The Auditor General’s report released today into Their Futures Matter (“TFM”) shows that Government promises about providing meaningful support to evidence-based early intervention programs have been unfulfilled. The four year TFM program that had a budget in excess of $400 million in 2019-20 has not provided the evidence-based early intervention reforms desperately needed to keep families together and children safe.

The program was intended to refocus the child protection system onto evidence based early-intervention programs as recommended by all the experts in the area and a host of previous reports. Instead the analysis found within the department it was business as usual where “investment funding remains tied to existing agency programs, with limited evidence of their comparative effectiveness”.

The key finding was that: “an evidence-based whole-of-government early intervention approach for vulnerable children and families in NSW − the key objective of the reform − was not established. The reform concluded in June 2020 without a strategy or plan in place to achieve its intent.

Greens MP and Child Protection spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“These reforms were hamstrung from the outset because the government refused to put in place a cross-agency Family Investment Commission that could force government departments to change and allocate money based on evidence.

“Vulnerable children and families need to be the focus and this needs to cut across government departments from education to health and child protection.

“The reforms failed because there was no one who could force government agencies to change, to give up programs that weren’t working and free up those funds to follow the evidence.

“Despite big promises from the Government and Communities and Justice it seems little has changed in their dismissive approach to vulnerable young people and their families.

“Tragically we are seeing the same mistakes being played out in the government’s response to the Family is Culture Report on Aboriginal children in out of home care. The key recommendation in that report was also to establish a central agency to coordinate spending across agencies and again the government has refused to accept it.

“We know that Aboriginal children and families bear the brunt of policy failures in this area, and in the global context of the Black Lives Matter movement the continued failure to properly fund evidence-based early intervention is particularly concerning.

“Over $190 million was invested over four years into the governance structure of Their Futures Matter, and it has largely failed. This is a tragedy for the thousands of children and their families who need evidence based help before things spin out of control for them.

“When the program ended in June 2020 there wasn’t even a plan for how to address this in the future.

“The big takeaway from this report, like the Family is Culture Report and the Tune report before it, is that the Department of Communities and Justice (formally FACS and before that DOCS) is not capable of reforming itself.

“To make this work we need to establish a genuinely independent Families Commission that has the power and independence to force change and the authority to redirect scarce funds.

“It’s impossible to over-emphasise how important it is that we get early intervention right; lives and families literally depend on it,” Mr Shoebridge said.