Presentation - ECV2022-291
Background: Families want to provide their children with out-of-home opportunities to support their development before school; however, navigating systems and finding service information can be challenging, particularly for newly-arrived families.
Aim: To increase knowledge and access of local services, through upskilling passionate and well-connected community members.
Method: A desktop review of existing peer worker models, as well as investigation of community appetite. Three key phases were then undertaken, influenced by the “boundary spanning community connectors” model; identify, connect, and enable.
- Identifying comprised the wide promotion of this opportunity, as well as targeted approaches by a community engagement officer. Subsequently, 10 community members from six cultural backgrounds formally submitted an expression of interest and were engaged in the role.
- Connecting included introducing the Community Champions to each other, as well as to Merri Health and the Ready, Set, Prep! program. Importantly, expectations of both parties were outlined, and the community engagement officer conducted regular group and individual check-ins to support relationship-building.
- Enabling involvedregular training opportunities, offered by Merri Health and other providers. Community Champions were also invited to participate in community engagement activities.
Results: All 10 Community Champions were retained over this period and reported sharing information with over 2,000 community members per quarter. There have also been benefits for the health and wellbeing of their own family, including increased confidence and skills, and employment. Community Champions have also been recognised as leaders within the community; they have been approached to participate in consultations and are looking to start community-led projects.
Conclusions: Supporting community members to become Community Champions has resulted in increased knowledge and leadership capacity within the community. This has provided an opportunity for families to access services and work in partnership with services to address gaps in the system for improved outcomes for children and families.
Implications for children and families: Word of mouth can play an important role in improving service access. By talking to your social connections, you may learn about new services for you and your family.
Implications for practitioners: Strengthening relationships with community members can support service access, benefitting both service providers and community members. This can occur through information sharing, as well as consultation for service improvement.
Funding: Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Victorian Department of Health
Key words: families’ voices, innovations, wellbeing, communication, health, community services, vulnerable communities
This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: