Facs research news no 8 June 2001

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Monitoring and evaluations of the New Deal programs have been extensive. Much of this work has focused on the impact of the ‘flagship’ program, the New Deal for Young People (NDYP). In January 2001, the British Government announced that the NDYP had assisted over 250 000 young unemployed people to obtain work and that long-term youth unemployment was being eradicated. A recent New Deal evaluation, conducted by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, also noted that although unemployment amongst the NDYP client group had been falling since 1994 the introduction of the New Deal had accelerated the falls in long-term youth unemployment above what would have taken place in its absence.

While there have been many criticisms of the New Deal programs, the evidence so far indicates that as Britain modernises its welfare state, the New Deals are helping to secure significant if modest improvements in the employability and job prospects of those living on benefit, especially for the younger unemployed. However, there are still major challenges, in the high unemployment inner city areas in particular, and it is likely that as the programs are extended to much broader groups, it will be increasingly difficult to translate worthy policy objectives and theoretical design into effective day-to-day practice.1
Discussant Mr Bernie Yates, Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, praised the policy coherence of the British new welfare-to-work system and noted that Australia could learn from this experience. Mr Yates also raised a number of concerns about the British model. For example, in the New Deal programs, there is a considerable time delay before intervention. The Australian approach, on the other hand, is an attempt at early intervention.
Second discussant, Professor Bruce Chapman, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, provided some broad academic comments about labour market programs. He said that policies should never be judged in terms of overall effects on unemployment. It is impossible to create 100 per cent employment. There will always be displacement effects and effectiveness will always be less than 100 per cent.
Dr Finn concluded the seminar by acknowledging the two discussants’ comments and by answering various questions from the audience.
Further information: Caroline Falkland, Community Branch on (02) 6212 9428 or email caroline.falkland@facs.gov.au

Do re-employment services shorten unemployment?

On 17 May 2001, Professor Dan Black of Syracuse University, New York, presented findings from research into the effect of the Worker Profiling and Reemployment Services (WPRS) system in Kentucky.

Professor Black began by explaining how the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system works in the United States, detailing how UI payments are conditional upon claimants actively looking for work, their previous employment and level of earnings, and how payments are made for a maximum of 26 weeks per year.

Using an econometric model of expected UI spell duration developed by the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), a score of 1 to 20 was assigned to each new UI claimant. A score of 20 was assigned to claimants expected to exhaust between 95 and 100 per cent of their UI payments, and a score of 1 to claimants predicted to exhaust between 0 and 5 per cent of their payments.

Claimants with the highest profiling scores were assigned to undertake re-employment services before those with lower scores. Where there were not enough places, claimants were randomly assigned to either the treatment or control group, avoiding the pitfalls of denying assistance to those most in need.

Claimants assigned to the treatment group were then notified by mail of the requirement to participate in the program, beginning with an orientation session. Participants had an incentive to ‘stick’ with the program, as non-compliance carried the threat of their payments being ceased.

During the orientation session, claimants were required to complete a questionnaire enabling UI office staff to refer them to specific services, including assisted job search, employment counselling, job search workshops and retraining programs.

When compared with the control group, the treatment group was found to collect payments for 2.2 fewer weeks, receive $143 less in benefits, and earn $1054 more in the year following the initiation of their UI claim. A simple cost-benefit analysis revealed the program cost only $11.93 per treated claimant ($22.35 when $0.5 million in start-up costs are added to the equation), thus realising substantial savings for the UI program.

Findings indicated, however, that these results were a consequence of claimants in the treatment group exiting the UI system earlier, particularly prior to receipt of re employment services, and coinciding with receipt of the letter informing them of their obligations. This suggested to the researchers that claimants capable of finding employment immediately were sufficiently discouraged from persisting with their claim when subject to the added obligations of the WPRS system.

Those found to benefit most from the services were those with a moderate probability of exhausting their benefits. The profiling tool used, however, placed the highest priority on those most likely to exhaust their benefit, which raises a dilemma. In order to maximise the impact of the program, the results suggest those with only a moderate probability of exhausting their benefits should be given the highest priority, in the event of limited places, while those most in need may not receive the assistance they might arguably deserve.

Discussant Phil Lewis of the University of Canberra complimented the unique experimental design adopted, but cautioned against using the findings for policy development in an Australian context given the vastly different systems for provision of unemployment benefits. Mr Lewis highlighted the need for similar research to be undertaken in Australia.

Professor Black concluded the seminar by acknowledging Mr Lewis' comments and answering a number of questions from the audience.

Further information: Greg Angenent, Social Policy and Analysis Branch on (02) 6212 9428 or email greg.angenent@facs.gov.au


Family and work: listening to our children

The Department of Family and Community Services, in collaboration with the Marriage and Family Council, convened a conference on Family and Work: Listening to Our Children on 2 May 2001. The conference brought together over 130 representatives with an interest in family and work matters from the public, private and community sectors and academia.

