Australia’s welfare 2021: In brief

Report, COVID-19, Welfare, Report

The AIHW has released its latest biennial report on Australia’s welfare. The report includes chapters on the impact of COVID-19 on health and wellbeing, an overview of Australia’s welfare, current welfare services and supports, how Australia is faring compared to other countries, and the importance of welfare data. A key finding is that Australian and state and territory governments spent $195.7 billion on welfare related services in 2019–20. The AIHW website contains further data insights, welfare snapshots and interactive welfare indicators.

AVITH in Context: Building a framework to prevent and respond to young people with disability who use violence at home

Dr Georgina Sutherland and Dr Mediya Rangi provides an overview of this ANROWS-funded project, which aims to build a better understanding of individual, relationship, community context and sociocultural factors relevant for understanding young people with disability who use violence at home.

Avoiding simple solutions to complex problems: Independent Assessments are not the way to a fairer NDIS

Safety and wellbeing, Young People, Children

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) has released this report seeking to understand the experiences of children and young people with disability and their families accessing the NDIS and their thoughts on proposed reforms relating to Independent Assessments. CYDA conducted a survey with 12 per cent of the 270 responses being from children and young people. The study found that less than half (45 per cent) of respondents were satisfied with the services and support received under the NDIS and overall, 80 per cent of respondents had a negative view of the proposed reforms.

Barriers and facilitators to childhood obesity prevention among culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in Victoria, Australia

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD), Safety and wellbeing

This study looks at the barriers and enablers to the engagement of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community members in childhood obesity prevention programs in Victoria. Recommendations include system, and community level responses to address barriers such as low levels of health literacy, junk food advertising to children and cultural and language barriers to accessing health programs.

Behind the Screen: Online child exploitation in Australia

Safety and wellbeing, Young People, Technology

Anti-slavery Australia has released a report bringing together national data and case studies to provide a snapshot of online child exploitation in Australia. The report shows that new technologies and ease of access to the internet have resulted in the proliferation of child exploitation materials available online. The study emphasises the need for common language and streamlined national and international frameworks and cooperation to combat this challenge.

Being Present: An exploratory study on the use of mindfulness in early childhood

Early years, Mental Health, Safety and wellbeing

This small US study looks at the types of mindfulness practices currently being used in an early childhood education setting to promote a sense of wellbeing in children. Many teachers reported that they use meditation and mindfulness when the children in their classroom were restless or stressed. The majority of teachers included in the study reported that using mindfulness practices resulted in positive behavioural and physical outcomes in their early childhood classrooms.

Beyond borders: How to make the global compacts on migration and refugees work for uprooted children

Youth Justice, Report

The rights, protection and wellbeing of migrant and refugee children should be central commitments of global migration policies, UNICEF has said in a new report. The report outlines best practice for children’s care and protection, and includes case studies of governments and communities working to support and integrate them and their families. Key themes include keeping families together, keeping refugee and migrant children learning, and combatting discrimination. The case studies are diverse, spanning across country income levels, and can be replicated in different contexts around the world.

Birth family contact: What are the views of children and young people in out-of-home care? – March 2021 – Evidence to Action Note

Out of Home Care (OOHC), Report

This Evidence to Action Note provides an overview of the views of children and young people about whether they have contact with family members and their satisfaction with contact arrangements, with findings drawn from two surveys, the 2018 NSW OOHC Survey and the NSW Residential Care Survey.

Bridging the divide: Supporting children and young people in their middle years

Early years, Report

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand (Good Shepherd) undertook this research to highlight some of the unique challenges faced by children and young people in their ‘middle years’ (between the ages of 8 – 12 years). The middle years are a critical time of development and change. Children can face difficulties transitioning from primary to high school, caring for parents or younger siblings, being subject to inappropriate sexualisation and sexual exploitation, and being denied the opportunity to have meaningful input into decisions that affect their lives. Good Shepherd makes recommendations to government, schools and the community sector to ensure that we are better able to meet the needs of children and young people in their middle years.

