Facs research news no 8 June 2001



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FaCS RESEARCH NEWS

No 8 June 2001




CONTENTS

FaCS research and evaluation agenda

Departmental research updates

Departmental seminars

Conference reviews

New publications

Forthcoming conferences

Next issue




Research and evaluation agenda

The department has recently released its Research and Evaluation Framework, which outlines an agenda for policy-related research and evaluation in FaCS. It also provides the basis for further discussion about emerging research agendas and includes background on the FaCS portfolio, the responsibilities and strategic directions of FaCS, an overview of the objectives of FaCS’ research and evaluation program, and the strategies in place to achieve those objectives.



A number of key research themes have been identified under the following four research program areas. They are:


1. Stronger families

  • the factors that give rise to and support stronger families and those that undermine family strength;

  • the dynamics of family relationships and their impact on family members;

  • the role of service provision in supporting strong families and providing opportunities for family members;

  • the impact of the transfer system and its effect on behaviour; and

  • the interconnections between families, communities and individuals.

2. Stronger communities

  • understanding the factors that give rise to strong communities and those that can weaken communities;

  • identifying opportunities to promote and assist in the development of strong communities;

  • exploring volunteering in the community;

  • examining housing options and reflecting on the interactions between housing and non-housing related outcomes for FaCS customers;

  • examining factors that give rise to homelessness and opportunities to intervene; and

  • Indigenous-focused research.

3. Economic and social participation

  • understanding the patterns and trends in the income support system;

  • exploring options for reform in the social support system;

  • identifying and understanding the characteristics of people in receipt of income support payments, including their behavioural responses to changes in the system; and

  • understanding and testing the service provision requirements of a range of customers.

4. Portfolio-wide

  • the interaction between the tax system and the social support system;

  • income distribution and financial disadvantage; and

  • labour market reform and the social support system.

In addition, the research agenda is underpinned by some common themes, which highlight the many links and interconnections between the four research program areas and emphasise that a holistic approach to research in any single area is important to the success of FaCS’ research and evaluation work. The common underpinning research themes are summarised below:



  • prevention through capacity building and early intervention;

  • promoting independence, choice and self reliance;

  • maintaining a strong and sustainable safety net;

  • identifying factors associated with resilience and factors associated with risk;

  • social inclusion/exclusion;

  • demographic trends;

  • service delivery and other relationships;

  • examining the effect (intended and unintended) of policy interventions on behaviour; and

  • establishing what works, for whom and under what conditions.

Investing in data, in particular longitudinal data and the research capacity to analyse such data, is one of the major strategic initiatives to support research and evaluation activities in FaCS. Longitudinal data are becoming essential ingredients in social policy formation. Many social policy measures depend on understanding the extent and dynamic nature of many variables (such as income, employment and family relationships) over time. Longitudinal data aid the investigation of behavioural determinants and causal factors, and allow researchers to better evaluate the effects of different types of policy interventions over time. Longitudinal data are especially valuable in informing policy initiatives that focus on prevention and early intervention.


The department’s longitudinal data initiatives include the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), the General Customer Survey and the Longitudinal Data Set. Updates on the first three of these four initiatives are provided below in the Departmental Research Updates. In addition, information on two forthcoming courses on the evaluation of public programs and panel (that is, longitudinal) data is also provided at the rear of this edition of FaCS Research News.
Further information: Meredith Baker, Strategic Policy and Analysis Branch on (02) 6244 7385 or email publications.research@facs.gov.au.


DEPARTMENTAL RESEARCH UPDATES




The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey: an update




Data being collected in the Survey Instruments

Data from the HILDA survey will, like the General Customer Survey, provide an important source of information in evaluating ten outcomes from social policy interventions.


Unlike the General Customer Survey, however, the HILDA survey has been designed to:


  • provide information on the previous circumstances and characteristics of people before they enter the income support system;







  • collect information from a broad range of households, as it is recognised most variables are dynamic and so the information collected needs to include households in the process of change.


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