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Exploring need and funding models for a national approach to integrated child and family centres

Deloitte Access Economics explored two critical settings for incorporating integrated child and family centres in the early years system in Australia. This report looks into the need for integrated child and family centres and its interaction with existing supply, and how integrated centres could be funded under a national approach.

While the majority of children and families in Australia are doing well, many continue to experience disadvantage, with stubbornly persistent gaps in child development and wellbeing outcomes. The current early years system is not supporting all children to thrive, with children and families most in need least likely to access the services and supports they need.

However, Australia is poised to embrace new forms of service delivery and supports that can help bridge these gaps. Integrated child and family centres (ICFCs) are one of these approaches. ICFCs are service and social hubs, usually taking the form of a centre that provides a single location for the delivery of a range of child and family services such as early learning programs, maternal child health services, allied health and family supports.

ICFCs offer a uniquely integrated and efficient way of meeting the needs of vulnerable families, underpinned by core features such as wrap-around navigator services, community co-design, outreach and culturally safe policies and practices.

Despite the demonstrated benefits of these models, there are only 209 ICFCs across Australia. Those in operation face a variety of challenges arising from siloed funding, a lack of funding security and the absence of a strategic policy framework.

Within this context, Social Ventures Australia and the Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH) at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have a goal for a national early childhood development policy framework and corresponding service system that provides high quality integrated early childhood development supports to children experiencing socio-economic vulnerability from birth to age six.

As part of this goal, Deloitte Access Economics was asked to explore two elements of a national framework for ICFCs in Australia:

  1. The level of child and family disadvantage across Australia as an indicator of significant need for ICFCs
  2. Options for how ICFCs could be best funded at scale and embedded in the national early years system

The Deloitte Access Economics report finds that there is a strong case for the expansion of ICFC provision and access across Australia. In some cases this is simply about addressing gaps in service provision, with some 700 SA2s identified as communities which would benefit most from an ICFC. In other instances it is about improving existing provision through greater access, quality or breadth of services.

If ICFCs are to realise their potential, a stronger national funding approach is required. With Australia’s early childhood policy landscape is amid a period of review, reform and potentially overhaul there is a unique opportunity to significantly strengthen policy and funding foundation under which ICFCs operate nationally.

Read the report, visit the Social Ventures Australia website for more information, or watch the webinar for the launch of the report.

Exploring need and funding models for a national approach to integrated child and family centres Download the report

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