information about each of the family payments. It also directs them to a website where each of the payments is explained. There are a couple of elements in those kits that are of benefit to children, and our understanding in communications practice is that by reaching the parents and having information that the children can also engage with we reinforce those messages.

Mr Pratt : I recall when we discussed this at last estimates we also covered off how some fast food chains do this. They target the kids to get to the parents, ditto toy stores and the like.

Senator CASH: A Happy Meal?

Mr Pratt : Yes, exactly.

Senator CASH: I still do not quite know how sending something to school on the basis of hoping that it gets back to the parents is necessarily the correct strategy, but that is my own personal opinion.

Ms Bell : The kits were not actually sent to schools.

Senator CASH: Where were they sent to?

Ms Bell : They were made available for members of parliament to use. They were also used at conferences. They were used at events and at community functions.

Senator CASH: How was the take up amongst members of parliament?

Ms Bell : One hundred and six members have ordered the kits.

Senator CASH: Is that members and senators?

Ms Bell : Sorry, members and senators. They ordered roughly 100 each. Ten thousand kits were used by members and senators, another 5,000 were used by FaHCSIA in the range of activities I mentioned and there is about another 5,000 still to be used.

Senator CASH: Were any schoolkids kits sent out to members or senators who had not asked for them?

Ms Bell : No, it was an order-only basis.

Senator CASH: Have any communications kits or initiatives other than the schoolkids kits been instituted as a result of the findings of the TNS research?

Ms Bell : There is a range of public relations activities that occur for each of the campaigns. There is quite a bit of detail to each of those. For instance, the schoolkids bonus campaign had above-the-line activity which was the advertising. It also has a PR component and there is a range of activities that happen in that. That is all based on the developmental research.

Senator CASH: In relation to the number of schoolkids kits—106 members at approximately $100 each—you said they were also given out at conferences. Do you have a total of how many kits have been given out by the department to date?

Ms Bell : Roughly 5,000 kits.

Senator CASH: So 10,000 were—

Ms Bell : 10,000 kits were for members and senators who have ordered; 5,000 kits have been distributed—

Senator CASH: That is 15,000 of the total?

Ms Bell : Of the 20,000.

Senator CASH: Of the 20,000, okay. If you turn to page 48 of the PBS you will note that in the column 2013-14, $3.5 million has been allocated to the 2013-14 budget to continuing the schoolkids bonus campaign. Are you able to provide a breakdown as to how that $3.5 million will be spent?

Ms Bell : Campaign expenditure for 2012-13—I can give actual expenditure for 2012-13 to date or I can give proposed expenditure.

Senator CASH: No, I am looking at the $3.5 million in 2013-14, the second column, page 48. In relation to the 2013-14 budget what is the breakdown? How is that $3.5 million going to be expended, given that it is accounted for in the budget?

Ms Bell : I have got the breakdown for 2012-13 proposed expenditure for the total $8.5 million for 2012-13; I do not actually have the 2013-14 breakdown.

Senator CASH: I might get you to table that proposed expenditure. You also said that you had figures to date of actual expenditure of the $8.5 million?

Ms Bell : I have figures to date as of 31 March.

Senator CASH: Yes.

Ms Bell : Expenditure to date to 31 March is $6.3 million.

Senator CASH: Is the outstanding balance of $2.2 million committed?

Ms Bell : Yes, it is.

Senator CASH: So it will be spent within the next four weeks?

Ms Bell : Yes, it will.

Senator CASH: You do not have the details there of the actual breakdown of the $3.5 million. Can you tell me though are the advertisements that are going to be funded by that expenditure a new advertising campaign or is it a continuation of the current advertising?

Ms Bell : It is a continuation of the current advertising.

Mr Pratt : While we do not have the figures here right now, I think that you can expect that the vast bulk of the $3.5 million will be for advertising, with some components around non-English-speaking background, Indigenous-client-aimed advertising or communications. That would be the bulk of it I imagine.

Senator CASH: Okay, but it is a continuation of the old campaign.

Ms Bell : Existing to coincide with the next payment.

