Volume Nine 2014 Focusing on Family and Community Services

Today the Auditor-General of New South Wales, Grant Hehir, released his Volume Nine 2014 Report to Parliament focusing on the agencies in the Family and Community Services cluster.

Improved financial reporting 

The quality of agencies’ financial statements in the Family and Community Services cluster continues to improve with the number of misstatements identified during audit steadily decreasing over the past five years.

The financial statements of all cluster agencies were submitted on time and received unqualified audit opinions.

Caseworker vacancies

Family and Community Services finds it difficult to fill all funded caseworker positions, with an average ten per cent vacancy rate for the past five years.

There are signs of improvement with the vacancy rate falling to five per cent in the June 2014 quarter and the caseworker to child ratio improving from 1:25 in 2012-13 to 1:21 in 2013-14. This ratio is still significantly higher than the 1:12 caseworker to child ratio recommended in the NSW Ombudsman’s 2011 Keep Them Safe report.

Statutory reviews incomplete

Family and Community Services is not meeting its statutory obligation to conduct annual placement reviews for all children or young people in out-of-home statutory care.

“Family and Community Services has over 2000 children or young people in out-of-home statutory care with additional cases managed by the NGO sector on behalf of FACS. At 5 July 2014, FACS has not conducted 952 or 46 per cent of the required annual placement reviews for children or young people under its direct care,” said the Auditor-General.

Caseworkers assess the health, wellbeing, education and social life of the child in out-of-home care. Without regular placement reviews, Family and Community Services may not be able to ensure the child’s needs are met.

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The National Disability Insurance Scheme commenced in July 2013 in four states. In New South Wales, the scheme was launched in the Hunter region and has started to move into adjacent areas.

“The Hunter Region is going well with the best turnaround times in the four participating states for approving support plans and the shortest time for services to commence,” said the Auditor-General. “Satisfaction with the planning process is higher than the average of the four states; however, NSW participants are the least satisfied with their current life experience and outcomes.”

Family and Community Services will progressively move disability services and the associated budget to the National Disability Insurance Agency by 30 June 2018. Currently, FACS is providing services on behalf of the Commonwealth for those people in the Hunter region under the NDIS. When the Commonwealth has engaged suitable providers, the services will fully transition to Commonwealth and New South Wales will make cash and/or asset contributions.

“To better manage the transition to cash contributions, Family and Community Services need to determine the value of disability and home care services provided under the NDIS,” said the Auditor-General.

Benchmarking needed to drive improvement

“Family and Community Services need to benchmark their performance against other jurisdictions and non-government service providers. They need to identify appropriate measures and processes to benchmark,” said the Auditor-General. “Benchmarking assists in assessing how well services are being provided and helps to identify opportunities to improve.”

Further Information 

Please contact Barry Underwood on 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664; email barry.underwood@audit.nsw.gov.au