New ways to support Canberra families with complex needs

13 May 2015

On May 13, 2015 workers from across the ACT community services sector met at a ‘Community of Practice’ forum to share experiences and discuss new ways to work with and support families with complex needs.

The forum was held as part of the Strengthening Families program, a key initiative under the government’s reforms to the human services sector through the Better Services initiative. When we talk about ‘human services’, it means a network of support that is responsive to the individual needs of a family or individual.

There is great awareness and expertise across the community services sector in working with families with complex life situations and what their service needs are.

For example, a family may be experiencing a number of issues relating to poor mental or physical health, financial hardship and finding support for a child with disability. This will involve contact with multiple services.

We know that for support to work well, families need a single point of contact to assist them in identifying issues and to help coordinate the support that is needed.

This is exactly the approach of Strengthening Families. The program works because families have a lead worker alongside them to identify priorities and goals, and to put a plan in place that will help them to achieve them.

It’s a planned and innovative approach. The lead worker can also assist in overcoming barriers that prevent the family from getting the appropriate support and coordinate the different services that will be involved.

The Strengthening Families program has now delivered training to 92 workers across the ACT and has supported 132 individuals requiring a tailored service response.

The forum was an opportunity for workers to get together to share practice experiences and learn about new ways of working with families.

Issues like domestic violence and mental health are far too common, so workers need to know everything they can about working with families where these are factors.

This can be tough but rewarding work. There are always unique situations and the Community of Practice is a chance for workers to share ideas and build networks.

I want to thank the workers in the sector for their willingness to lead this change for our community. It’s their skills and knowledge which are making the initiative possible and will pave the way for us to expand the model in future.

For more information about the Better Services initiative and Strengthening Families program visit:

Here's a copy of the video message I delivered to the event.