Senator CASH: Given that the schoolkids bonus itself has been in place for more than 12 months and obviously has been extensively advertised through the various mechanisms that we have discussed, why is there a need to continue advertising the payment to the extent that is allocated for in the budget?

Ms Bell : The research showed that eligible families wanted to know when payments were coming through. We did tracking research after the first round of advertising which showed prompted awareness had increased from 42 per cent to 86 per cent in the primary audience. But in the secondary audience, those potentially eligible, the take-up was not as strong, reinforcing the need for further advertising. The research also showed that 80 per cent of eligible families wanted to receive mass media advertising in order to be reminded of the payments and to understand eligibility requirements and registration requirements et cetera.

Senator CASH: Going back to the $8.5 million, $6.3 million has been expended but the $2.2 million will be expended within the next four weeks for this financial year. Will any of the $3.5 million be expended in this financial year?

Ms Bell : There will be—we are—a range of ongoing public relations activity that has been occurring throughout the year. So that forms part of that figure. We are also, as I indicated, looking at a second burst of advertising to coincide with the next payment.

Senator CASH: The next payment is due?

Mr Pratt : The $3.5 million cannot be spent this financial year. It is appropriated for next financial year.

Senator CASH: Yes, it is appropriated for next financial year, but do you have the ability to bring any of those funds into this financial year should you choose to?

Mr Pratt : No.

Senator CASH: Can I just then confirm you have cleared up what Ms Bell said? Ms Bell what were you saying? My question was: will any of that money be used in this financial year? I thought Ms Bell said yes, so I just want to clarify.

Ms Bell : Sorry, the $3.5 million is for next financial year.

Senator CASH: The next financial year, will any of it be used in this financial year?

Ms Bell : No, we are currently working with funds for this financial year.

Senator CASH: Thank you, I just wanted to appreciate that.

CHAIR: Where are you in your questions, because we are moving on to 1.3? We have to finish this whole section at 12 o'clock.

Senator CASH: So 1.3 is the institute?

CHAIR: No, 1.3 is Parent and Baby Payments, which Paid Parental Leave would come under, would it not? I know there are questions on that.

Senator CASH: I have family payments reform replacing the baby bonus, what is that?

Ms Carroll : 1.3.

CHAIR: Maybe 1.3. We have half an hour now for the rest of family, so I just want to check—

Senator CASH: Does that include 1.3?

CHAIR: It does.

Senator CASH: Okay, I well and truly have questions to get us through the next half hour, so tell me how much time I have and what I get exactly. Tell me how much time I have got.

CHAIR: Senator Furner wants 10 minutes. If you go through until—at this stage I will have to see what happens when I have—

Senator CASH: Yes that is fine.

CHAIR: At this stage go through until 11.45 and we will re-assess.

Senator CASH: Could I go to the Family Payments reform. Actually, no, can I go to—sorry if I am jumping through—the baby bonus. I will also ask questions on paid parental leave and they are going to be statistical questions, just to allow people to get themselves prepared. I will also be asking statistical questions on the double orphan pension. if we could turn to the baby bonus, how many parents have received the baby bonus in 2012-13 to date? I will also be asking or may also ask how many of these parents received the payment for second and subsequent children?

Mr Brown : I think you asked how many people received baby bonus in 2011-12?

Senator CASH: 2012-13 to date.

Mr Brown : To the end of March 2013, 114,848 received it in respect of 116,716 children.

Senator CASH: How many of these parents received the payment for second and subsequent children?

Mr Brown : I do not think we have got that information but I can take that on notice and let you have it.

Senator CASH: Thank you, could I now turn to the PPL? How many persons received paid parental leave in 2013-13 to date?

Mr Brown : In 2012-13 to date the number of recipients who have started payment is 99,659 in 2012-13; that is to the end of March.

Senator CASH: How many persons received dad and partner pay for the same period?

Mr Brown : To date, and noting that the scheme started on 1 January—

Senator CASH: Yes.

Mr Brown : We have figures until 3 May. Total received payment is 16,659.

Senator CASH: What was the average duration of leave for PPL recipients in 2012-13 to date?

Mr Brown : In terms of the scheme to date, 98.8 per cent of all recipients have taken a full 18 weeks.

