Whilst Mercy Community Services (MCS) has delivered outreach services to Lowood and the surrounding community for many years, last year saw the introduction of innovative services to expand support to families and the community.
Centrelink contracts multiple agents across the country in semi-rural areas through funded agreements with local organisations. In mid-August 2016 MCS operationalised their Lowood Centrelink Agent and Access Point Service. This affords those in the local community the opportunity to receive support to access computers and front end intake to be assisted with matters ranging from lodging forms to setting up a myGov account to general information and referral. The on the ground support not only offers assistance with Centrelink related enquiries to countless family and individual community members, it also offers clients information about the myriad of other available services and programs of assistance.
Following closely behind the set-up of the Centrelink Agent and Access Point Service, MCS and the Queensland government established their Integrated Early Years and Targeted Family Support Programs in September 2016. The official partnership is between Mercy Community Services and the Queensland Department of Education and Training and the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services who fund the Integrated Early Years’ Service and the Targeted Family Support.
The Integrated Early Years’ Service provides comprehensive service delivery systems for parents and carers and their children. The services are aimed at enhancing parenting skills and capacity as well as child development and well-being. The specific focus is on children aged up to 8 years.
Service delivery is both place-based and via outreach. Programs and activities are offered from the Lowood Community Centre as well as from sites across the catchment such as local schools and child care centres. The Targeted Family Support component of the service is largely outreach with workers attending each family in their own home.
The services offered to families engaged with Targeted Family Support include case management, practical in-home support and group work. Topics covered in groups include parenting courses and information such as Circle of Security. Assisted referrals to other key services are also an integral part of the services offered.
The anticipated outcomes of both services are to increase parents and carers awareness of and engagement with each child’s development as well as their parental capabilities. Increased connections leading to healthy and happy children is the optimum aim. In order to achieve this, ensuring families have access to the right services at the right time is fundamental to the intervention processes offered. The attainment of these aims is enabled through the work of each member of the partnership as well as collaborative relationships with a range of local government and non-government services, schools, day care providers and community groups.
This collaboration operates across two sites in Lowood. The Lowood Hub site is home to the Centrelink Agent service, Integrated Early Years and Targeted Family Support. The Lowood Community Centre coordinated by MCS is home to many organisations and allows for the operation of a placed-based model of service delivery. Partners include: Kambu, Kummara Association, Domestic Violence Action Centre, Anglicare Southern Queensland, Ted Noffs, Open Minds, Ipswich Community Youth Services, Child Health Nurses, Parkinson Support Group, Enterprise Employment and Lowood Women’s Group.
Martin Greller, Senior Operations Manager is enthusiastic about what is being achieved. Of particular note is the success of the partnerships that underpin this key work: “Mercy Community Services appreciates the investment and trust of the Federal Department of Human Services, the Queensland Department of Education and Training and the Queensland Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. It enables our organisation to provide families with access to a range of early childhood activities and parental supports including playgroups, parenting programs, community events and personalised family support. It also enables us to work collaboratively with other services and to listen and respond to the local needs of individuals, families and the community.”
In the short period Lowood’s Integrated Early Years Services have been operational almost 200 parents, carers and children have accessed these supports. At any given time, approximately 6 families access targeted family support and countless individuals access the Centrelink Agent services daily.