In the beginning there was …….
The Albury Wodonga Regional Council for Social Development. This organisation had a range of functions; one of them was to support community groups in establishing specific projects to ensure that the social needs of the Albury Wodonga community were met. One of the sub-programs had a specific youth focus and in 1977 a person was employed to research needs for young people – the main objective at that time being to establish a ‘self-help’ employment agency for young people.
In 1978 the Regional Council was dissolved, but residual funds from this body were passed onto Albury Wodonga Community Action, which was formed to continue the work of establishing community-based projects. The need for emergency accommodation for young people was becoming apparent – a Youth Accommodation sub-committee was formed; it researched need and wrote submissions to both the New South Wales and Victorian governments of the day seeking funding for youth accommodation programs.
In 1979 funding for two programs was approved. Firstly, the New South Wales government provided funding for the establishment of the Albury Youth Refuge. Initially employing one worker, the Refuge was located in central Albury and provided accommodation for up to 8 young people aged 12-18 years. During the next few years further submissions for funding were successful and by 1982 the Refuge employed 4 workers.
The other program established at this time was the Reserved Bed Scheme in Wodonga – which employed a worker to recruit and train host families to offer emergency accommodation in their own homes. This was the origin of the Albury Wodonga Accommodation for Youth (AWAY) program, which was the only Victorian based program for this organisation. (In 1994, it was decided that it was more appropriate for the service to be auspiced by a Victorian agency, AWAY was wound up and a new body Wodonga Accommodation & Support for Youth (WASPY) was formed under a Victorian auspice).
During the early 80’s it was increasingly difficult for Community Action to manage the programs it was helping to establish. A sub committee was formed to investigate the creation of a separate organisation to manage the youth-based services and on 22nd July 1983, Albury Wodonga Youth Emergency Services Ltd was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
During 1983, workers at the Refuge perceived an increased demand for Counselling and ongoing support for young people, who whilst not ‘homeless’ were at risk because of personal issues. Further lobbying and submission writing resulted in the formation of the Adolescent Family Counselling Service in 1985. AFC was swamped with demand for both Counselling and for programs to assist young people making the transition to independent living. In 1988/89 the Day Program Project was funded to employ a part-time worker to establish and facilitate support programs for adolescents at risk of becoming homeless.
In 1991, the Refuge successfully applied for funding for a new program to offer medium term supported accommodation for young people, in a block of flats provided by the NSW Department of Housing. This was the creation of the Supported Accommodation for Independent Youth (SAIY) which in 2000 became known as the Mainstay program.
As the organisation continued to grow, the responsibilities of the volunteer Board of Directors became more onerous. Legal requirements of the Australian Securities Commission, funding bodies, employees etc, had to be met, whilst continuing to seek additional funding, participating in state-wide peak bodies and operating some very demanding programs on a day to day basis. In 1986 a part-time book-keeper was employed and by 1989 one of the Refuge staff was granted extra hours to co-ordinate the other programs. However, this too became insufficient, and in 1996 an Administrator was appointed to oversee legal and financial responsibilities, as well as providing a central contact point for the increasing number of services provided. Within 2 years this position became that of Executive Officer.
In 1998, the organisation successfully tendered to provide services to young people through the NSW Wood Royal Commission Accommodation and Support Service. The Stay Safe program provided support services to clients of the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice who were at risk of homelessness. YES delivered the Stay Safe program in Albury, Wagga, Dubbo, Orange and Parkes.
The Interconnect program was funded in 2000, initially in partnership with Youth Access & Support Services, a Wodonga (Victoria) based service. The program provided intensive support and foster care for young people aged 11 to 17 years, who were clients of the Dept of Community Services. Specialist foster carers were recruited, trained and supported from within the Albury / Wodonga community to provide accommodation and support for young people with high and complex needs. In 2005, following an internal evaluation of the program, and the determination of an organization-wide strategic direction, YES voluntarily withdrew from providing this service on the basis that the client group would be better served by a larger, more experienced foster care provider.