The purpose of the conference for FaCS was:

  • to raise awareness of, and inject children’s views into, the work and family debate by highlighting an alternative angle for looking at the issue; and

  • to provide a promotional and networking event designed to attract media coverage around ‘family’ issues and the children’s view and how these impact on FaCS work and on business.

However, other issues emerging in public dialogue around balancing work and family life, such as the impact of increased labour force participation of women, changing attitudes around caring responsibilities and questions about the roles of different partners were also important. The Ccnference, using the children’s perspective on this issue, provided a starting point for generating discussion about how governments might assist people to more effectively meet and manage their caring and work responsibilities.

It also provided a forum for disseminating findings from research into children’s views about impact of work and family. Ellen Galinsky, President of the Family and Work Institute in the US discussed key findings from her ‘Ask the Children’ study and Dr Virginia Lewis from AIFS presented aspects of a smaller parallel study conducted with a sample of families in Victoria.
Findings from both studies indicate that parent’s perceptions about the impact of work on children may not necessarily match those of the children. Both studies support the notion that it is not whether parents work but how they work and how they parent that matters. Children cared more about their relationship with their parents than the hours that their parents worked while parents felt they needed more flexibility in the workplace to be able to manage their responsibilities.

Key issues arising from the Lewis study Family and Work: The Family’s Perspective generally support the Galinsky material and show that the issue of the time spent with children emerges as central to how a family functions. Children’s perceptions about whether time spent with their parents was enough or not did not relate directly to whether parents work part-time, full-time or not at all; and parents perceptions about time spent with their children did not relate directly to actual hours worked. Other findings show:

  • It is not only the time spent with children that matters but also the nature of that time.

  • Parents’ views about impact of work on children have an impact on both the parents’ and the children’s satisfaction with time spent together.

  • Children accept the need or desire for parents to work and recognise the benefits this brings, with universal recognition that too much work impacted negatively on time spent together.

  • Most parents (but mostly women) scale back work-life to better manage work and family.

  • Many parents feel that taking up family-friendly provisions had a negative impact on career (perceptions about commitment, lack of promotion opportunities etc).

  • Parents often did not choose senior levels because of cost to family, work-related stress and unpaid overtime.

  • Children generally know about their parents’ work and parents try to teach their children about the benefits, both tangible and intangible, of working.

  • Children and parents believe it is possible to have a strong commitment to work and to family simultaneously where experiences in the two domains can add strength to each other.

  • Nearly all the children indicated an intention to have children of their own and to work either part-time when their children were younger returning to full time when children were older.

Dr Lewis encourages parents to be less critical and less ‘guilty’ about the way they are navigating work and family and suggests that the debate should now focus on how to parent while working rather than whether or not to work.

Feedback from conference participants was extremely positive with representatives, many of whom were from the business sector, indicating that they will be raising work–life balance within their organisations as an issue that should be addressed or supported more specifically, and if possible as a performance indicator for managers.

Other issues raised include the view that work and family balance is being recognised as an issue more broadly by the community and one that it is not solely an issue for women – it also affects men and business. All partners have a role to play in supporting work and family policies and will benefit from doing so. The view that government should make a statement in support of the new directions and play a leadership role in linking the various partners around work and family was raised. Providing education and information about rights and responsibilities in relation to work and family balance was seen as essential in bringing about cultural change in workplaces.
The conference provoked a high level of public discussion with significant media coverage of the Galinsky and Lewis research. It validated consideration of a broader range of perspectives in the debate, and highlighted the importance of parenting and the role of business in achieving better work and family balance. Consideration is now being given to how this agenda can be pursued.
Further information: Kathleen O’Ryan, Family Relationships Branch on (02) 6212 9136 or email kathleen.o’ryan@facs.gov.au


Occasional Paper series

The Occasional Paper series provides information, data and analysis on a range of topics considered useful for government, researchers and the community. Papers in this series are not refereed.

The following occasional paper will be released in early August.
No. 3 The identification and analysis of indicators of community strength and outcomes
Defines community strength as the extent to which resources and processes within a community maintain and enhance both individual and collective wellbeing in ways consistent with the principles of equity, comprehensiveness, participation, self-reliance and social responsibility.

Policy Research Paper series

No.10 The duration of unemployment benefit spells: a comparison of Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons
Reports the results from an analysis of unemployment amongst persons of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin, using the department’s Longitudinal Data Set. The findings show that the difference in periods of time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are unemployed compared with how long other persons are unemployed is quite small. This suggests that it is the overall numbers that become unemployed, rather than the length of time unemployed, that explains the much higher unemployment rate of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
No.11 A meta-analysis of the impact of community-based prevention and early intervention action
Through an analysis of available literature, the report concludes that prevention and early intervention programs do contribute to the promotion of strong communities and to positive social outcomesfurthermore, they do so in a way that enables communities to continue to deal with issues through their own resilience and capacities.

