Life around here: Community, work and family in three Australian communities

Life around here: Community, work and family in three Australian communities

29 March 2012

Living in areas of geographic disadvantage can impact on families in many ways. Local services play an important role in supporting these families, yet little is known about how they engage with, and how satisfied they are with, these services.

The Life Around Here study examined this issue by focusing on three Australian communities that were identified as being socially and economically disadvantaged.

Many families expressed satisfaction with their local community services and felt they provided much needed family support in their local area. These services include (a) family- and welfare-related services, and (b) community resources such as schools, transport, police and local sporting facilities.

In particular, community hubs that provided a range of services were highly valued. Access to computer equipment, leisure programs, legal advice, emergency relief or food banks was considered crucial for many participants. Early childhood centres and financial advice also provided some families with a means to deal with more pressing family concerns.

For families with employment, local services were considered vital. Working mothers needed to access childcare services and some people with a disability required extra support to sustain their work.

Study participants also highlighted a number of gaps in local services. In some cases this meant that families needed to access services outside of their local areas. For families experiencing high levels of disadvantage this was not always easy.

Public transport was an important issue for jobless families without access to local services. For some with multiple and complex needs, unreliable public transport further restricted access to childcare, schooling or medical facilities.

Many families perceived safety issues and low levels of police presence in their community to be a concern. Several participants noted that they had observed drug deals and violence in their local areas. Such activities were often blamed on a lack of programs and facilities for youth to engage in more constructive pastimes.

Feeling unsafe lead to a reluctance to work night shifts or to participate in community activities for people who had to rely on public transport. Some participants had suggestions to improve safety in their communities, such as the provision of lighting in unsafe areas.

Families also suggested they would like to see a number of other services in their communities. These included services for young parents and child related services that were welcoming to fathers.

This research has contributed to our understanding of the ways that families interact with services and identified a number of service gaps that exist within specific communities. The information may assist services in their work with families in disadvantaged communities.

This is a summary of Chapter 6 of Life around here: Community, work and family life in three Australian communities.

Comments

not to mention employment services! people that really struggle in these communities are often breached for reasons out of their control (like unreliable transport and failing to attend an interview while trying to get their kids into care etc)... this only makes their situation worse.. the job network needs to connect with other services to get a better picture of what these people struggle with!
eric austrada
Good morning Eric, and thanks for your comment. You might find Chapter 8 of the Life around here report interesting food for thought - it considers participants' accounts of the factors that influence whether or not they are in paid employment. http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/resreport19/rr19i.html
Ken Knight

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