Senator CASH: The full 18 weeks. Have there been any delays in the processing of applications PPL and dad and partner pay payments?

Mr Brown : There have been some delays with PPL payments.

Senator CASH: Do you track how many delays there have been?

Mr Brown : We certainly do tracking of timeliness of claims, how long it takes to actually process and so on.

Senator CASH: In terms of those who have applied for PPL and dad and partner pay in this financial year, how many delays have there been?

Ms Carroll : We can give you some broad indications on this but these are actually questions for Department of Human Services. They actually make the payments and implement the measure on our behalf. So the specifics about timeliness and those kinds of things—

Senator CASH: Don't attack your department?

Ms Carroll : You would need—it would be the best place for them.

Senator CASH: Okay. Do you have the figures or I will put them—it would be better to ask them?

Ms Carroll : I think it would be better to ask them because they will have the most up-to-date figures. Certainly, we work very closely with the Department of Human Services around payment timeliness and understanding the ebbs and flows. I do know that they have a range of measures in place to prioritise the PPL claims as they come in. They will be able to give you the details about how that works.

Senator CASH: The details surrounding that, okay. Can I ask your department what is the average in processing time for an application for PPL or dad and partner pay, or that is DOHA as well?

Ms Carroll : That is Human Services.

Mr Pratt : Department of Human Services.

Senator CASH: Department of Human Services, thank you very much. You are aware of delays but I have to speak to Human Services. Have there been any complaints to the family assistance office from businesses regarding the payment of PPL.

Mr Pratt : Again to Department of Human Services.

Senator CASH: How many persons currently receive the double orphan pension?

Mr Whitecross : The estimate for double orphan pension for 2012-13 is that there will be 1,364 families receiving double orphan pension in respect of 1,929 children.

Senator CASH: What was the reason for the increase in the appropriation for the double orphan pension of $517,000 over the forward estimates? Is the department expecting an increase in the number of persons claiming that particular payment, or in terms of eligibility to receive the particular payment? It is page 53 of the PBS.

Mr Whitecross : Is this a comparison with the previous PBS again?

Senator CASH: No, it is actually not. If you go to page 53 you will see that there is 3,523 to 3,630 to 3,730 to 3,907 to 4,042.

Mr Whitecross : That reflects two things. One is indexation and the other is some small rate of growth in the number of customers eligible for a double orphan pension, which is basically just based on projections about the recent experience about the rate of growth in the payment.

Senator CASH: If I could go back to family payments reform replacing the baby bonus. With regard to the changes to family tax benefit part A to provide parents with a $2,000 payment for the birth of their first child and $1,000 for the second and subsequent children. When was the decision made to replace the baby bonus and by whom?

Ms Carroll : That was part of the budget process, and obviously it was made by the government during that process.

Senator CASH: When was the department directed to model these changes and by whom?

Ms Carroll : During the course of the budget process. Obviously we model and provide policy advice on a range of options and provide that information to government. That happened during the budget process.

Senator CASH: Could I get a time frame in terms of when was the actual budget process?

Ms Carroll : The budget process formally starts at the end of 2012. Then it rolls right through up to budget, through a series of different kinds of mechanisms during that period.

Senator CASH: In terms of the modelling for this particular policy, it is the replacement of the baby bonus with the family payment reform. When was the department directed to model that particular policy? Was that at the end of 2012 or was it in 2013?

Ms Carroll : It was during the period.

Mr Pratt : Just to complicate things, apologies, we look at these things all the time. So it is not just in the formal budget processes.

Senator CASH: In terms of the modelling again for this particular policy and the changes that were announced, do you know if the modelling was done before or after MYEFO?

Ms Carroll : I would have to check the exact details of that. But obviously the budget process starts from November-December of the previous year, which coincides around the time of MYEFO and those two.

Senator CASH: If you could perhaps take on notice to have a look and to provide the committee the date upon which you were receiving instruction to undertake this particular modelling for this particular policy. Who gives the instruction to undertake this type of modelling or this particular modelling?

Mr Pratt : It is a government decision, so government through the minister.

Mr Lye : Just a note on context here: this notion of replacing the baby bonus and including a supplementary payment in the family tax benefit system was a recommendation of the Henry tax review in 2010. So the concept is not a new thing.

