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Family Centre Project

Page history last edited by Social Policy Library 10 months ago

Homepage - Brotherhood timeline  | Service areas - home | Children and Families - home

 

In the 1970s, Brotherhood of St Laurence undertook a radical new approach to working with families on low incomes, to replace the more traditional method of social workers and youth workers trying to advise individuals or families how to overcome their problems. The key was to support families by giving them (1) Power over resources, (2) Power over relationships, (3) Power over information and (4) Power over decision making.
Click here for a quick overview.

 

1971

BSL staff at their annual conference decided "they would attempt to formulate a model for the development of integrated family treatment". [1]  (Magree, C (ed.) 1993, Looking forward, looking back, p.25) Following this, the Family Centre Proposal arises out of "discussions between the Revd. P.J. Hollingworth, Assistant Director of Social Services, Mrs. J. O’Neill, Research Department, Mrs J. Davey, Social Work Service and Mr G. Bull, Youth and Children’s Services". [2] (Benn, C  1972, The Family Centre Project, November 1972 p.2)  

 

General aims and methods for a Family Centre program produced by staff and accepted by the BSL Board (November) [3] (Benn, C  1972, The Family Centre Project, November 1972 p.3)  

 

Social Service Bureau, Creative Leisure Centre and Youth Centre closed to make way for the radical Family Centre project

 

1972

 

Family Centre Proposal: BSL Family Centre Proposal 1972

Family Centre Project Developmental Time Chart,1972

 

In preparation for the Family Centre Project, all BSL Youth & Children's services discontinued and all workers given leave without pay and the option of returning to the new project in October 1972 (four did so). [4]  (Benn, C  1972, The Family Centre Project, November 1972 p.11)  The BSL Open Door policy was discontinued except for people requesting material aid (clothing and furniture).  No new social work cases were taken and staff of the Social Work Service were allocated to the Family Centre. [5] (end of January) ***** (BSL 1972 Brief Outline of Family Centre Proposal, pp .3 & 5;    "These services had been providing material and financial aid as a casework tool". (Fiona Macdonald "Brotherhood of St Laurence Income Support Services - Background" 26 June 1995).  See also Connie Benn "The Family Centre Project - A Dynamic and Evolving Concept" First Report November 1972 p.11  (BSL Library 362.82 BEN) NEED TO DO - Nadine ****** 

 

Planning for the Family Centre Project, aiming to help the family as a total unit, began in April.  The purpose of the project is to work intensively through an activities program with approximately seventy low income families. [6] (BSL Annual Report 1971-1972, p.3).

Family Centre Project head officially appointed (Mrs Concetta Benn - “One of Melbourne’s most experienced social workers”) [7] 

 

Premises for the Family Centre project acquired with the purchase of the old Mission House of the Mission to Streets and Lanes behind the BSL’s Head Office.  This contained a burnt-out hall. [8]  (September)

 

Research worker for the Family Centre Project appointed (Michael Liffman). A grant from the Commonwealth Commission of Enquiry into Poverty enabled the appointment of a research assistant. [9]

 

Family Centre Project, a three year action and research anti-poverty experiment, formally commenced in November with 56 families. [10]  At this time the sole activities were a sewing group and the coffee lounge. [11]

 

Sewing project started as an early part of the Family Centre Project, with mothers of families in the Centre producing clothing and linen for the families and for the Material Aid Service and improving social communication.

 

1973

The Income Supplement Scheme implemented as an essential part of the Family Centre Project.  A minimum needs subsidy was based on the minimum wage and child endowment which was adjusted for the number of parents, the type of accommodation, the number of children and the work status of the parents.  A rent subsidy was based on the assumption that no family should pay more than a quarter of its income on rent. [12] The subsidy was calculated by subtracting a quarter of the family’s minimum need level from the actual rent paid and the deficit, if any, was paid as the rent subsidy.    Support was also available for housing improvements. [13]  (January)

 

Objectives for the Family Centre Project “laid down” in April [14]  

 

Family Centre activities increased to include a Management Committee (with sub-committees) and” a range of social, craft, educational and action groups and activities … developed in response to the initiative of families”. [15]

 

1974

Family Centre Project reaches half-way through the first three year demonstration period, providing “60 of Melbourne’s poorest families with considerable resources so that they can attain power over the social and economic conditions that affect their lives.  The three main resources which are put at the disposal of these families are finance, personnel and a building.  The financial resource takes the form of an income supplement which provides each family with a guaranteed minimum income at the level of the prevailing minimum wage.  Personnel include 18 staff members equipped with varied qualifications and expertise including social work, research, youth work and teaching skills. [16] (BSL Annual Report 1973-1974, p.3;  See also Liffman, M 1974 The Family Centre Project (BSL Library 362.82 LIF)

 

