Scoping project for the National Child and Family Investment Strategy: Final Report
Background: What is the National Child and Family Investment Strategy?
The National Child and Family Investment Strategy (NCFIS) was announced in the 2022-23 Budget and is an initiative under Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2022-32. The aim of the NCFIS is to prevent at-risk children and families from coming into contact with the child protection system and improve their life outcomes. The NCFIS will support governments to reorientate funding for the child and family support system to more effective, tailored and coordinated prevention and early intervention services and supports.
The National Children’s Commissioner undertook work to inform the development of the NCFIS. Her report is based on a literature review, and consultations and roundtables with 18 stakeholders (from government departments, peak bodies, Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations, academia and a few direct service providers). Stakeholders were asked to reflect on prevention and early intervention and to offer suggestions to guide future investments in improving the system.
Stakeholders identified overarching principles required for investments to produce better outcomes for children. These principles include empowerment, participation and self-determination; collaboration and partnership; sustainability; systems approach; evidence-based investment; human rights-based approach.
The stakeholders also identified specific areas of actions, which are detailed in the report. They include improving data sharing, placing children at the centre of all plans and monitoring frameworks, and shifting the focus to universal prevention and early intervention programs for better outcomes for children.
The report makes 18 recommendations about how the NCFIS should work.
What are the National Children’s Commissioner’s recommendations for the National Child and Family Investment Strategy?
In this report, the National Children’s Commissioner makes 18 recommendations including that the findings of the Australian Child Maltreatment Study should be used to guide and prioritise prevention and early intervention investment, particularly focusing on emotional abuse, its co-occurrence with family and domestic violence, and its long-term impact on mental health. The Australian Child Maltreatment Study showed that child maltreatment is endemic across Australia, with sample wide prevalence rates showing physical abuse at 32.0%, sexual abuse at 28.5%, emotional abuse at 30.9%, neglect at 8.9% and exposure to domestic violence at 39.6%.
National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds says:
“We need a much greater sense of urgency for the reform of policy and service systems for children and their families, and I believe this requires child wellbeing to be made a bipartisan national priority.”
“Stakeholders told me that investing in business-as-usual will not be sufficient to address child maltreatment in Australia. Without exception, they said that putting the child’s best interests at the centre of the strategy is paramount. Key to doing this will be adopting an evidence-informed systems approach, guided by human rights principles that respond to the complex needs of children and families.”