Catholic Welfare says relationship centres need coordination

Scores of new family relationship centres across Australia could have a "destructive" impact on broken families if they are underfunded and poorly co-ordinated with existing services, according to warnings issued by a number of counselling representative bodies including Catholic Welfare Australia.

Urging caution as the Howard Government finalises details of its plan to divert more separating families from the courts into mediation, the groups voiced fears about a lack of consultation with existing providers.

Catholic Welfare Australia executive director Frank Quinlan (pictured) said it was vital that the opening of the centres was co-ordinated so that other family support services could anticipate any extra demand.

"One of the best ways to do that would be to have an industry-wide forum in which these issues could be teased out," he said.

Many agencies were already struggling with extra demand for their services as community awareness was raised. "The funding we have see to date is only just keeping up with that," he said.

Warning that a botched implementation could lead to families being shunted between agencies or turned away because demand outstripped services, they asked ministers "not to keep their cards so close to their chest".

Family Services Australia, the peak body for more than 85 family counselling agencies, sparked the debate on the eve of its national conference in Adelaide.

Chief executive Libby Davies said there had not yet been a chance for people working "at the coalface" to help shape the tender specifications and operating rules for the new regime. "There are serious concerns about whether these new centres will be able to provide the resources troubled families really need to find positive solutions," she said.

Relationships Australia national director Mary Mertin-Ryan said she shared the concerns about inadequate consultation.

"It could have been more effective," she said. "This is a huge commitment from the Government and we want these centres to be as effective as they do."

Warning on 'destructive' family plan (The Age 28/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Welfare Australia
Family Services Australia
Relationships Australia

Catholic Welfare says policy tweaks amount to little (CathNews 22/9/05)
Churches warn Govt about job welfare changes (CathNews 16/9/05)
Church pressure wins Govt change of heart on unemployed (CathNews 5/9/05)
Federal Budget boosts family relationships (CathNews 11/5/05)

28 Sep 2005