Towards the end of 1974 an intensive training program was run to enable Family Centre members to replace professionally trained staff members, leading to seven family members being employed in the Centre “proving that welfare ‘clients’ are often the people best able to deal with the problems of inequality in society”. [17] (BSL Annual Report 1975, p.1

 

1975

Family Centre Project closes following an examination of the objectives that “resulted in a suggestion that in its second three-year phase, the Family Centre Project should become a community resource and action centre for low-income people in the surrounding districts.  This was the origin of the Action & Resource Centre for Low-Income families - ARC.” [18]

 

Later reflections on the Family Centre Project

Family_Centre_Project_Lessons_Gilley_Talk_1989-7.pdf

Family_Centre_Project_Lessons_Seminar_1987-11.pdf

Family_Centre_Project_Lessons_Gilley_AIFS-Conference_1989-11.pdf

 

 

05/08/2022 

Footnotes

  1. Connie Benn in Catherine Magree (ed.) "Looking forward, looking back: The Brotherhood's role in changing views of poverty" 1993 p.25 (BSL Library 362.506094 BRO)
  2. Connie Benn "The Family Centre Project - A Dynamic and Evolving Concept" First Report November 1972 p.2 (BSL Library 362.82 BEN)
  3. Connie Benn "The Family Centre Project - A Dynamic and Evolving Concept" First Report November 1972 p.3 (BSL Library 362.82 BEN)
  4. Connie Benn "The Family Centre Project - A Dynamic and Evolving Concept" First Report November 1972 p.11 (BSL Library 362.82 BEN)
  5. "Brief Outline of Family Centre Proposal" 15 May 1972 pp.3 & 5 [BSL_Family_Centre_Proposal_1972-5-15.pdf]. These services had been providing material and financial aid as a casework tool. (Fiona Macdonald "Brotherhood of St Laurence Income Support Services - Background" 26 June 1995). See also Connie Benn "The Family Centre Project - A Dynamic and Evolving Concept" First Report November 1972 p.11 (BSL Library 362.82 BEN)
  6. BSL Annual Report 1971-1972 p.3 (no numbering)
  7. Officially took up duties on 17 April 1972 - Brief Outline of Family Centre Proposal 15 May 1972 p.3 [BSL_Family_Centre_Proposal_1972-5-15.pdf]. However Connie Benn had been “sporadically involved in planning the project since November 1971”. Connie Benn The Family Centre Project - A Dynamic and Evolving Concept First Report November 1972 p.12 (BSL Library 362.82 BEN)
  8. Possession obtained in September 1972 - Brief Outline of Family Centre Proposal 15 May 1972 p.3 [BSL_Family_Centre_Proposal_1972-5-15.pdf]. However, the building was not available for occupation until the first week in November - Connie Benn The Family Centre Project - A Dynamic and Evolving Concept First Report November 1972 p.11 & 14 (BSL Library 362.82 BEN)
  9. Connie Benn The Family Centre Project - A Dynamic and Evolving Concept First Report November 1972 p.12 (BSL Library 362.82 BEN)
  10. For the selection criteria see Michael Liffman The Family Centre Project: A First Overview (Family Centre Project Research Report No.1) July 1974 p.9 (BSL Library 362.82 LIF). See also BSL Annual Report 1972-1973 pp.3-4 (no numbering)
  11. Michael Liffman The Family Centre Project: A First Overview (Family Centre Project Research Report No.1) July 1974 pp.1 & 15 (BSL Library 362.82 LIF). The intention had been to be set up in October - Brief Outline of Family Centre Proposal 15 May 1972 p.5 [BSL_Family_Centre_Proposal_1972-5-15.pdf]. Of the 56 families, four had left the project within a year and a further eight were included to make up the proposed 60 families (Liffman, p.10)
  12. Michael Liffman The Family Centre Project: A First Overview (Family Centre Project Research Report No.1) July 1974 pp.46-50 (BSL Library 362.82 LIF). See also Carol Ride The Housing Battle: A study of the housing difficulties of 60 low-income families March 1976 pp.5-6 (BSL Library 301.54 RED)
  13. The Dalpatrick Fund - see Carol Ride The Housing Battle: A study of the housing difficulties of 60 low-income families March 1976 p.10 (BSL Library 301.54 RED)
  14. Michael Liffman The Family Centre Project: A First Overview (Family Centre Project Research Report No.1) July 1974 pp.7-8 (BSL Library 362.82 LIF).
  15. Michael Liffman The Family Centre Project: A First Overview (Family Centre Project Research Report No.1) July 1974 p.15 (BSL Library 362.82 LIF).
  16. BSL Annual Report 1973-1974 p.3. See also Michael Liffman, The Family Centre Project: A First Overview (BSL Library 362.82 LIF)
  17. BSL Annual Report 1975 p.1 (no numbering)
  18. Connie Benn in Catherine Magree (ed.) Looking forward, looking back: The Brotherhood’s role in changing views of poverty 1993 p.27 (BSL Library 362.506094 BRO)

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