New NFP Standards for Refugee Settlement
19 May 2016 at 8:46 am
A new set of standards has been launched in a bid to ensure refugees and migrants across Australia experience a consistent level of support that encourages their potential for effective settlement.
The proposed National Settlement Services Outcomes Standards were launched by the Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA), the national peak body for settlement, at its recent International Settlement Conference.
Kat O’Neill, senior policy officer at Settlement Council of Australia, which has almost 90 organisational members, said establishing standards was very important for the sector.
“It allows that equitable standard of service across the country,” O’Neill told Pro Bono Australia News.
“There is a standard base when people tender for their humanitarian services with the government, but we wanted to give a standard that came from the people providing the settlement services. So the definition behind what is successfully settling somebody coming into this country is different for government and the people that provide that service.
“It is also important in giving the settlement sector legitimacy in their services, so that standard, that baseline, will professionalise this sector.
“It is important from a human rights perspective as well. From the people, the individuals that are coming through, and making sure that they are receiving that service, that is consistent across the country. Because the agencies that provide these services, some are really big and really on to it and they have all these resources… But some of the smaller ones could really use that extra information that is coming through, just so they know that their service is the same as the service like Red Cross. It really supports them to make sure that they are providing that same level and high quality of support.”
O’Neill said they hoped the standards – which focus on nine areas: education and training, employment, health and wellbeing, housing, language services, transport, civic participation, family and social support, and justice – would touch a wide network.
“Our members range from large to small ethnic-specific organisations, so people like St Vinnies and Red Cross are members, and then we have consortiums like Settlement Services International in NSW and AMES in Victoria, and then all the settlement agencies in every state and territory that provide that initial assistance when humanitarian entrants arrive,” O’Neill said.
“So we cover about I think 98 per cent of those organisations, and then we also have those really small ones like Anglicare in Alice Springs where there is only two staff members working on their settlement program for the people that come through there.
“It will hit everybody that’s working in those agencies. But then we are putting it out through a wider network as well, we want to make sure that it gets to mainstream government departments and organisations as well. Anybody who might come into contact with newly arrived people – that would be even the departments of education and housing and job implement services and health services and so it will eventually, we hope, touch a wide network.”
The launch of the standards marked the culmination of extensive work by SCOA over a number of years, dating back to 2010, to foster dialogue within the sector.
“We wanted to make sure that we were working with all of the other accreditation systems, we weren’t doubling up on things and that government agencies were on board as well. So it was that slow kind of burn of making sure that people were aware of its importance but also bringing on board the people who were doing the work. It definitely took some time to do,” O’Neill said.
“It was a great thing to launch it at our international conference that was held in Melbourne at the beginning of the month where it felt like we had everybody in the room that works in this area, and people from overseas, as well as people from all those different agencies that were involved throughout the years and people that we want to reach. So it was a great way to launch it.”
SCOA has received funding from the department of social services to implement the standards over the next 12 months.
“We will be rolling it out across the country with workshops, in metro and regional areas in every state and territory. Now we have the resources to make sure that happens,” O’Neill said.
“Part of these workshops are also bringing it to the settlement professionals and having them help formulate how it will be implemented, so it is still in process.
“We have got the standards and those ethos behind those standards, but for how that functions on the ground, it is really important that the people that are doing the work are the ones that are creating it and so those workshops will be part of that.
“We’ve had, since we launched it, lots and lots of interest and lots of people who are asking for copies of our standards that we have put out. It is a voluntary standard, but we are hoping that people uptake it over the next year, beginning with when we start to do the workshops. And it sounds like people already have been looking at it.”