The Loddon Children and Youth Area Partnership is currently progressing the following activities and projects:
Our shared core competencies
Breaking the link between disadvantage and outcomes for children is complex. Having high quality, accessible and culturally safe services is key to responding to the needs of children, young people and families who are experiencing vulnerability. In addition to having a responsive system in place, in order to bring about long-term social change, we need to have strong and shared understanding of the drivers of vulnerability. This knowledge needs to be widespread, spanning sectors and reaching leaders, practitioners and the community.
As a partnership we have committed to supporting our workforce, and where possible, our communities, to access vital information that will create a stronger system to drive better outcomes for our children, young people and families.
Being skilful across the agreed four focus areas will assist us to do our jobs better now and ensure we are well informed about possible pathways to reduce vulnerability into the future.
Our four area of focus are:
- Understanding trauma and brain development: understanding of brain science, and in particular the effect of trauma on brain development and behaviour and the impacts that can last throughout life.
- Respecting culture and cultural differences: recognise and respect the cultural diversity in our community and is informed by an understanding of cultural history, difference, strengths, and safety and we use this to inform how we work.
- Promoting social inclusion: including understanding the impact of poverty and other structural barriers to improved health and wellbeing for families, children and young people.
- Sharing information and integrating our services: commitment to the appropriate and open sharing of information and the coordination of services to prevent harm and deliver optimum support.
The partnership has developed assessment tools for organisations to identify policy and learning needs, along with fact sheets and other high-level information about each of the focus areas. Information about suggested training and other useful resources is also available.
Improving outcomes for children and families in the Loddon Shire
Schools, early years services, community and health organisations and government departments have joined forces to work from a shared understanding of the priority needs of children and families living in the Loddon Shire.
At forums held in 2016 and 2017 the network considered local data and evidence about the health and wellbeing of children and young people. This included data about the emotional, social and physical development of children at school commencement and data collected directly from students from years 4 to 9 about their experiences of connectedness and wellbeing. This information was considered alongside data about family violence, school completion rates and the general health of the Loddon Shire population.
The network has agreed to developing priority outcomes under the following four domains:
- Children are ready to learn
- Children are safe and loved
- Children are supported to thrive well physically
- We operate in a strong and collaborative partnership
This work is progressing under the leadership of the Loddon Shire Council, the North Central Local Learning & Employment Network, Department of Education & Training, the Bendigo Loddon Primary Ca re Partnership and the Loddon Children and Youth Area Partnership.
To support shared measurement and strategic learning
The Partnership has agreed on seven headline indicators to measure the wellbeing of children aged 0-8 years across Loddon Campaspe. We will also track four factors that impact on childhood resilience.
Deep dive workshops
The Partnership delved deeper into the indicators relating to the developmental assessments of children at school entry. Data gained through the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) and the School Entry Health Questionnaire (SEHQ) indicates there is an increasing percentage of children starting school experiencing developmental vulnerability across a number of areas, including with emotional and behavioural concerns.
During 2017 the Partnership hosted workshops to gain a better understanding of the local experiences behind the data. Diverse stakeholders including parents, early years educators, community service organisations and community members came together to create a shared understanding of this situation.
Our agreed priority pre-conditions for children to thrive
The group’s direct observations, complemented by further consultation, supported the data. As a precursor to developing strategies the group workshopped the pre-conditions needed for children to thrive, landing on three priority pre-conditions as follows:
- Parents and carers providing good care, including reading regularly to their children.
- Parents and carers experiencing social inclusion.
- Children and childhood being valued.
Loddon’s Commitment to Supporting Families: our shared core competencies will provide the umbrella strategy to collaborate and support the reforms underway to strengthen these pre-conditions and to support children starting school ready to learn.
The best possible start for every child
The Loddon Campaspe Regional Partnership has hosted a number of local consultations and assemblies to hear directly from community members about priority community needs.
One of the priorities adopted by the Loddon Campaspe Regional Partnership focuses on all children and young people getting the best start to life, including those at risk of vulnerability.
The Area Partnership is supporting the Loddon Campaspe Regional Partnership with this important goal with an emphasis particularly on exploring opportunities to improve early years language and literacy.
Healthcare that Counts: Improving care for vulnerable children in Victorian health services
The three Primary Care Partnerships in our catchment (Bendigo Loddon, Campaspe and Central Victorian) have initiated a partnership approach to operationalise the Victorian Government’s framework for ensuring children at risk of vulnerability receive the healthcare they need. A working group has been established, led by the Bendigo Loddon PCP, to map out how we can maximise current and create new opportunities by working together for better health outcomes for children across Loddon Campaspe.
The 'Compact' is a landmark agreement between the Department of Education and Training (DET), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and local government – represented by the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV). The three parties have committed to work together in new ways to improve joint planning, coordination and data and information sharing to better support and lift outcomes for young children and their families wherever they live.
Loddon Campaspe hosted its inaugural Compact meeting on 20 December 2017. Participants considered data, current activities and opportunities related to the three State-wide priorities:
- Increase participation of children in Out of Home Care and children known to Child Protection in early years services.
- Increase the participation of Aboriginal families in early years services, with a focus on Maternal & Child Health and kindergarten.
- Improve identification and referral of children and families at risk of family violence, including implementing additional MCH family violence consultation visit and delivering family violence training.
The Loddon Area Partnership will be using the strong relationships already established and the shared learnings gained over the past three years to ensure the Compact priorities continue to be supported through local, measurable strategies.
Local government early years managers, Child Protection, Anglicare and the Department of Education & Training (DET) have been meeting regularly for 2 years to operationalise the commitments outlined in the Early Childhood Agreement for Children in Out of Home Care and to work on improving early years service access for other children who are also experiencing disadvantage or vulnerability.
Early Start Kindergarten (ESK) is a targeted DET program that provides free or low cost kindergarten to eligible three year old children where programs are offered by a qualified teacher. Due to Loddon Campaspe’s increase in the number of children enrolled in Early Start Kindergarten over a 2 year period, it was one of four sites to participate in a project commissioned by DET and the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) to identify scalable processes and strategies for strong participation in ESK.
The Area Partnership hosted focus groups and provided information to support the project.
Strong participation in Early Start Kindergarten continues to be priority focus for the Area Partnership going forward.
During 2016 the Area Partnership supported Dr Sarah Wise from Melbourne University and Berry Street, in her research about young children in out of home by introducing her to carers in our area. Dr Wise shared her findings with the partnership during 2017. The partnership is currently supporting Dr Wise in a further study into the impact of child placement (into out of home care) on the fertility intentions of birth mothers by linking her with mothers with lived experience.
The Area Partnership is pleased to be supporting the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in its project Restacking the Odds. The Institute is liaising with our partnership to firm up a site within Loddon Campaspe to test and refine a framework it is developing to measure the quality, quantity and participation rates of five fundamental early years strategies. On completion, this new framework will be of value policy makers, philanthropists, local communities and service delivery organisations.
Most Significant Change Training
During November 2017 the Area Partnership sponsored fourteen managers and other staff from across the partnership to complete two days training in an evaluation technique called most significant change.
Training participants were from local government, Bendigo Community Health Services, the North Central Victorian Family Services Alliance, Haven; Home Safe, Anglicare, Murray Primary Health Network and the Departments of Justice & Regulation; Health & Human Services and Education & Training. This provided the opportunity for shared learning and the strengthening of relationships across sectors as the group skilled up in this emerging form of complementary evaluative approach.