Throughout the last twelve months, the social services sector has been in the midst of some of the most significant reforms the sector has seen in both the out of home care and disability services spaces. The changes in the sector have led to a considerable period of change at CatholicCare. This has given us the prospect of new beginnings as well as great opportunities to grow and improve so we can continue to deliver services to vulnerable people in our local communities.
CatholicCare is an agency that provides a diverse range of supports, encompassing early intervention child protection, permanency support programs, disability services, mental health programs and counselling and psychology services. As I reflect on the year I am encouraged by, and proud of, the selfless work of our dedicated team of staff, foster carers and volunteers, every day, in supporting vulnerable children, families and individuals.
The professionalism and commitment of the staff and carers who do this work has been recognised this year as we received a new five-year funding agreement from NSW Family and Community Services for our permanency support program (OOHC). We were also successful in our application to participate in the Safe Care three-year pilot as part of our Brighter Futures early intervention child protection program.
In addition, I am pleased to report that CatholicCare was granted a new three-year funding agreement for our integrated family and domestic violence program in the Manning region. One in six Australian women, and one in 20 Australian men have, since the age of 15, experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner they have lived with, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013). CatholicCare is committed to working in partnership with NSW Family and Community Services, other non-government agencies and the wider community to implement strategies to prevent domestic and family violence, intervene early with individuals and communities at risk, support victims, hold perpetrators to account and provide community education that assists in changing attitudes, social norms and structures that contribute to domestic and family violence.
I would also like to acknowledge with gratitude the dedicated volunteers at the Taree Community Kitchen who have served over 5,000 meals to friends in need in the local community over the last year. The Taree Community Kitchen is a collaboration between church and community that has made a significant impact on those in need in the Manning Region. None of this would be possible without the generous support and donations provided by local businesses from the area every week. For this, I say a heartfelt thank you.
Being responsive to local needs is at the heart of everything we do at CatholicCare. It is our strategic intention to ensure that we have a footprint in each part of the diocese and this intention saw us expand our services in the Upper Hunter with new offices at Muswellbrook and Singleton and a new satellite office co-located in the offices of Holy Name Parish, Forster, on the mid north coast. In addition, we formed collaborative partnerships with St Clare’s High School, Taree, and St Mary’s College, Gateshead, in an effort to provide support and programs to students in these locations.
As we embrace this time of change it seems fitting that we have just finalised our new three-year strategic plan that will take us through to 2020. This plan sees us focus on ensuring that children and young people have a safe home for life, people with disabilities have choice and control over the supports they receive and we continue to seek to provide individual and integrated support services, aligned to local needs.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge and thank the members of the CatholicCare Advisory Board for the ongoing support, advice and expertise they provide to ensure CatholicCare meets its governance obligations and continues the provision of high quality social services in the community on behalf of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.