The Permanency Support Program (PSP) was introduced in NSW in October 2017 as a major reform for the State’s child protection and out-of-home care (OOHC) system, focused on achieving permanent care arrangements for children within a two-year timeframe.
Researchers at CEI, Monash University, the Melbourne Institute, and the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA) completed a three-year evaluation of the PSP, which has recently been published.
“Designed to give every child and young person a home for life, the PSP influenced a service shift toward permanency and some limited improvement in outcomes. However, this major reform effort experienced significant implementation challenges and overall failed to demonstrate the larger positive impact on children that was originally intended – which is hugely disappointing to everyone involved,” says CEI Director, Dr Vanessa Rose, who led the evaluation team.
“We recommend that the design of PSP should be substantially overhauled, and specific components discontinued.”
The report notes the numerous structural challenges to reform in child protection, including significant unmet demand, limited resourcing to intervene early and a weighting toward acute, intensive and expensive services.
“The consequences of a lack of early intervention loom especially large for Aboriginal children and families, who are over-represented in the system and who face structural inequalities alongside a history of the Stolen Generations,” Vanessa notes.
The evaluation assessed PSP’s effectiveness in tandem with its implementation – in what is known as a ‘hybrid’ (type 1) design. A number of overarching recommendations were made, alongside more specific commentary on issues of service design and system support.
Key recommendations include: shifting PSP’s focus from administrative process to practice and child outcomes (wellbeing, safety and permanency); facilitating the performance of service providers to achieve outcomes from children; reviewing the incentive structures and operating model; continuing to invest in enabling infrastructure to support the program.
The final report, Evaluation of the Permanency Support Program, was developed by a consortium of researchers from CEI, Monash University, the Melbourne Institute, and the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA), for the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.