Social inclusion in the family support sector

Social inclusion in the family support sector

Catherine Caruana and Myfanwy McDonald

AFRC Briefing No. 19 — March 2011

Key messages

Social inclusion is defined as the opportunity for people to learn, work, connect with others and have a voice.

Family support services play a vital role in fostering social inclusion and in promoting conditions that allow children to participate in and benefit from mainstream life.

In an ideal form, a socially inclusive service ensures that all people are engaged in its services and programs, as well as acting for social change and working to overcome disadvantage.

Social inclusion frameworks can help organisations think about how existing and future services and programs can reflect a social inclusion perspective.

Socially inclusive practice requires "hard to reach" client groups to be reconceptualised in a way that sees the service as "hard to reach" for some families.

The development of an overarching social inclusion framework for the family support sector may help to make gaps in service provision more visible.

The increased interest in social inclusion and its application to policy and practice in Australia and internationally reflects a shift to a more nuanced view of the causes and effects of disadvantage. A policy emphasis in Australia on social inclusion is based on a recognition that, despite an extended period of economic growth, many families and individuals are still marginalised and excluded from mainstream opportunities in areas such as employment and housing (Hulse, Jacobs, Arthurson, & Spinney, 2010).

While principles that promote respect, participation and equity have long formed the philosophical basis of social services, there is a growing trend to systemise these principles via social inclusion frameworks and strategies. This briefing paper summarises some of the literature and research on social inclusion and considers the relevance of the concept and its application to family support services. Social inclusion frameworks, principles and resources are used to consider how family support services can incorporate the concept of social inclusion into the current and future planning and delivery of services. Barriers and challenges to doing so are also discussed. This paper draws upon and adapts ideas included in the CAFCA Practice Sheet, What Role can Child and Family Services Play in Enhancing Opportunities for Parents and Children? (McDonald, in press).

Authors and Acknowledgements

Catherine Caruana is a Senior Research Officer, Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse.

Myfanwy McDonald is Coordinator of the Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia.

The authors acknowledge input from Shelley Atkins, Relationships Australia, and Samantha Page, Family Relationship Services Australia.

Publication details

AFRC Briefing
No. 19
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, March 2011.
10 pp.

Publication meta

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