The development of a ‘Catchment Plan’ to enhance services for children, young people and families in Melbourne’s South East was a State Government initiative designed to build on the structure for its Family Services Framework. An alliance of nine agencies were funded to work in partnership to deliver services for children, young people, and families in the area with Family Life appointed as the host agency for what was called the Family Services Alliance.
The development of the ‘Catchment Plan’ involved two key elements:
The project work required a mix of desktop research and analysis together with consultation and negotiation with key stakeholders to make sense of the data and its implications for future service requirements. The alliance also needed to agree on key roles and responsibilities for delivery of services going forward. A key consideration in this was the prioritisation of service needs of the Aboriginal community.
A critical role as consultants was facilitating discussion within the alliance about how the Lead Agency undertook its role, the nature and extent of the powers required to perform their role and the rights of other alliance agencies. This created considerable debate among the different agencies including Local Councils as well as community organisations from large to small. Balancing the needs and requirements of City Councils alongside large and small community organisations required sensitive discussions and negotiations.
The value of strong mediation and negotiation skills as a consultant proved to be particularly valuable in this project. We found it was important to have ‘all issues out on the table’ in relation to the various sizes (‘powers’) of the different agencies. This was especially so as the agencies ‘jockeyed’ for position in relation to the distribution of funds, the allocation of referrals, and the various responsibilities for reporting and data collection.
The Project succeeded in gaining agreement and commitment from all agencies to a practical and implemented a Catchment Plan that was based on a set of key principles for how the partners would work together. Significantly, these principles helped reinforce what the agencies held in common allowing them to negotiate their differences.