Forum looks to build stronger families in Loddon

Published on 07 December 2016

The Loddon community is uniting to build stronger families and stronger children.

A forum at Serpentine on 30 November has identified opportunities to better support vulnerable children and their families in the region.

A working group will report back next March with actions to help families deal with challenges facing them.

Improving links between neighbourhoods, more after-school activities, improved transport, and sharing of information between agencies are some of the options to be considered.

The forum was supported by the Loddon Children and Youth Area Partnership which covers six shires, including the Loddon Shire. The Loddon Shire is the lead agency in the working group which also includes North Central Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN), representatives from the Department of Education and Training and the Principal of Wedderburn College.

North Central Local Learning and Employment Network Executive Officer Jerri Nelson said there are challenges for families in access to services, leaving some families feeling isolated and unable to get the support they need for their children.

“One in five of our children start Prep developmentally behind, which is unacceptable,” Ms Nelson said. “Where the capacity of parents and family to provide for the safety, wellbeing and long term development of their children is limited, we have an obligation to act and provide support. To do this well we have to work together.” 

The forum looked at what current services are being provided in the Loddon area and if families know how to get that service if there is not a physical shopfront.

Loddon Schools were well represented at the forum, along with child and support service agencies, and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education and Training.

The forum was facilitated to explore local and regional data, build collaboration between service providers and generate ideas that could increase participation and lessen vulnerability for families. 

The working group is looking to explore initiatives that could be introduced in the community and also to contribute to system response changes that would support children and families. The intention is to reconvene in March next year with plans to move from talk to action.

Ms Nelson said one suggestion was to improve neighbourhood capacity.

“We will look at projects to remind people what it means to be a good neighbour and to promote sharing of information so multiple organisations can work more collaboratively and avoid duplication,” she said.
Loddon Shire Council Manager Community Services, Paula Yorston indicated there was a big issue with access to services and connections between communities discussed at the forum “The lack of  transport options can have a big impact on families with limited resources”, she said.

She added that while the region faced challenges, there were also a lot of strengths to build on.

Loddon Shire Councillor Cheryl McKinnon said there were many motivated conversations at the forum.

“We’re looking forward to making changes to policy to get the systems working better together,” she said.

“There are a lot of support services available in one area but not easily accessible by other areas and we need to get collaboration between all agencies to share those resources.”

Cr McKinnon said some of the ideas could be easily and quickly implemented. “We will meet in March to review priorities. Everyone wants it to be based around actions, not just talk.”

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