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Opinion: Support services – better together?

3 min read
support services

The question of whether to consolidate complementary support services in a hub or network model is an important one that requires considerable thought and planning. On the surface it seems like a no-brainer to house multiple services that a person might need to access in the one place. However, when these services aren’t well integrated, the people they’re designed to serve can fall through the cracks.

When they work well, hubs and networks streamline assistance for clients and ensure greater collaboration between services to ensure the individual strengths of each are capitalised on. A well-known example is The Orange Door network which has fifteen hubs across Victoria, each providing a range of services including specialist family violence services, family services, Aboriginal services and services for men who use violence.

Personally, I am an advocate for collaboration, and geographically locating services together provides an environment that allows for the greatest possible cooperation and potential outcomes. I’ve also had positive firsthand experiences in my time as the Principal Practitioner of Child Services in Victoria working with different variations of multidisciplinary centres, for example where police, child protection and sexual assault support services are located under the one roof.

It’s not easy to get this model right though. Simply being located in one location doesn’t always ensure collaboration. While it helps, all of the services need to work really hard, particularly in the early stages, to make the arrangement work. For example, serious thought needs to be given to how the different workplace cultures, ways of working, priorities and focuses will be aligned. All of these need to be recognised and acknowledged without losing sight of how to best support clients.

Eamonn McCarthy, CEO of Lighthouse Foundation

Consideration also needs to be given to the different philosophies of the various services. For example, for one service in a hub, parents may be the primary concern when determining actions. For others, it might be the child, as is the case for Child Protection. This needs to be recognised and discussed so that neither option is considered wrong or misguided and they are able to productively co-exist.

Ultimately, it comes down to purposefulness and the services that make up a network. It goes without saying that grouping services together can maximise client access to services, but what if someone needs services outside the group? How is this additional access sought? It’s crucial that clients aren’t forgotten when they need additional support, there needs to be a clear path for referrals and a duty of care that follows though.

Creating a network of complementary support services can be incredibly effective as it increases access for clients and can improve the efficacy of the individual services when they’re working in tandem. However it isn’t a simple undertaking, and considerable thought needs to be given to how the services will work together to create a cohesive work environment for staff, and most importantly, provide much-needed support and positive outcomes for clients.


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