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Prevention and early intervention in NSW

A wide range of prevention and early intervention initiatives are available in NSW, delivered by non-government organisations and by NSW Government and Australian Government agencies. This section offers a summary of the some of the key programs and services and provides links for further information.

Children’s services

Children’s services include long day care, early childhood education and preschools, occasional care, vacation care, toy libraries, supported playgroups, family day care, mobile children’s services and after school care. High quality children’s services can increase children’s experiences of positive interactions, support brain development, and provide families with social connections and opportunities to access support. Quality preschool makes a significant, long-term difference to educational and other development outcomes, particularly for children experiencing disadvantage.

Communities for Children supports children and families in 52 disadvantaged communities across Australia through building on local strengths to meet the needs of individual communities and creating capability within local service systems. It does this using strong evidence of what works in early intervention and prevention. Communities for children collaborate with other organisations to provide a holistic service system for children and families.

You can search for local children’s services using HS Net.

Prevention and Early Intervention in NSW schools

For many students, schools are one of the safest places in their day to day lives. They have ongoing supervision, support and access to multiple adults, including those with whom they have trusting relationships. Schools communicate an ethos of care and support to all students and provide secure structures such as routines, familiar environments and school rules.

Curriculum frameworks provide for skill development and opportunities for all students to speak up and school governance principles encourage student voice. NSW Education provides child protection and respectful relationships education in every stage of learning from Kindergarten to Year 10.

All NSW Education staff are required to inform principals and workplace managers of any concerns about suspected risk of harm, not just ROSH, to children and young people. Child protection training is mandatory so all staff are inducted and updated annually about their child protection responsibilities.

In addition, school staff have detailed guidelines to support them to identify and respond to problematic or harmful sexual behaviour in children and young people, when behaviours are first identified.

The department’s Child Wellbeing Unit (CWU) provides advice to support schools to identify and implement appropriate local responses to support the child, young person and their family where their concerns don’t meet the suspected risk of significant harm threshold.

NSW Education partners with leading mental health organisations including Headspace, Black Dog Institute and NSW Health to support schools in delivering best practice prevention and early intervention in mental health support.  Through these partnerships, NSW Education is delivering evidence-based programs for students as well as building the mental health literacy of teachers, so they can recognise and respond to children and young people with mental health problems.

The Be You Program provides educators with knowledge, resources and strategies for helping children and young people achieve their best possible mental health.

NSW Health Prevention and Early Intervention

NSW Health deliver a broad range of prevention and early intervention services across a range of areas including alcohol and other drugs, violence, abuse and neglect, and maternal child and family health.

NSW maternal child and family health services provide early contact with families and offer essential services to support child health and wellbeing. Services are provided by skilled child and family health nurses and health professionals, and are available to all new parents in NSW.

The NSW Health Domestic Violence Routine Screening Program is an early identification and intervention strategy to promote awareness of the health impact of domestic violence and provide information on relevant health services for victims.

The NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit (CWU) provides advice to Health professionals on child protection risks, vulnerabilities and responses. In addition to NSW Health staff, access to the Health CWU has been expanded to:

  • workers in Affiliated Health Services
  • workers in Aboriginal Community Health Services
  • all registered medical practitioners, including GPs
  • general practice nurses in NSW
  • staff of private health facilities who provide services to the public on behalf of a statutory health organisation or the Ministry of Health (public private partnership staff).

Prevention and early intervention for Aboriginal families and communities

The NSW Aboriginal Child, Youth and Family Strategy is a prevention and early intervention strategy funded by DCJ that aims to provide Aboriginal children with the best start in life. This strategy focuses on Aboriginal families expecting a baby or with children aged up to 5 years, and funds Aboriginal supported playgroups, parenting programs, Aboriginal family work and community capacity building.

Aboriginal Child and Family Centres provide a mix of culturally safe services and support for Aboriginal families with children aged 0-8 years, including early childhood education and care, parent and family support, maternal and child health and adult education opportunities.

