The objective of this report, commissioned by Family and Relationship Services Australia (FRSA), was to begin a national conversation as to how investing in coordinated strategies to increase family-based prevention and early intervention services can be utilised in Australia to better address priority health and social problems.
The authors argue that existing policies do not seek to involve the family and relationship sector in prevention and early intervention across the whole population (universally). But there is great potential for cost effectiveness and ef ciency as the government seeks to invest in prevention and early intervention across a range of health risks, consistent with the objectives of national initiatives for women, children and families. Such initiatives include the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 (DSS, 2009); the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022 (DSS, 2010); the National Homelessness Strategy (Department of Family and Community Services, 2000); the National Suicide Prevention Strategy (Department of Health, 2015); and other frameworks, strategies and plans.
The report suggests that a more holistic and coordinated public health approach is needed, offering both universal and targeted programmes and services. Currently, tertiary services such as mental health, child protection, substance abuse and corrections operate within separate funding silos, while the family and relationship service sector offers programmes and supports families in both universal and targeted services addressing major health and social problems.
The report also argues for the development and trial of a common approach to client screening at the point of service intake to enable assessment and intervention to be directed at preventable processes that contribute to the development of major health and social problems. A common approach to client intake screening and assessment in the sector would enhance service system coordination and referral, enabling families to be more easily directed to the right type and amount of service in a timely manner at the specific transition point when they require support. A change in funding arrangements for the family and relationship service sector has the capacity to reduce the existing siloing of services to tertiary clients and to offer universal prevention services to any family experiencing dif cult life events.