Responding to the needs of families: Outreach in the Tasmanian early years’ service system

Service design snapshots
Wednesday 25 July, 1450 – 1500

Presenters

Dr Kim Jose
Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania

Abstract
Many families with young children find it difficult to access the services and supports they need during the preschool years. The Tassie Kids study is examining Tasmanian families’ use and engagement with early childhood services (ECS). This paper examines the role of outreach in universal ECS in Tasmania.

In this ethnographic study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 42 early childhood service providers from the Departments of Health and Education, and 29 families with preschool aged children. Over 90 observations were also made. Interviews and observations were analysed thematically, focusing on outreach.

Outreach was considered integral for addressing issues of inequity in standard service delivery. While all services had the potential to undertake outreach, their capacity to do so and the strategies used varied between health and education services and among individual service providers. Outreach strategies included home visiting, phone calls, transporting families and attending community groups. Outreach activities aimed to connect families and children to the services and supports they needed or address issues of access to early childhood education settings for children. Both service providers and families reported on the positive impacts of outreach activities. Continuity, flexibility and responsiveness were essential elements in outreach activities, while structured service systems, limited skills, personal safety concerns and questions of dependency constrained outreach activities.

Outreach activities are occurring within the ECS system in Tasmania in response to the needs of local families. These activities are impacting positively on Tasmanian families and facilitating access to the early childhood services and supports.