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8. Impacts of the CIS Scheme on diverse and disadvantaged communities

Impacts of the CIS Scheme on diverse and disadvantaged communities in the Child Information Sharing Scheme Two-Year Review report.

The following research question has been considered in this chapter in the context of ‘improved child information sharing facilitates improved identification of, and responses to, the needs of diverse and disadvantaged communities’:

  • What has been the extent of the impact of the CIS Scheme on diverse and disadvantaged communities?

During this early period of implementation of the CIS Scheme, the major impacts of the CIS Scheme on diverse and disadvantaged communities have primarily been felt in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities. This chapter, therefore, incorporates relevant findings from other sources and considers how these lessons might impact the implementation of the CIS Scheme among diverse and disadvantaged communities, while providing a distinct discussion of the CIS Scheme’s impact on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities.

Box 8.1 Key findings – impact of the CIS Scheme on diverse and disadvantaged communities

Responding to diversity

  • The continuing need to improve engagement of diverse population groups with support services will affect the extent of the impact of the CIS Scheme in this area.
  • More robust data collection related to application of the CIS Scheme will be required to monitor and assess use and impact of the CIS Scheme with diverse communities.

Operation of the CIS Scheme in Aboriginal communities

  • Aboriginal communities continue to be hesitant about information sharing being unsafe as:
    • the CIS Scheme is not perceived to have been developed by Aboriginal people
    • distrust and fear of the removal of children persists.
  • There is support for development of Aboriginal community understanding about the CIS Scheme, and the development of culturally appropriate training and resource materials for prescribed workforces.

Identifying child information sharing issues

  • Consistent with the broader investigation of approaches to improve access to, and participation in services by diverse population groups, an improved understanding of issues that could potentially jeopardise sharing of child information will be important to avoid undermining engagement with services.

Source: ACIL Allen Consulting 2020

Responding to diversity and disadvantage

The CIS Scheme forms part of a larger toolkit available to government and government funded service providers to promote the wellbeing and safety of all children in Victoria, with an emphasis on targeted supports for disadvantaged populations. There are a wide range of Commonwealth and Victorian policies, guidelines and frameworks that support the design of services, including workforce knowledge and skills, to respond to the needs of diverse populations with a view to improving access to specialist and mainstream services. Diversity encompasses Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, cultural and linguistic diversity, gender, disability, and people from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse and intersex communities. [26] These guiding documents seek to promote equity of access and avoidance of disadvantage among diverse populations through organisational and workforce change that improves the quality of services and underpins standards such as access and participation. Change through service provider policies and practices aims to reduce discrimination, embed cultural responsiveness, foster social inclusive practices, offer healing and trauma informed care and access to language services.

Ensuring the most effective practices are in place to engage appropriately with these diverse groups is a continuing emphasis of government with implications for workforce structures and skills base. The extent to which this delivers improved practices over time also has implications for optimising the tools available to the workforce, such as the CIS Scheme, to promote the wellbeing and safety of children and young people. The findings of a recent parliamentary inquiry demonstrate this evolving understanding of diversity, barriers to accessing services and opportunities to improve outcomes for children [27]:

The Committee heard that people from culturally diverse backgrounds are underrepresented in early childhood services, such as Maternal and Child Health (MCH) and kindergarten, and face numerous barriers to engaging…[including] racism, limited awareness of services and their benefits, communication and language barriers, distrust of services, fear of being judged, and structural barriers.

Recommendations made by the Inquiry include addressing data gaps (largely through additions to the existing Child Development Information System) to enable accurate measurement of access to services of culturally diverse groups, and development of an early childhood workforce strategy setting out essential strategies and actions for effective engagement with culturally diverse children, families and communities.

It could be expected that the extent of the impact of the CIS Scheme on diverse and disadvantaged communities will be in part a measure of how well the CIS Scheme is utilised and in part reflective of how well services are engaging with diverse communities. While the following stakeholder feedback provides insights into challenges associated with use of the CIS Scheme to benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the ability to monitor and evaluate the impact of the CIS Scheme on outcomes for diverse and disadvantaged communities will require a more rigorous approach to data collection, further supporting the earlier recommendations relating to gathering data to improve information about practice (see section 3.1 and section 3.4). Should the data collection recommended by the Inquiry cited above be supported, data linkage within prescribed organisations would facilitate a robust understanding of the application of the CIS Scheme in relation to diverse and disadvantaged communities.

Recommendation 10       Measuring contribution of the cis scheme in responding to the needs of diverse and disadvantaged communities
That CIS Scheme partner government departments consider the adequacy of the current minimum record keeping requirements of the CIS Scheme, including as they inform the role of the CIS Scheme in responding to the needs of diverse population groups.

Application of the CIS Scheme in diverse and disadvantaged communities

Other stakeholder feedback in relation to diverse and disadvantaged communities was relatively minor and it was difficult, therefore, to draw further conclusions. A small number of stakeholders indicated that for specialist sectors (such as the disability sector) there is a need for training and resources to be particularly tailored to their work in order to assist in effective implementation.

