Capacity Building and Service Delivery of Relationship Support in Australia
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Due to concern about strengthening families and reducing relationship breakdowns, marriage and relationship support is currently attracting attention and increased funding from the Australian federal government. This paper provides an analysis of the capacity to deliver marriage and relationship education programs (MRE) in diverse governance arrangements. A public policy question concerns how these programs may assist in sustaining stable families. Governments face a range of challenges that lead to dilemmas of dispersed policy capacity. This paper examines the capacity problems that policy makers confront in relation to delivering MRE programs. Initiatives to strengthen relationships are premised on bringing service providers into government to improve capacity. There are three major concerns in this service delivery area: implementation, evaluation and moving into the private sphere. First, a range of difficulties concern implementation because policy capability is diffuse, located in numerous organizations with different clients with diverse needs. This raises questions about how to coordinate and deliver services effectively. Second, there are problems of evaluation as rigorous assessment of services in the field is rare. Policymakers have insubstantial data about the value of the programs and insufficient capacity to evaluate them. Third, policy makers are targeting matters of the heart, which raise sensitive issues that impact on capacity. Governments cannot force couples to participate or engage with MRE programs because many people regard their relationships as private. Delivering MRE is particularly challenging because it attempts to use preventive strategies at a positive stage in people's relationships when they are not confronting problems. Overall government's capacity is restricted and is not operating directly on the front line. Apart from funding particular organizations and administering the programs, therefore, governments may have limited leverage to manage the MRE programs on offer.
2008 IPAA National Conference Papers
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Policy and Administration not elsewhere classified