Research and Evaluation Framework

The Research and Evaluation Framework is the department’s key strategic document on research and evaluation. It sets out the department’s strategic priorities for its research and evaluation program and provides the basis for further discussion about the emerging research agenda.
Research and Evaluation Digest 2000–01

The FaCS Research and Evaluation Digest 2000–01 lists and briefly describes research and evaluation projects undertaken or commissioned by the department for the 2000–01 financial year.

The research and evaluation program focuses on the contribution each project can make to the department’s three social policy outcomes: stronger families; stronger communities; and economic and social participation.
The digest groups each research and evaluation project under one of these outcomes. Some projects also contribute to all three outcomes and are grouped as ‘portfolio-wide’.

Research FaCS Sheet series

The following research FaCS sheets have recently been released.

No.9 Australia’s fertility rate: trends and issues

No.10 Income support recipients at June 1999

No.11 A short genealogy of income support payments

No.12 Means testing of FaCS income support payments
Enquiries for FaCS research publications can be directed to email: publications.research@facs.gov.au, or phone 1800 050 009. Research publications are also available on the FaCS Internet web site: http://www.facs.gov.au



OSW National Women’s Conference 2001

26–28 August 2001

National Convention Centre

Canberra ACT
Further information: www.osw.dpmc.gov.au

Creating jobs: the role of government’

6–7 September 2001

Australian National University

Canberra ACT
Further information: http://econsrsss.anu.edu.au/conference.htm

Marriage and relationship education national conference
Odyssey of discovery: dealing with difference’

21–24 September 2001

The Hotel Y

Melbourne VIC
Further information: Marriage Educators Association of Australia

Email: fgiggins@bethany.org.au

Internet: http://www.meaa.asn.au

Australasian Evaluation Society international conference 2001
Consolidate, innovate, expand’

8–12 October 2001

Rydges Canberra

Canberra ACT
Further information: Elizabeth Barber, Department of Economics and Management (ADFA), University College UNSW, Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6268 8843

Fax: (02) 6268 8450

Further information: www.aes.asn.au/3dconference

Email: e.barber@adfa.edu.au

Understanding Youth Pathways: What does the research tell us?

15–16 October 2001

Hilton on the Park Hotel

Melbourne VIC
Further information: www.acer.edu.au

Email: conference@acer.edu.au

International Year of Volunteers conference
Volunteering: real choice, real change’

21–23 October 2001

Grand Hyatt

Melbourne VIC
Further information: http://www.iyv2001.net/conference.html

Generating Service Delivery Outcomes for Aboriginal Communities

24–25 October 2001

Carlton Hotel

Darwin NT
Further information: (02) 9223 2600 or www.iqpc.com.au

National housing conference 2001

24–26 October 2001

Sheraton Brisbane Hotel & Towers

Brisbane QLD
Further information: Emma Bryce, Organisers Australia, PO Box 1237, Milton QLD 4064

Phone: (07) 3369 7866

Fax: (07) 3367 1471

Email: emma@orgaus.com.au

ACOSS Congress 2001

25–26 October 2001

Melbourne Town Hall

Melbourne VIC
Further information: margaret@acoss.org.au

The Second Australian Conference on Building Family Strengths

2-5 December 2001

University of Newcastle

Newcastle NSW
Further information: www.pco.com.au/familystrengths/

Course on the Evaluation of Public Programs

29–31 August 2001, 9am–1pm

Innovations Bldg, ANU

This course will be of particular interest to individuals with responsibility for or an interest in rigorous evaluation of public programs and policies. This course is particularly timely in light of the increased focus on the cost-effectiveness of public policies and recent international developments in the methodology of program evaluation.
Early registration is advised, as seminar places are limited. Places will be allocated according to date of receipt of application.
Further information: spear@anu.edu.au

Panel Data Course

26–28 September 2001, 9am–1pm

Innovations Bldg, ANU

This course will be of interest to policy makers and policy analysts who wish to learn more about the usefulness and analysis of panel data. Availability of panel data from around the world and the recent investments in Australia towards gathering high-quality panel data make this course particularly relevant.
Early registration is advised, as seminar places are limited. Places will be allocated according to date of receipt of application.
Further information: spear@anu.edu.au


Activity Test Evaluation: customer survey
Diverse Care
Parenting Payment Intervention Pilot: an update

ISSN: 1442-7524

Research Strategies Section

Strategic Policy and Analysis Branch

Department of Family and Community Services

Box 7788

Canberra Mail Centre ACT 2610

Internet: http://www.facs.gov.au

Editorial enquiries: Sarah Tink

Phone: (02) 6244 7624.

Fax: (02) 6244 7020

Email: research.newsletter@facs.gov.au

1 Finn D. (2001) Britain’s work-based welfare state: the impact of the New Deals (unpublished)

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