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Part 2: About the Department

FaHCSIA is the Australian Government's lead department in the development and delivery of social policy. According to its Portfolio Budget Statements 2013–14, FaHCSIA's purpose is to improve the lives of Australians by creating opportunities for economic and social participation and building a stronger and fairer society. FaHCSIA's outcomes reflect the seven core areas in which the department seeks to assist people: families and children; housing; community capability and the vulnerable; seniors; disability and carers; women; and Indigenous Australians. The department brings together three distinct streams of administration: a significant part of the payment system; Indigenous affairs; and community services.

FaHCSIA's history dates back to 1941 when the original department of Social Security was established. With the separation of payment delivery into Centrelink in 1998, the Department of Families and Community Services was created. Indigenous Affairs moved to the portfolio in 2006. In recent years, responsibility for housing has moved both into, and out of, the department. Historically, the department's remit was often affected by frequent changes to its responsibilities through machinery-of-government changes.

The department is organised into four functional clusters, led by deputy secretaries who are responsible for strategic outcomes in relation to:

  1. families, women, children, communities and mental health, housing and homelessness, and problem gambling groups
  2. social policy, and disability and carers groups, as well as the National Disability Insurance Scheme
  3. Indigenous affairs
  4. Information management and technology, corporate support, finance and services, operational strategy and performance, and legal and compliance groups, as well as FaHCSIA's state and territory-based network.

FaHCSIA works in four main ways to achieve its outcomes:

  • Payments to individuals through the Department of Human Services and other agencies (for example Age Pension, Disability Support Pension and Family Tax Benefit).
  • Working with the states and territories to achieve outcomes in their areas of responsibility, including disability services, tackling Indigenous disadvantage, concessions, the welfare of children, and housing.
  • Funding a broad range of community-based organisations to deliver a range of local services in urban, regional and remote Australia, including in the areas of family relationships, family support, community-based mental health, early intervention support, emergency relief and employment support for people with disability.
  • Developing, advising on and coordinating policy, supporting ministers in their policy roles by providing advice on social policy, building the evidence base for decisions and policy implementation, and supporting whole-of-government policy coordination for Indigenous and women's affairs.

FaHCSIA employs approximately 3300 ongoing and non-ongoing staff. Of these, almost two-thirds are women. The department strives to be a leader in the employment of people with disability and Indigenous Australians. Five per cent of FaHCSIA's staff has a disability, and approximately 10 per cent of its staff identify as Indigenous.

Around one-quarter of FaHCSIA's workforce is located outside of Canberra in the network of state and territory offices and Indigenous Coordination Centres, which include the integrated Regional Operations Centres. Government business managers and Indigenous engagement officers are also part of the state and territory-based network.

In 2013–14, the department's net portfolio resource allocation is $89.88 billion. Of this, $730.89 million is for departmental appropriation; $1.78 billion is for administered expenses for outcomes 1 to 7 (including payments to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act bodies to cover government programs); and $84.767 billion for special appropriations (including demand-driven social security payments and inter-governmental agreements). The remaining $2.61 billion is made up of other services, special accounts and adjustments to appropriations.

High levels of employee satisfaction are evident in FaHCSIA's 2013 State of the Service Report (SoSR). Based on the SoSR results, the department has identified specific areas for attention including departmental processes (handling of grievances), workload management and management of underperformance. FaHCSIA's results found that only 41 per cent of staff had confidence in the processes the department uses to resolve employee grievances and only 17 per cent of staff was satisfied that underperformance was dealt with effectively (18 per cent is the Australian Public Service (APS) average).

In a number of areas FaHCSIA's SoSR results were above the APS average. For example, 83 per cent of staff enjoy their current job (6 per cent higher than the APS average ), 70 per cent of staff are satisfied with the recognition they receive for doing a good job (14 per cent higher than the APS average), 79 per cent of staff agree that people in their work group are honest, open and transparent in their dealings (5 per cent higher than the APS average) and 72 per cent of staff would recommend their department as a good place to work (10 per cent higher than the APS average).