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Income Management - Site selection and Evaluation

Income Management - Community Affairs  - 01/06/2011 - Cont.

Senator SIEWERT:  That would be appreciated, thank you. Who is in charge of the evaluation? I know there is money set aside. I know there is $1.3 million set aside for the evaluation—

Ms Carroll:  DEEWR is in charge of the overarching evaluation. The money is being appropriated to them.

Ms Hefren-Webb:  An additional $2.4 million has been appropriated to FaHCSIA for specific evaluation of the income management.

Senator SIEWERT:  Is that separate to the—

Ms Carroll:  Yes.

Senator SIEWERT:  What process are you using to determine the evaluation?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  We intend to go through a process similar to what we have done for the Northern Territory, which is to develop I guess a framework for the evaluation and to have a kind of consultative process. Then there would be a tender process and some sort of consortium or individual researcher would be appointed.

Senator SIEWERT:  Is that intended to start as the pilots start?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  We would actually probably intend to start a little earlier, so we could undertake some baseline research.

Senator SIEWERT:  Does that mean you are going to be letting the tenders very shortly in that case, if you are going to have done what you just said, to get it in place before next year?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  Potentially we might carve it up in future. These decisions have not been finally made, but potentially you might contract for some baseline research pretty quickly with some of the funding and then contract for the four-year evaluation. No decisions have really been made about how that will operate.

Senator SIEWERT:  In terms of the baseline data, what did you have in mind?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  I guess there would be value in looking at the nature of the income support population in each of the five locations, current issues around financial management, use of emergency relief and other issues like that, and potentially even selecting some sites that were not amongst the 10 for comparative purposes but were similar on other grounds. So, demographic information, potentially survey information, but I am not sure.

Senator SIEWERT:  I understood that some of the information that you have just articulated is the information on which you made the decision to go for these pilot areas in the first place?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  Obviously those pilot areas are very high on a number of disadvantage indicators. I guess we would be looking to get some more finely grained data about the nature of people in those communities, perhaps their use of financial counselling, their issues with debt, issues with homelessness or rental arrears and things like that.

Senator SIEWERT:  Demographics—CALD, Aboriginal communities, et cetera.

Senator BOYCE:  Are you able to provide us with those worksheets, for want of a better word? You talk about the indicators and then what the finished indicator for each of the five or 10 areas was.

Ms Carroll:  Are you talking about the site selection?

Senator BOYCE:  Yes.

Ms Carroll:  I think DEEWR has answered some questions today about kind of how broad indicators were used. We can certainly take on notice the broad indicators—

Senator BOYCE:  But presumably there was something that said—

Ms Carroll:  Certainly the broad indicators were looking at significant low socioeconomic—

Senator BOYCE:  I appreciate what the indicators would be, but I want to get a sense of what the reality of those indicators applied to those sites looks like. Do you know what I mean?

Ms Carroll:  Are you asking, for example, in Rockhampton what the series of indicators look like for Rockhampton; is that what you are requesting?

Senator BOYCE:  Yes.

Senator FIFIELD:  That lead to their being selected as a site.

Senator BOYCE:  Yes.

Ms Carroll:  We can take that on notice.

Senator SIEWERT:  We really want the 10.

Senator BOYCE:  It would be good to get the 10, but if we have to settle for the five, we will.

Senator FIFIELD:  You mentioned earlier that there was an IDC established to provide advice on site selection; was that right?

Ms Carroll:  Not specifically on site selection. There was an interdepartmental committee that was working on the policy process.

Senator FIFIELD:  And sites were part of that?

Ms Carroll:  Sites were one of the things that were considered.

Senator FIFIELD:  Who actually made the final decision about sites? Was that a decision by a minister or—

Ms Carroll:  The government made the decision.

Senator FIFIELD:  So, advice was provided to government and government made the decision. Did the department make a recommendation in relation to which site should be chosen?

Ms Carroll:  I really cannot say any more except to say that advice was provided and government made a decision.

Mr Pratt:  The department was part of a process with other—

Senator FIFIELD:  I appreciate that. I hope we do not get to the advice to government, which is debatable anyway, as to whether that is a valid reason not to answer a question. We will just put that to one side. It does not go to advice to government. I am not asking what the advice to government was, I am just asking, were recommendations made about which sites should be chosen?

Mr Pratt:  I think it is safe to say we provided advice around that area.

Senator FIFIELD:  Was that advice accepted?

Mr Pratt:  That was a matter for government.

Senator FIFIELD:  Of course it is a matter for government and they made their decision, but were the sites recommended chosen?

Mr Pratt:  That goes to the deliberations of government. We provided advice along with other departments as part of the process that Ms Carroll described earlier, and government took decisions.

Senator BOYCE:  Next you will be suggesting they are all Labor seats.

Senator FIFIELD:  I have not even look at it in terms of who holds seats.

Senator SIEWERT:  I would take that as a negative, not as a positive.

Senator FIFIELD:  It just does make it a tad difficult for transparency, as I am sure you appreciate.

Mr Pratt:  This is an issue which  is of course always challenging in this environment and has been for many years. 

Senator FIFIELD:  I am not suggesting that government does not have the right to make these decisions, but it is just interesting to know when advice is accepted and when it is not. We might come back to that. I will not delay any further.

Senator SIEWERT:  In terms of the budget allocation of $117.5 million over five years, is that the amount that has been allocated to the extension of the five trials?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  Yes.

Senator SIEWERT:  Does the bulk of that money go to DHS?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  The bulk of that is essentially for service delivery.

Senator SIEWERT:  I am trying to work out the breakdown of that and how it is going to be spent. In terms of the overall funding, do I ask them? How much of that money do you get and what for?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  The amount allocated for FaHCSIA specifically is—page 32 of the Portfolio Budget Statements—$4.5 million in 2011-12, $6.3 million in 2012-13, $5.9 million in 2013-14 and $6.5 million in 2014-15. That would comprise funding for the financial counselling and money management services, funding for evaluation, funding for the matched savings payment and the voluntary income management payments and departmental staff.

Senator SIEWERT:  What was the last one, sorry?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  For the matched savings payment of voluntary income management payments and funding for departmental staff.

Senator SIEWERT:  I will ask DEEWR for the rest of those figures—

Ms Hefren-Webb:  DHS.

Senator BOYCE:  You would not have those figures? They are doing it for you, aren’t they?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  They are doing it for the government, yes.

Senator BOYCE:  All right.

Ms Hefren-Webb:  I could do a subtraction. Essentially the bulk of the funding goes to DHS, in the order of $70 million to $80 million. I do not want to mislead you by trying to guesstimate a figure now. 

Senator SIEWERT:  I will ask them tomorrow. In terms of how the income management trials then coordinate with the team program and the very long-term unemployed programs, how is that going to work in terms of coordination, the evaluation that is taken of the five sites that have everything; that will come under the one evaluation process? You have the money for the income management trial and then there is the evaluation process that DEEWR is running over the whole thing. How is that going to interact?

Ms Carroll:  We are still in the process of working out the different evaluation components. As Ms Hefren-Webb said, we are still in the formative stages of what it might look like and so is DEEWR. As part of the cross-departmental process, we are actually working together on how we might do that evaluation, because the purpose of their evaluation is in each of the 10 sites to actually understand how things have come together in a coordinated way and actually evaluate the totality. We do not have firm answers at this stage about how the two are going to interact, but we are clear that we need to make them work together and feed into each other.

Senator SIEWERT:  I will ask again in October.

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