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December Research Review

The Research Review delivers the latest research relevant to the child and family services sector each month.

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In this month’s Research Review, we spotlight two reports which underline the importance of children and young people’s wellbeing in Australia. The first, a systematic review of mental health interventions for care-experienced children and young people, highlights the critical role of systemic factors in the efficacy of these interventions. It underscores the need for stronger relationships among stakeholders to enhance mental health supports for young people in care. Complementing this, the SNAICC Family matters report sheds light on the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia’s child protection systems. This report calls for community-led solutions and a re-evaluation of current practices, emphasising the link between family and community environments and the overall wellbeing of children and young people. Together, these reports reinforce the importance of systemic and community-based approaches in addressing the needs of children and young people, particularly those experiencing vulnerability.

The Research Reviews are sponsored by OPEN (Outcomes, Practice and Evidence Network). OPEN supports Victoria’s child, youth and family services to use evidence from research, practice and client experience to deliver better outcomes for children, young people and families. To tap into all that OPEN has to offer become a member – it’s free!

In this newsletter you will find:

Mental health and wellbeing interventions for care-experienced children and young people: Systematic review and synthesis of process evaluations 

This systematic review by a group of researchers in the UK analyses interventions for the mental health of care-experienced children and young people under 25. The authors examined studies from 1990-2022 and consulted with stakeholders. They found that implementation barriers often stem from organisational issues and relational challenges. Care-experienced young people frequently feel disempowered in these interventions. The report calls for future strategies to focus on improving system-level factors such as resource allocation and supportive work cultures, while emphasising the importance of relationship-building among practitioners, caregivers, health and social care professionals, to effectively support the mental health of those in care.

Read the full report here
Child poverty in the midst of wealth: Innocenti report card 18 

The UNICEF Innocenti Report Card’s eighteenth edition reveals significant disparities in child poverty across the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. The report, assessing over 69 million children living in poverty, finds varying degrees of success in addressing this issue among the world’s wealthiest nations. Countries like Slovenia, Poland, and Latvia have made substantial progress towards reducing child poverty, in stark contrast to others like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Colombia, where rates remain high. While the overall child poverty rate in these regions dropped by about 8 per cent, the situation varies widely, with some nations experiencing significant decreases in child poverty and others witnessing concerning increases.

Read the full report here
Mission Australia Youth Survey, 2023 

The Mission Australia Youth Survey 2023 has gathered insights from 19,501 young Australians aged 15-19.  The report reveals young people’s active engagement in studies and employment, with a strong sense of satisfaction and community pride. Notably, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people report lower wellbeing and higher discrimination. The survey highlights key concerns like the environment, equity, economy, and mental health, with significant regional variations. Many young people are hopeful about the future, but issues around life control and future uncertainties are prevalent. Overall, the survey paints a picture of a resilient and capable young population, acutely aware of challenges and future opportunities.

Read the full report here
A new playground: The digital lives of young people with disability 

This report conducted by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner (Australia) explores the online experiences of young people with disabilities, using data from over 3,500 young people and their parents or carers between July and September 2021. While the internet is highlighted as an equaliser for young people with disabilities, offering an environment where physical barriers are removed, the report notes their increased vulnerability to online harm. The report calls for greater government intervention and community awareness raising about the potential risks for vulnerable groups when using the Internet.

Read the full report here

The Family Matters report 2023 

The annual Family Matters report conducted by SNAICC examines the continual failure of governments responsible for child protection systems to respond effectively to issues affecting the development, wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. These children continue to be overrepresented in Australia’s child protection systems, causing further harm and trauma. SNAICC advocates for solutions led by First Nations communities and highlights a range of effective approaches from Aboriginal community-controlled organisations.

Read the full report here
Wall to wall support: Joining up public services and housing for vulnerable children, young people and families 

This report by researchers at Demos, a UK think tank, highlights the need for integrating public service reform with solutions to the housing crisis. While based on UK figures, the findings have relevance for an Australian audience seeking better housing options for vulnerable families. The report points out the costly inefficiency of current siloed services, which fail to address the multifaceted needs of vulnerable young people and families in areas like housing and health. The authors call for a citisen-centred, holistic approach to break down service silos, improve data sharing and provide tailored, preventative support.
Read the full report here
Digital mental health resources for First Nations people 

This study, conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), explores the effectiveness and challenges of digital mental health tools for First Nations people in Australia. The report highlights the barriers First Nations peoples face, such as limited digital coverage and access to suitable devices. Highlighting the need for more tailored, culturally appropriate, digital mental health solutions the paper calls for more accessible resources to be created with, not for First Nations communities.

