Supporting effective service integration (SESI) in regional and remote communities – Preliminary learnings from Phase 1

Kim Stouse-Lee, Early Start, University of Wollongong, Australia (
Alysha Calleia, Early Start, University of Wollongong, Australia (
Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett, School of Education and Early Start, University of Wollongong, Australia (
Marc de Rosnay, School of Psychology and Early Start, University of Wollongong, Australia (

Background: The importance of integrated service platforms to improve outcomes for children and families has been widely recognised. Existing models of service integration (SI) tend to adopt one-stop-shop, place-based frameworks, however for many regional and rural communities this is not a viable option. In 2018, the SESI project was established to address the uneven access to services that such communities experience. The project established a model of SI that is contextually responsive, encourages collaboration, and utilises evidence-based professional development to build educators’ capacity in areas such as child development, intentional pedagogy, reflective practice and effective leadership. The SESI model positions early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings as a hub for families to access services in an integrated way and to facilitate collaboration between educators, families and allied health.

Aim: To explore the preliminary learnings from Phase One of the SESI project – highlighting the importance of building strong relationships and developing contextually relevant understandings of services (e.g., existing partnerships, gaps or barriers to success, centre culture and staff experiences).

Method:  Phase one of this study involved the collection of exploratory data to better understand the six participating ECEC services and their communities (e.g., population demographics, services access, service gaps, inter-service collaboration). This included the completion of 1) semi structured interviews with integrated service providers; 2) facilitated focus group discussions with educators and directors of each participating ECEC service; 3) questionnaires exploring each ECEC services’ staffing and attendance; and 4) online audit of each geographic area’s allied health, community service and profile presented as a service map.  ​

Results:  A content analysis revealed a number of key themes around community access and support. These included: 1) approaches to familial support, 2) variance in access to health services, 3) gaps in learning opportunities; and 4) intervention access and program atrophy. Effective partnerships were ensured through the establishment of clear partnership roles, communication of project goals and processes, adoption of a responsive and flexible project plan and a commitment to research informed evaluation from the beginning.

Implications for children: We need to understand your unique community to ensure that your teachers can give the best possible support to you and your family.

Implications for families: We understand that families exist within a community that have unique strengths and challenges. Educators want to work in the most effective way to link you to community resources and support you in your role as a parent.

Implications for practitioners: Your knowledge and understanding of your community is essential. You have a pivotal role to play in integrating community resources to support children and families.

Funding: Ian Potter Foundation ($500 000): 2018 – 2022

Key words: professionals’ voices, innovation, workforce issues, wellbeing, education, health, community services, vulnerable communities, regional/rural communities, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, service integration, family support, professional networking, Indigenous services

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: (delete the SDGs that are NOT relevant. Include at least one)