Aboriginal maternal and infant health services are delivered through a NSW Health based continuity-of-care model, where midwives and Aboriginal Health Workers collaborate to provide a high-quality maternity service that is culturally safe, women-centred, based on primary healthcare principles and provided in partnership with Aboriginal people.

The Building Strong Foundations for Aboriginal Children, Families and Communities service provides free, culturally safe, early childhood health services for Aboriginal families with children from birth through to school age. There are 15 services located across NSW. The service is provided by teams of Aboriginal health workers, child and family health nurses, and in some locations allied health therapists.

Prevention and early intervention for children and family members with disability

A disability is any condition that affects a person's ability to perform daily activities or tasks and participate in the community. Disability is more than just a health issue. A person's experience of disability is a complex interaction between their experience of their mind and body and the society they live in. See Social model of disability and Models of disability

A physical disability is any condition that permanently impairs body movement or control. Physical disabilities may be present at birth or acquired.

People with an intellectual disability may need support in a range of areas including education, social skills, self-care, communication, safety awareness and capacity for self-direction.

Parents with an intellectual disability are over represented in the child protection system and when they are involved with child protection services:

  • their cases are likely to remain open longer
  • they experience a higher level of intervention
  • they are more likely than the general population to have reports of abuse and neglect substantiated
  • there is a higher likelihood that their children will be taken into permanent out of home care.

Parents with disability are more likely than the general population to experience a range of barriers. Some of the biggest challenges they face can be overcoming stigma, discrimination, scrutiny and labels about their disability.

Despite their over representation in the child protection system, parents with an intellectual disability can make sustainable change when they receive supports and interventions that are responsive to the family's individual strengths and challenges.

See Australian Network on Disability for further information on disability.

See Healthy Start - Helping professionals support parents with learning difficulties

Re-imagine Australia, formerly known as Early Childhood Intervention Australia, provides support and services for infants and young children with a disability and their families to help their development, wellbeing and participation in family and community life.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides support to children and adults as early as possible to reduce the impacts of disability or developmental delay and to build their skills and independence. For children under seven years, the Early Childhood Early Intervention pathway may provide the most appropriate supports for children with disability or developmental delays.

The National Standards for Disability Services are standards that have a greater focus on person-centred approaches and promote choice and control by people with disability. These are considered critical under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Department of Education provides a range of programs for young children who have disability or learning support needs to promote development and meaningful participation in all aspects of life.

Police Citizens and Youth Clubs (PCYC)

PCYCs deliver a broad range of youth and community activities and support empowering young people through personal development programs in partnership with NSW Police Youth and Crime Prevention Command.

Targeted Early Intervention program

The Targeted Early Intervention (TEI) program, funded by DCJ, aims to deliver flexible support to children, young people, families and communities experiencing or at risk of vulnerability. Hundreds of services across NSW deliver TEI activities under two streams:

  • Community strengthening - activities that build cohesion, inclusion and wellbeing across all communities, and empower Aboriginal communities
  • Wellbeing and safety - activities that support families and individuals, and provide opportunities for personal development such as supported playgroups, counselling, parenting programs and education and skills training.

Key referral points

  • Child Wellbeing Units - the Department of Education, NSW Health and NSW Police Force operate Child Wellbeing Units that assist reporters in their agencies to effectively review the level of risk to children and determine whether a report to the Child Protection Helpline is required. They may also be contacted by their staff about referral options and pathways for prevention and early intervention matters.
  • NSW Human Services Network (HSNet) is a whole-of-government initiative established to support government and non-government agencies and is a key tool for finding appropriate prevention and early intervention services and programs.
  • Family Connect and Support - links vulnerable children, young people and families who are in need of assistance with the most appropriate and available local support services.
  • Existing referral networks - your organisation may already be actively involved with the local service network and have effective links with a range of local services.
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Last updated: 04 May 2021