Throughout the more recent history of YES the organisation has taken the opportunity to develop, implement and market a number of fee for service programs which meet a need in the community. The Extra Care program was delivered over a six year period (1999 to 2005), to provide transport and supervised access services to children who are clients of DoCS. The Family Mentoring Program was delivered during the period 2002 to 2005 to give children and young people an opportunity to have one-to-one support in a recreational setting.
A strategic planning process undertaken in 2001 highlighted a need to further integrate the YES services and position the organisation for future growth and longer term sustainability. As part of this process the organisation changed its trading name in 2002 to YES Youth & Family Services to more adequately reflect the broad range of services offered to young people and their families. In accordance with this plan also, a Development Officer was appointed in 2004 to raise the profile of the organisation within the wider community and undertake fundraising activities to address identified service gaps and resource issues.
2004 also saw the securing of a commonwealth funding contract for the delivery of JPET (Job Placement Employment and Training) services for young homeless (or at risk) people on both sides of the Victorian / NSW border in the communities of Albury, Wodonga and surrounds. The YES/JPET service was complimentary to the other YES services and had greatly enhanced the organizations capacity to meet client need. Further funding contracts for JPET were secured which saw YES delivering this vital program through until 2010 when the JPET program was dissolved as a result of the new Jobs Services Australia Commonwealth Initiative.
2006 saw the establishment of the Youth Pathways Program within YES. Formerly the Jobs Pathways Program, Youth Pathways is part of the Commonwealth Government’s Career Advice Australia Initiative and focuses on assisting young people who have multiple barriers that place them at high risk of not completing their education or making a successful transition to further education, training or employment. The Youth Pathways Program came to an end in 2010 and YES was successful in securing a contract for the delivery of the new Youth Connection Program. Youth Connections is also aimed at assisting young people to complete their education and secure a sustainable employment pathway. The program is delivered throughout the Central Murray region of NSW with YES delivering services in the eastern part of the region and subcontracting to Vinnies Services Deniliquin for delivery of the service in the western part of the region.
Following our successful tender bid to the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice, the Employment Skilling Program was commenced under the YES banner in May 2007. Delivered primarily in Wagga Wagga, ESP supported young people on a flexible outreach basis for up to 12 months to access and maintain appropriate cultural, recreational and educational/vocational programs.
In 2013 the NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice, Juvenile Justice introduced the Joint Support Program. This program replaced the StaySafe and Employment Skilling Programs. YES now deliver the Joint Support Program in Albury and Wagga Wagga and well as subcontracting the program to Vinnies Services Deniliquin and Southern Riverina Youth Support Services in Griffith. The Joint Support Program is for young people who are under the supervision of Juvenile Justice and who have been assessed as having a medium to high risk of re-offending. YES work in close partnership with Juvenile Justice to support young people in their transition into the community from custody or to maintain their community support upon exit from Juvenile Justice supervision. The Program also addresses homelessness by providing a supported accommodation service that is flexible and tailored to meet individual needs of clients. Young people are supported to access crisis accommodation and long term accommodation as required. Through the Joint Support Program YES aim to reduce the rate and seriousness of re-offence through the provision of broad and individualised interventions and support services that assist young people to re-engage with their community and lessen the likelihood of them re-offending.
Our Strategic Plan has continued to guide our efforts during 2013 and the development and implementation of our Results Based Accountability has been a significant step forward in achieving our strategic ends. The development of the framework involved Directors and staff and when fully operational will allow us to track the difference we are making in our community and in the lives of the people that utilise our services. We have commenced measuring both the quantity and the quality of our service provision as well as the outcomes we are achieving. We are extremely grateful to Lyn Harrison, CEO of Rosemount Good Shepard Youth & Family Services, and her staff for providing coaching and mentoring during the development and implementation of this exciting program. Our recent Client, Stakeholder and Staff surveys have provided us with some great baseline data and we look forward to undertaking further work to develop our skills in analysing and reporting the data we are collecting so as we can use it to shape our services into the future.