Bright futures: Spotlight on the wellbeing of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD), Report

This report from VicHealth discusses issues that affect the wellbeing of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. The report finds that migrant and refugee students are less likely to find full-time employment after graduation (45%) compared with Australian-born students (69%) due to racial discrimination, lack of understanding of the local job market and overseas skills and qualifications not being recognised. The research shows that refugee and young migrant communities also bring with them many unique qualities, such as global networks, new ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit, which can enrich Australian society.

Building the future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in rich countries

Education

A report card released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) offers an assessment of child wellbeing across 41 countries of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). On the League Table showing the performance of countries against nine child-relevant goals, Australia ranks 39 out of 41 countries for ‘quality education’, ahead of Romania (40) and Turkey (41).

Can early childhood interventions decrease inequality of economic opportunity?

Early years, Mental Health

This article published in the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, investigates whether expanding access to early child education and care (ECEC) will reduce economic inequality later in life. The evidence suggests that multiple life domains, including academic achievement, behaviour, and mental health, can be improved if children are exposed to quality early childhood education.

This project measured the extent and variation of racist attitudes and experiences in Australia. It examines Australians’ attitudes to cultural diversity, intolerance of specific groups, perceptions of cultural privilege, and belief in racial hierarchy. The project also explored experiences of racism and the circumstances in which these events occur. Although just over 80% of respondents support a multicultural society, around 51% expressed anti-Middle Eastern sentiments and nearly 33% of participants had experienced racism in the work place.

Changes to the National Quality Framework

Education, Early years

The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has published an information sheet outlining agreed changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) as part of the 2014 Review of the National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care. It includes a summary table of the proposals and final decisions by Ministers. Most changes commenced on 1 October 2017 in all states and territories.

This resource sheet presents a snapshot of data describing child protection activity in Australia. It looks at the figures from each state and territory, including the number of investigated and substantiated reports of harm, the most common types of substantiated reports, and characteristics of children who are the subjects of reports.

Child Abuse Royal Commission’s Final Report

Safety and wellbeing, Report

On 15 December 2017, the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was delivered to the Governor-General of Australia and released. The Royal Commission’s Final Report comprises of 17 volumes and includes a total of 189 new recommendations, many of which are aimed at making institutions safer for children.

This resource sheet provides an overview of the statistics on child deaths resulting from abuse and neglect, and information on the recording of child deaths in Australia. In 2015-16 in Victoria, the Department of Health and Human Services referred 38 cases of children (an increase of 59% from the previous year) who had died and were known to child protection up to 12 months before their death to the commission for inquiry. Common causes of death included non-accidental trauma and self-harm.

This literature review explores the relationship between child poverty in New Zealand and the impact that poverty can have on the mental health of a child or young person, or later as an adult. It provides an overview of the extent and nature of child mental health and poverty in New Zealand, and the links between the two. The literature review shows that mental health conditions among children and adolescents can be reduced by addressing severe and persistent poverty, particularly during the early years of a child’s life.

This updated resource sheet provides a snapshot of the rates of involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in child protection and out-of-home care. In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are almost seven times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be the subject of substantiated reports of harm or risk of harm. Further, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9.8 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home care. The experience of poverty, assimilation policies, intergenerational trauma and discrimination is discussed in relation to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the Child protection system.

Child sexual abuse in Australian institutional contexts 2008-13: Findings from administrative data

Safety and wellbeing

The purpose of this project is to identify the data holdings that currently exist on present-day allegations of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts in Australia. It aims to extract from the available data, important insights about the nature extent of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. Data from each state and territory are examined and it is found that police data was the most useful source of information to explore the nature and extent of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts.

Child sexual abuse in institutional contexts: The reliability of police data, nature and allegations reported to police, and factors driving reporting rates

Early years, Safety and wellbeing

This research undertaken for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse aims to determine the nature of reports to police concerning institutional child sexual abuse (ICSA), and the drivers behind different reporting rates in different Australian jurisdictions. Findings included that ICSA accounts for approximately 5% of all child sexual abuse in all jurisdictions, for male and female victims; and schools were overwhelmingly the most common institutional context for reported ICSA.

Child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church: An interpretive review of the literature and public inquiry reports

Safety and wellbeing

This research project conducted by RMIT University reviews the literature concerning child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia and elsewhere, including 26 prominent international and Australian inquiry reports. The study suggests that mandatory celibacy and a culture of secrecy created by popes and bishops were major factors that contributed to such high rates of child abuse within the Catholic Church.