Senator CASH: Is it fair to say that because MYEFO kept the baby bonus this was modelled after MYEFO?

Ms Carroll : Certainly there were changes that happened in MYEFO to the baby bonus, but as Mr Pratt said there is broad policy work that is being done all the time. The government has made decisions about changes to the baby bonus both at MYEFO and then in the budget.

Senator CASH: Based on the department's modelling, how many parents are expected to be eligible for the $2,000 amount on 1 March 2014? I will ask the same question in relation to the $1,000 for the same period of time.

Mr Lye : I will just find that one.

Mr Whitecross : We are expecting 113,000 families to receive an amount, either the $2,000 or the $1,000 amount.

Senator CASH: Okay, so that is either amount. How do we get a breakdown?

Mr Whitecross : Well I might need to—

Mr Pratt : Roughly, just under half will get the $2,000 increase and just over half will get the $1,000.

Senator CASH: How did you get to those figures?

Mr Whitecross : That is based on the experience or the analysis that was done in relation to current recipients of the baby bonus. Then looking at the people who currently receive the baby bonus who, as a result of the changes in this package, might move to paid parental leave and then at the ones who would be eligible for family tax benefit.

Senator CASH: Okay. there are some questions in this particular area I will place on notice. Thank you.

Senator FURNER: Just a couple first on your response to 80 per cent of families wanting to receive advertisement on the schoolkids bonus program. Have you received any adverse comments back from families not wanting to receive the schoolkids bonus at all?

Mr Whitecross : I am not aware of families who receive the schoolkids bonus not wanting to receive the schoolkids bonus.

Senator FURNER: Can you estimate for the committee how many families will lose the benefit if the coalition were to implement the policy of cutting the bonus out?

Mr Whitecross : I will just get you a number on that. There are about 1.3 million families receiving the schoolkids bonus. If it was not available that is around the number who would miss out.

Senator FURNER: That is 1.3 million families?

Mr Whitecross : Yes.

Senator FURNER: On notice could I get the number of children?

Mr Whitecross : It is about 2.2 million children.

Senator FURNER: Turning to paid parental leave, you have already given the figures of 99,000-plus mums and 16,059 dads receiving these benefits. Are you able to break down—I might have to get this on notice—those figures showing the household income brackets of different users of the government's scheme?

Mr Brown : Yes, we can. At last estimates I think we provided some of that information as well, but happy to refresh that.

Senator FURNER: That would be great.

Mr Lye : You were asking about paid parental leave?

Senator FURNER: Yes.

Mr Lye : Half of all paid parental leave recipients reported incomes that were under $45,125.

Senator FURNER: Half, was it?

Mr Lye : Yes. The average adjusted taxable income was $49,000.

Senator FURNER: You are aware the coalition has announced a different policy for a paid parental leave scheme. Has the coalition provided full costings details to the scheme to the department at all?

Ms Carroll : No.

Senator FURNER: As we all know, the policy the coalition is advocating provides for a maximum amount for women to receive $150,000 under the scheme. How much would a woman earning the minimum wage receive compared to a woman earning $150,000? Based on the figures you just described to me of half the recipients under the current PPL receiving the entitlement under $40,000.

Ms Carroll : I think what we have available to us is the number, the average incomes, of recipients under the government's paid parental leave scheme. Obviously, under any other scheme it would be aligned with what the policy parameters of that scheme were.

Senator FURNER: Right.

Mr Lye : We could provide a figure based on what we do—

Senator FURNER: If you could provide on notice a summary on what I just asked, that would be good. It would be helpful. Would it be fair, or accurate, to say that women earning the highest incomes in Australia under that scheme, the alternate scheme, would be the biggest beneficiaries of that particular scheme in itself?

Senator CASH: Chair, could I jump in here. [Inaudible] hypothetical questions about a policy that has not been implemented.

CHAIR: I take your point but they are not—they are actually responding on what is publicly on record. Nothing that Senator Furner asked has not been in the public record as proposals for policy.

Senator SMITH: But I thought the evidence was that the department had not received any of the full details of the opposition's policy, why would they?

