Welfare Dependency First Target for Government’s Innovation Fund
7 December 2016 at 3:14 pm
Innovative ideas from the not-for-profit and business sectors that help move people from welfare to work will be the first to be funded by the Turnbull government’s $96 million Try, Test and Learn Fund which launched on Wednesday.
The government said the fund, which was first announced in the 2016 federal budget as part of its innovation platform, would initially target and invest in groups of young people who are at-risk of long-term welfare dependency.
Speaking at Mission Australia’s Campsie site in western Sydney, Minister for Social Services Christian Porter said the fund was looking for submissions around new and forward-thinking ideas on how it can support people to have better lives through work and independence from the welfare system.
“Our priority groups for this first round of the Try, Test and Learn Fund are young carers, young parents and young students at risk of long-term unemployment,” Porter said.
“Existing programs such as ParentsNext and the Empowering YOUth Initiatives are already supporting innovative new service approaches. Through the first phase of the fund, we want to build on these approaches by trying and testing scalable, efficient initiatives that help young people establish themselves in the workforce.
“At the end of the day, the fund isn’t about kicking people off welfare and saving money. Nor is it about replacing programs that are already doing great work across Australia, or expanding existing programs. It is about investing in people who may need some extra help.
“The evidence from the Baseline Valuation Report tells us that what we’re currently doing isn’t helping people as it should be. That’s why we need your ideas to do it differently. We need your ideas to better help people at risk of welfare dependence, and better help their children.”
From Friday 9 December, ideas for the fund can be submitted using an online form on the Department of Social Services (DSS) Engage website.
“Ideas will be published on DSS Engage for everyone to see, to encourage collaboration and innovation. A discussion forum will run alongside the ideas generation phase, to encourage people to share views about how to help people in our priority groups, through the Try, Test and Learn Fund,” Porter said.
“We expect proposals to come from industry, the not-for-profit sector, NGOs – any group with ideas about how we can help improve lives through self-reliance and employment.
“The most promising ideas will be selected for development into possible policy initiatives, which will involve refinement and co-design of the idea in preparation for funding.
“Our aim is that by May 2017, the first handful of successful ideas will have been selected by government, and we will be on our way to on-the-ground implementation.”
Porter said more than 30 key stakeholders – representing service providers, academia, social enterprise and business – helped design the fund, including how ideas are published online for public review and collaboration.
“I’m absolutely committed to making sure that the fund operates in a way that fosters innovation and collaboration, while minimising the burden of red tape,” he said.
CEO Mission Australia Catherine Yeomans said: “Mission Australia’s annual youth survey shows us that young people want jobs and for disadvantaged young people, like many of our clients, getting a job is an even higher priority.
“But we also know that for many, the transitions into employment are difficult and therefore we welcome any additional and innovative supports, like those we hope will emerge from the Try, Test, Learn Fund.
“Young people’s journeys are unique and service models need to be tailored, especially for those with high or complex needs who need wrap-around supports. To realise the best outcomes for clients there must be a flexibility to the approach and an upfront commitment to long-term funding.”
Leading organisations for social investment and social business also welcomed the fund when it was first announced.
Social Ventures Australia (SVA) said the fund could boost Australia’s social investment strategy.
The organisation said the four-year $96.1 million fund was an important step towards promoting a more innovative, agile and impactful social services system.
“The fund could unlock opportunities for the development of innovative service and finance models, and attract co-investment from the private sector in important social initiatives,” SVA CEO Rob Koczkar said at the time.
More information about the Try, Test and Learn Fund and the Priority Investment Approach is available on the Department of Social Services website.