Page 2496 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 August 2017

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As someone who has previously worked in early childhood policy in government and in the community sector, I was always very cognisant of the needs of single parents in my work. We know from the HILDA survey that single parents are more likely to use paid care than couple parents. I led a government-funded project examining the flexibility of early childhood services across Australia. What we found was that the difficulty in finding an effective childcare solution is exacerbated by a range of factors, including single parenthood.

In relation to financial flexibility, a family’s limited capacity to pay may also restrict what options they have in accessing flexible early childhood education and care, particularly for single parents or families with lower incomes. In the course of the project, I visited family day care services that were open late at night, catering for single-parent families, including a single dad who was a policeman working shiftwork and relied on the flexibility that that service offered him. In the ACT, flexibly located childcare facilities are available at our CIT campuses at Bruce and Reid, and we have a collocated childcare service as part of our CCCares model at Canberra College.

Here in the ACT we are making access to support for parents, including many single parents, and their children as easy as possible through our child and family centres. These centres are designed to meet the needs of service users by integrating a range of important ACT government services. Many of the women who come through the intake across the three centres in the ACT are faced with the issue of family violence. Some of the women may have fled their partner, whilst others are still together. Our partnership with the DVCS service via our stepping forward walking group consists of a small group of women who have separated from their partners and are single parents who wish to reconnect socially.

Other services that may meet the needs of single parents are the women’s information office, the women’s health service, Legal Aid, and Relationships Australia through the child and family centres. The Marymead KAYAKS, or “kids and youth are kool”, post-separation service provides counselling to children from four to 18 years of age after their parents are separated and operates from the centres.

And, of course, our fantastic maternal and child health service provides a free public health nursing service through the child and family centres as well in our health centres in Gungahlin, Belconnen and Tuggeranong. MACH nurses provide a range of universal public health services for children aged zero to five years and their parents, including support for breastfeeding and the transition to parenthood, and surveillance of child development during the early years—the time when, we know, development is rapid and dramatic.

We are also very lucky on the south side to have the child development service, which is based in the suburb of Holder and provides assessment, referral, information and linkages for children from zero to six years of age where there are concerns about their developmental milestones. Our developing kids playgroups provide support for families who may have difficulty engaging with mainstream services and are experiencing vulnerabilities, including single parents. They also provide support in the transition to preschool and the transition into school.

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