CHAIR: I take your point as well. But Senator Furner's questions are around the issue. I am listening very carefully to see. I was just about to say before Senator Cash's point of order that that last question was more an opinion, Senator Furner. You would have to rephrase that in terms of what the department is aware of.

Senator FURNER: Yes. Based on the information that is in the public arena, in terms of the scheme—this is the coalition scheme—being an amount of $150,000 to women in that category. I would like a response in regard to indicating whether it is a scheme that will deliver to the highest incomes in Australia as the biggest beneficiaries under the coalition's particular scheme.

Ms Carroll : I think because the two schemes are different in nature, obviously a scheme that is the current government scheme of being based on the minimum wage, so there is a set amount that all people receive. If you move to a scheme that is based on a replacement income, then obviously the benefits then stratify around that replacement income.

Mr Pratt : From what we read about the opposition's policy, it is clear that at the higher income end it is a more generous scheme than the existing PPL. But we would have to model the numbers of people who would receive it at the higher income level to determine where the proportion of beneficiaries of that scheme lies. We have not done that work.

Senator FURNER: Thanks. Are there any other examples of family assistance where higher income families receive higher payments than those on low incomes, in existence at present?

Mr Lye : Not that I can think of.

Senator FURNER: Have you done any analysis of locations—for example, LGAs—with the highest concentrations of women earning over $100,000? If so what does this analysis show? Once again, if you do not have that at your fingertips now I will put that on notice.

Ms Carroll : That we would have to take on notice. From time to time we do locational analysis at a broader level. We would have to take on notice what we might have available.

Senator FURNER: The coalition's policy also has the Department of Human Services making all paid parental leave payments. Would you explain the rationale of arrangements in the government's scheme where employees are generally paid through their employers and the benefits of this approach in doing it in that arrangement?

Ms Carroll : This goes back to the Productivity Commission's original design in looking at paid parental leave and the importance of being linked to a connection to employers. Women are able to—primarily women are able to have an easy transition back to work after they have taken a period of time. The current scheme is designed around payments through employers and for women to try to maintain a connection to the employer.

Senator FURNER: Yes. What I recall, the name escapes me now, is that the contact between the employer and the employee on times of bringing the employee into work for reconnection with some form of work was part of the PC's rationale for having that contact with the employer, was it not?

Ms Petteit : The keeping in touch provisions under the paid parental leave scheme.

Senator FURNER: How have the keeping in touch arrangements been going?

Ms Petteit : As far as we are aware it is going well. Generally an employer and employee would make the arrangements between themselves. Generally the Department of Human Services would not hear about those arrangements unless there was a problem. As far as we are aware there have been no problems.

Senator CASH: When PPL was first established, who was responsible for the payment? I understood it was DHS.

Ms Carroll : My colleagues might have some of the detail around this, but I think there was an initial period of six months, which was to give employers more time to be able to make the payments, where it was voluntary for employers to make the payments. A number of employers did start immediately.

Senator CASH: But the department then was—

Ms Carroll : But the Department of Human Services was making the payments and then after that initial six-month period the employer provisions kicked in in full. But it allowed additional time to work with employers and get them up to speed, to learn from the early employers that were engaging with the system.

Mr Lye : So as Ms Carroll said, it was optional at that time. So some employers opted in to be payers.

Senator FURNER: The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the coalition's proposed scheme will save employers money because they will be able to withdraw from their existing voluntary paid leave schemes, given that they will be paying for another scheme through higher company tax. Are you aware of any evidence of this particular claim?

Mr Lye : Under the current scheme it has not been our experience that employers have done that.

Senator FURNER: Have those employers supported or refuted that claim?

Ms Carroll : I think what Mr Lye is referring to is our experience under the government scheme, and that is that employers have maintained their exiting paid parental leave entitlements and then had the government's entitlement being offered in addition to that.

Senator FURNER: So they work in concert with one another and that is an overall entitlement?

Ms Carroll : Yes.

Senator FURNER: Thank you.

CHAIR: That ends Outcome 1, except for Australian Student Families. So we thank the officers. Now we move on to Australian Institute of Family Studies.