Child sexual exploitation: How public health can support prevention and intervention

Child maltreatment

Public Health England (PHE) has released a literature search identifying the most up to date international research about effective interventions to prevent child sexual exploitation. The paper presents a comprehensive list of the latest research, with a brief description of each study. This literature search will be useful for research teams to use as a guide to recent literature on child sexual abuse, and practitioners and other groups interested in these themes.

Childcare Use and Its Role in Indigenous Child Development: Evidence from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children in Australia

Education, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Early years

This paper uses data from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children to map patterns of childcare use and its effects on the learning and development of Indigenous children. The authors maintain that relatively disadvantaged children might benefit from attending childcare, but suggests that future research should investigate whether the quality of early childhood education is associated with positive cognitive outcomes for Indigenous children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Childcare, Mobility Decisions and ‘Staggered’ Migration

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)

This paper explores how the uncertainty related to long-term migration affects migrants’ decisions about their children and care. The paper draws data from in-depth interviews with Asian migrants living in Australia who have experienced ‘staggered’ migration. Participants dealt with three key decisions in relation to their children and care: whether to bring their children to Australia; whether to leave their children at home or send them back home; and, whether to leave Australia as a family and move back home with their children. Feelings of temporariness and uncertainty were common in these households.

The NSW Legislative Council has released a report on childhood overweight and obesity. It details the structural factors that help determine a child’s weight, and provides compelling recommendations related to urban planning, cost and accessibility of organised sport and food labelling.

This report was developed in collaboration with Melbourne University and identifies gaps in published literature pertaining to 5 key focus areas; Aboriginal children and families, out of home care, high-risk young people, trauma-informed practice, children with disabilities and their families and family violence.

Children and the Data Cycle: Rights and Ethics in a Big Data World

Young People, Technology

With the continually increasing collection of ‘big data’ across the globe, the protection of children’s’ rights is becoming increasingly complex and challenging. In this report, UNICEF calls for a greater appreciation of the links between children’s rights, ethics and data collection. Though the collection of big data presents many opportunities, the international community must address any concerns about how to protect and respect fundamental rights, particularly those of vulnerable children.

Children and Young People in Out of Home Care in Tasmania

Out of Home Care (OOHC), Report

This report by the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mark Morrissey, presents findings aimed at improving the wellbeing of children and young people living in out of home care. Although he found that the 1,100 children in state care were ‘generally experiencing acceptable outcomes’, he also identifies a number of issues with the system. Morrissey presents seven recommendations to improve the OOHC system in Tasmania.

Children and young people’s mental health —the role of education

Education

Schools have a significant role in promoting and protecting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. The UK Health and Education Select Committees have published findings from their joint inquiry into the role of education in promoting emotional wellbeing in children and young people in the UK. The report recommends a whole of school approach to embed the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in school culture. It is also important that teachers receive training in mental health issues and how to respond to them.

The latest issue of Children Australia includes a range of articles about social work practice and children experiencing vulnerability, including articles about the leadership of young people in family violence prevention, the engagement of refugee families in early childhood services, and the therapeutic supports required for child to recover from family violence.

Parental mental illness affects roughly 23% of Australian children. In light of this statistic, Response Ability has developed a fact sheet that outlines the ways in which parenting capacity may be impacted, and the social and emotional implications for children. The resource provides tips and guidelines for educators to help prevent children of parents with a mental illness from experiencing learning and development difficulties. Educators and teachers are identified as key contact points through which children and families can access mental health support.

Children’s social care innovation programme: Final evaluation report

Mental Health, Evaluation, Report

The UK Department for Education has published an overview of the evaluation of the children’s social care innovation program in England 2014 to 2016. The report includes findings from project evaluations that show reductions in children entering care, children living in residential care and increased reunification with birth families. From these evaluations, a number of recommendations for best practice emerge, including the adoption of a family focused, strengths-based approach that supports families to take responsibility for their own lives; multi-professional teams including workers in family violence, mental health and drug and alcohol; and a ‘key worker’ to provide consistency.