YES Youth & Family Services celebrated 30 years of service delivery in 2013. The organisation is well placed to provide additional services in the future, with a sound administrative base and a long history of service delivery to the Albury Wodonga community.
An enormous and exciting year of growth was achieved by YES in 2014. The NSW Department of Families and Communities (FACS) rolled out the Going Home Staying Home reforms to Specialist Homelessness Services in NSW. YES was successful in its tender bid to become the lead agency of the Southern Murrumbidgee Network Homelessness Service, named the Homeward Alliance.
The Homeward Alliance includes the following organisations:
- YES Youth & Family Services
- St Vincent de Paul Society
- Homes Out West
- Woomera Aboriginal Corporation
In partnership, the Homeward Alliance delivers homelessness services in the Southern Murrumbidgee district incorporating the LGA’s of Albury, Greater Hume, Jerilderie, Murray, Berrigan, Urana, Wakool, Conargo, Corowa and Deniliquin.
The Alliance will respond to a range of client groups including: men, women, youth, families, women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal people and people who are chronically homelessness or with complex needs. Homelessness support services will provide a comprehensive range of responses including early intervention, rapid rehousing, crisis and transitional accommodation, and intensive responses for people with complex needs.
All orgnaisations within the Homeward Alliance are committed to a system that prioritises collaborative and holistic practice. Support services will reflect our understanding of ‘what works’, will be grounded in current research/literature and outcomes/evidence and will achieve the Alliance’s long held vision of a genuinely ‘no gaps’, ‘no wrong door’, ‘wrap around’ service system that breaks the cycle of homelessness and reliance on homelessness services.
As part of the new Specialist Homelessness Services Contract, YES took on the management of Betty’s Place Women’s Refuge in Albury during September 2013. Improvements to service delivery since that time have included the conversion of additional space into crisis accommodation which increases our capacity to support women and children escaping domestic violence.
The 2014 federal budget did not allocated funding to continue the delivery of the highly successful Youth Connections Program past 31 December 2014. This was very disappointing for YES and all stakeholders across the country who had been delivering this highly successful and essential program for the previous five years. YES actively lobbying and advocated to Ministers and Senators of Parliament for the 2014 budget to include ongoing funding for the Youth Connections Program. Unfortunately the funding was not provided and Youth Connections finished at the end of 2014.
In December 2014 YES was successful in its tender bid to deliver the new NSW Government Department of Education and Communities Links to Learning Program during 2015. In collaboration with partner schools: Albury High, James Fallon High and Murray High, YES will deliver an intensive, evidence based Transition Links program that supports student’s to make a healthy and positive progression from Primary School into a Secondary School context. Recognising the significant challenges that this transition presents for some students Transition Links will target students identified by learning support teams within the participating primary schools, as at risk of disengaging, disengaged or lacking the appropriate skills to cope with this transition.
YES has previously piloted this program under the former Youth Connections program, refining it to align with local school needs with evaluations and feedback from both students and schools demonstrating the success of the program as well as measurable improvements to students wellbeing achieved.
Since Albury Wodonga first started advocating for a local headspace centre, YES has provided its support to the cause, recognising the need for young people in our area to have increased mental health services. As part of the setup of headspace Albury Wodonga during 2014 YES were part of the over-arching Consortium and continue to offer support by providing outreach services from the Wodonga headspace site on a weekly basis. This arrangement strengthens the ongoing collaborative relationship between YES, Gateway Health and headspace Albury Wodonga.
Yet another area of expansion occurred during 2014 with NSW Department of Families and Community Services providing funding to YES to manage The Place Youth Centre. The Place had recently relocated to the old Lavington Library building on Griffith Road in Lavington and when YES accepted the funding a strategic decision was also made to sign a lease agreement for the Griffith Road building in order to continue providing a youth focused centre in Lavington. The Place is a satellite site of YES and we aim to develop our service delivery from this location, roll out some exciting and innovative projects as well as increase broad community engagement and connection with the building to utilise its enormous potential to become a community hub.
Stay tuned to continue the journey of YES’ history as we continue to grow and achieve exciting new things in 2015…………….