Read the full report here

Growing pains: Family Tax Benefit issues and options for reform 

This report by the Brotherhood of St Laurence advocates for reforms in Australia’s family payments system, particularly the Family Tax Benefit (FTB), to better support families, acknowledge unpaid care work, and promote gender equity and workforce participation. It outlines the FTB’s history and current challenges, including inadequate coverage, complexity, and work disincentives. The report suggests four reform options all aimed at better supporting Australian families with the cost of raising children and reducing the risk of poverty.

Read the full report here
Community attitudes towards poverty and inequality, 2023: Snapshot report 

In 2023, ACOSS, in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, conducted a survey of Australian community attitudes towards poverty and inequality. Fewer than a quarter of respondents felt they could survive on the current unemployment support payments, underlining the inadequacy of these benefits for many people. The report found a strong consensus among respondents regarding individuals in need, especially those on unemployment benefits, and recognition that welfare policies need to support access to necessities like food and healthcare.

Read the full report here
Navigating turbulence: Covid and beyond for Australian single mothers 

The 2021-2022 national survey, conducted by Council of Single Mothers and their Children, was the largest of its kind in Australia with 1,168 single mothers participating. The report provides insights into their daily challenges, including economic struggles, housing instability, and family law interactions. Despite representing a significant portion of single-parent families in Australia, these mothers often face financial hardships and housing insecurity, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on employment. While there is a rise in employment levels among single mothers and a commitment to pursuing education for better financial futures, the report raises concerns about long-term financial wellbeing. Findings underscore the need for continued efforts from governments to address the unique challenges faced by single mothers and their children.

Read the full report here

AIHW: Family, domestic and sexual violence website

For those who are not aware, the AIHW has established a dedicated Family, domestic and sexual violence website which brings together information from a range of different sources in the one consolidated space. The site will publish regular updates.

The website can be found here

Education and the mental health and wellbeing of First Nations children and young people 

This research paper commissioned by AIHW reviews scholarly articles, government reports and grey literature to identify best practices for improving the mental wellbeing and educational engagement of First Nations children and young people. The study evaluates existing policies and programs, highlighting a decline in school attendance and an increase in mental health issues among First Nations children. The paper highlights the importance of addressing structural and service-related factors. The authors call for the inclusion of community-controlled practices and protective factors in First Nations communities in policy development and implementation.

Read the full report here
Improving outcomes for all: Report of the Independent Expert Panel’s Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System 

This report, guided by the 2019 Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration, aims to enhance Australia’s education system by promoting excellence and equity. It identifies seven priority areas for reform with a strong focus on meeting the needs of every student. Key issues considered by the expert panel’s report include equitable student outcomes, mental health and wellbeing, teacher attraction and retention, data-informed improvements, and funding transparency. The review, which involved extensive consultations with educators, leaders, and communities, recommends a unified approach to reform. This involves supporting the educator workforce, renewing governance and implementation systems, and leveraging evidence and innovation.

Read the full report here





Age of Criminal Responsibility Working Group report: September 2023 

In August 2022, the Standing Council of Attorneys-General revisited the proposal to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility, particularly addressing the disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. This followed a 2020 draft report by a previous working group, which had recommended changes to the age of criminal responsibility but had lacked consensus. The latest report, released in December 2022, provides a principles-based framework to guide jurisdictions in tailoring raising-the-age reforms to their specific contexts, recognising that each is at a different stage in considering and implementing these changes.

Read the full report here
Independent review into the National Disability Insurance Scheme: Final report 

The Review proposes 26 recommendations to improve the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), focusing on its long-term sustainability and better inclusion for people with disabilities. The authors argue for a more inclusive approach to mainstream services, layered support systems, and streamlined navigation. Key changes include a transition from diagnosis-based to functional needs assessments for eligibility, and a three-tiered support structure encompassing mainstream services, foundational support for NDIS participants and non-eligible individuals, and specialised NDIS support for those with severe, permanent disabilities. The Australian Government will address these recommendations in 2024, with no immediate changes for current NDIS participants.

Read the full report here and listen to the Minister for the NDIS Bill Shorten MP’s speech to the National Press Club here
Joint standing committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme: NDIS participant experience in rural, regional and remote Australia 

The Centre is currently collating information for a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, focusing on the experiences of regional and rural NDIS participants and providers. We welcome any input from the sector to inform our response.  Any contributions would be greatly appreciated.

Read the Terms of Reference here

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