Children’s television viewing and multi-screen behaviour: Analysis of 2005–16

Early years, Families and parenting

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released a report looking at Children’s television viewing and multi-screen behaviour. It provides insights into viewing practices and habits of Australian children, and information about parental attitudes, including content concerns. Parents are finding it increasingly difficult to monitor or limit their children’s viewing, as the number of media devices they have access to increase.

Children’s voices in a changing world: 2021 UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador report

Report, Children, COVID-19, Research, Data, Report

UNICEF Australia has released this report sharing the findings of the third phase of research into children and young people’s lived experience through the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. The report found that young people aged 13-17 years view climate change and unemployment and limited job prospects as the greatest threats to the future wellbeing and livelihood of children and young people in Australia. The report includes a platform for action that calls on government to respond to the concerns of young people.

Evaluate

Clear Horizon – Resources

Evaluation, Tool/toolkit

Clear Horizon offers a range of tools and resources specific to monitoring and evaluation to measure the impact and achievement of project outcomes. These include the Most Significant Change Technique and Collaborative Outcomes Reporting.

Clinical, financial and social impacts of COVID-19 and their associations with mental health for mothers and children experiencing adversity in Australia

Mental Health, COVID-19, Maternal and Child Wellbeing, Report, Case Study

This multi-authored article, published in PLOS One, examines families’ experiences of COVID-19 impacts and the associations between COVID-19 impacts and maternal and child mental health. The authors surveyed 319 mothers from Victoria and Tasmania who had experienced adversity during pregnancy in 2013-14, and found high rates of self-quarantine, job or income loss, family stress and difficulty managing home learning. Poorer mental health for mothers and children was found to be associated with self-quarantine, financial hardship and family stress.

Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s Report 2017

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Report

The Prime Minister has delivered the ninth annual report addressing the Closing the Gap targets. The report recognises that changes are on the way; however, Australia is failing on six out of seven key measures. A new target for Indigenous 4 year olds enrolled in early childhood education is 95 per cent by 2025. The data shows that in 2015, 87% of all Indigenous children were enrolled in early childhood education the year before full-time school. Though improvements have been made in reading and numeracy for Indigenous students, this target is not on track. Last year, 640 more children needed to read at the Year 3 benchmark to halve the gap. We must look at the evidence to find effective solutions and focus on empowering and building the capacity of local communities.

Co-constructing Who Am I? Ensuring the voice of the child or young person is at the heart of ‘the record’

Early years, Out of Home Care (OOHC), Young People, Client Engagement, Evidence Informed Practice, Children, Report

This discussion paper talks about the value of developing a coherent, manageable and principled practice framework for co-constructing the child’s personal life story archive. It also includes considerations around trauma, record-keeping, confidentiality,and information technology. Systems and collaborations are essential to translate this into practice.

Monash University’s Gender and Family Violence Program has produced a research brief on the topic of coercive control. This briefing paper brings together research regarding coercive control to support prevention and intervention efforts. Coercive control is understood as a gendered pattern of behaviour using the tactics of intimidation, control and degradation to take away the victim’s freedom. This paper offers brief recommendations for practice as these relate to police and criminal justice responses.

This brief article outlines how co-design and collaboration shapes the work of the Healing Foundation. It explores how concepts of collaboration and co-design fit with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and provides a list of further resources for those who want to know more about best practice in this area.

Collective impact: Evidence and implications for practice

Safety and wellbeing, Report

This paper explores the collective impact framework and its ability to create transformational change on complex social issues. It provides an overview of the development of collective impact in Australia, drawing on case studies to demonstrate the promise of place-based, collaborative initiatives. The collective impact framework has resonated with practitioners and communities both in Australia and abroad, however, the evidence base for collective impact is still growing.

Commissioning cost-effective services for promotion of mental health and wellbeing and prevention of mental ill-health

Mental Health, Safety and wellbeing

A report released by Public Health England looks at mental health intervention models and programs, and their associated costs and benefits. The interventions considered include school based programs to prevent bullying and those aimed at preventing depression in children and young people. One program examined was the KiVA program, a school-based anti-bullying program used in the majority of schools in Finland. The program was found to be particularly effective in reducing cyber bullying.