While not a point that was explicitly raised by stakeholders within this project, the review of the FVIS Scheme noted feedback from one practitioner that the impact of the FVIS Scheme on the LGBTIQ community was difficult to understand given the limitations in obtaining cohort specific data. The FVIS Scheme review also noted that in some of these diverse communities, such as LGBTIQ communities, experiences were likely to spread quickly within their community and so it was important not to compromise the education and engagement with the community by delivering negative outcomes to these clients.[28]

Recommendation 11       Engaging diverse and disadvantaged communities
That CIS Scheme partner government departments engage diverse and disadvantaged groups through sector and advocacy peak bodies and information sharing entities, to understand any specific barriers to the implementation of the CIS Scheme and use these findings to assist information sharing entities to overcome these barriers.

Implementing the CIS Scheme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

While Aboriginal stakeholders consulted as part of this project broadly expressed support for the CIS Scheme, a well-documented complexity of historical and current issues, such as the Stolen Generation and over-representation in the criminal justice system and out-of-home care, affect how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities perceive and interpret government legislation and policy. A key issue reported in the successful implementation of the CIS Scheme for Aboriginal community controlled organisations (ACCOs) has been barriers related to lack of trust among community members because of the legacy and abiding harm of past experiences relating to child services.

There is still a lot of distrust and fear of children being removed as a result of information sharing. (Peak/lead body)

Similar feedback was provided to the Two Year Review of the FVIS Scheme in relation to the combined operation of the two information sharing schemes, although the opinions of Aboriginal organisations were reported to be divided[29]:

There was widespread concern that combined the FVISS and the Child Information Sharing Scheme could lead to an increase in the involvement of Child Protection and Aboriginal mother’s lives. For a minority, the Scheme (FVISS) created an opportunity for greater attention to children’s risk in the context of family violence and contributed towards building more collaborative relationships between child and family welfare agencies and specialist family violence services.

The CIS Scheme is specifically aimed at facilitating support to families and children at an earlier opportunity before matters escalate and, for example, lead to the involvement of Child Protection services. As such, there is a need to continually educate and reassure families and communities on the objectives and intended outcomes of the CIS Scheme and its value in a range of circumstances including in the context of family violence. However, this requires a significant investment of time and effort from the ground up, beginning with the development of culturally appropriate resources for the CIS Scheme. It is not apparent that the universal tools and materials developed for the CIS Scheme have been informed by consultation with Aboriginal people. Development of culturally appropriate resources appears to have been regarded as a task best left for the Aboriginal services sector, without strong leadership or direction from government. Some initiatives have been perceived positively and welcomed, such as the Aboriginal working group and communities of practice formed under FSV. Other areas, however, such as investment in the development of culturally appropriate resources, were perceived as lacking.

We are working on embedding it (CIS Scheme) in our organisation first; we haven’t done anything in the community so far. The funding has not been sufficient for our internal work, never mind external, and we have been putting in our own money (as other ACCOs are doing). (Peak/lead body)

While stakeholders were cautious about the pace of implementation of the CIS Scheme among Aboriginal organisations and service providers, they were also confident that the CIS Scheme will lead to better outcomes for Aboriginal women and children. It was also emphasised that sufficient care should be taken in implementation, as any negative experiences due to the CIS Scheme will be amplified in community and make it more difficult to implement the Scheme successfully. In this regard, it is noted that the Two Year Review of the FVIS Scheme recommended that an annual forum of key stakeholders be convened to consider any adverse impacts of the FVIS Scheme on Aboriginal people. Given the potential to use the CIS Scheme in conjunction with the FVIS Scheme, such a forum should provide an opportunity also to consider any adverse impacts of use of the CIS Scheme in the family violence context.

Some suggestions raised by stakeholders for further improvement in the implementation of the CIS Scheme include:

  • providing dedicated training sessions for Aboriginal organisations and service providers, as staff can find it difficult to raise culturally relevant issues during training with mainstream service providers
  • greater leadership from government agencies (e.g. Aboriginal Unit in FSV/DET) in development or adaptation of materials that are culturally appropriate
  • continued investment in the implementation of the CIS Scheme, acknowledging that change will require greater time particularly for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities.
Recommendation 12       Cultural safety
That CIS Scheme partner government departments continue to work with and support the Aboriginal service sector to provide community engagement to ensure Aboriginal communities have a good understanding of the CIS Scheme, and to ensure that cultural safety is taken into account at all stages of using the CIS Scheme.

Recommendation 13       Culturally appropriate resources to support implementation of the CIS Scheme in Aboriginal communities
That CIS Scheme partner government departments work with Aboriginal lead bodies to develop culturally appropriate training and support materials for the effective implementation of the CIS Scheme in Aboriginal communities, both by Aboriginal-specific and mainstream information sharing entities

The Two-Year Review of the FVIS Scheme also raised the view that cultural safety and competence was not sufficiently embedded in mainstream organisations. Some other policy initiatives, such as the DHHS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Framework, could be leveraged to improve cultural competency among all ISEs, which will assist in ISEs being more likely to implement the CIS Scheme in a culturally appropriate manner, utilising culturally appropriate materials effectively.

[26] Key policies, guidelines and frameworks. Design for Diversity. State of Victoria, Department of Health and Human Services

[27] Inquiry into early childhood engagement of culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues, Parliament of Victoria. September 2020, p.xiii.

[28] McCulloch J., Maher, J., Fitz-Gibbon, K., Segrave, M., Benier, K., Burns, K., McGowan, J. and N., Pfitzner. (2020) Review of the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme Final Report. Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, Faculty of Arts, Monash University.

[29] Op Cit. Monash University, p.60.

Reviewed 30 March 2021

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