Integrated service hubs: Potential outcomes for children and communities?

Year: 2002

Author: Tennent, Lee, Tayler, Collette, Farrell, Ann

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Worldwide, growing evidence attests to the importance of effective early care and education services. Initiatives such as the Early Excellence Centres in the UK suggest that access to, and awareness and responsiveness of community services are enhanced when the services are integrated. It is also possible that service integration has the potential to build community social capital.

This paper presents some of the findings from phase one of a collaborative study between QUT and several government and non-government organisations* into the establishment and ultimately, effectiveness, of two community hubs in Queensland. These hubs are community-driven initiatives funded by the Queensland Department of Families that aim to meet the diverse needs of children and families within a community. The hubs are focused on the provision of integrated child care and early childhood services but also include family support services, parenting support, health services, community activities and education services. The investigation was underpinned by social capital theory. The paper reports on data collected from community surveys (N =143) and child interviews (N = 138) in a rural and urban Queensland locality. Community surveys elicited insights about existing services, suggestions for potential hub services and their perceived benefits. Questions designed to determine levels of social capital were also asked. Analysis of returned community surveys revealed widespread support and enthusiasm for the hub and numerous ideas for potential services and activities. Also found in the rural locality were high levels of community social capital, particularly for the dimensions of community participation, feelings of trust and safety and value of life. In the urban community, however, levels of social capital were substantially lower. Interesting differences were also found between the responses of rural and urban children on several dimensions of social capital.