For many decades all Australian states and territories have provided universal services for children and families. Participants in the consultations conducted to develop the Framework acknowledged the value of implementing a national framework for child and family health services. However, service system and workforce constraints were identified as significant challenges that have resulted in some inconsistency and potential fragmentation of universal child and family health services across Australia.
Barriers to accessing services include availability of services, lack of awareness of the service, cultural appropriateness, lack of trust, cost, language, distance from the service and lack of transport.
Challenges in implementing a national framework:
- Perceived lack of awareness among the public as well as other service providers about child and family health services, the purpose and accessibility as well as the importance of taking a population approach to well child health.
- Workforce shortages in most jurisdictions in Australia. This was of particular concern in rural and remote locations across Australia and outer metropolitan areas in some jurisdictions.
- Inconsistency in the baseline education/qualifications of the child and family workforce.
- ‘Professional Territory/Boundaries’ were reported to be a barrier to effective collaboration. For example, in the early postnatal period midwives, CFHNs and general practitioners may all be providing care and this may result in tension between professional groups.
- Limited mechanisms for sharing information and linking data about children and families across professions, services and government agencies and this hinders effective communication and collaboration.
Strategies and opportunities to implement the framework include:
- Provide mechanisms for universal child and family health services to be located alongside other early childhood education, care and development services.
- Work with stakeholders to establish locally-relevant referral pathways for children and families.
- Develop mechanisms to ensure collaboration between universal child and family health service providers such as CFHNs and GPs is supported with clear service pathways to ensure that GPs and CFHNs facilitate access for families to more specialised support when that is required.
- Build partnerships with non-government organisations to increase continuity of support for families and communities.
- Develop core or generic national competency standards for all professionals who work with children and families.
- Develop minimum standards of education and a nationally consistent set of competency standards for CFHNs.
- Deliver relevant training and education for professionals providing child and family services particularly identifying opportunities for interprofessional learning.
- Build/strengthen the capacity in the child and family health workforce particularly in leadership and interdisciplinary practice.
- Establish information technology systems to support collaboration and communication of information between universal child and family health services and other professionals and services, including the potential to develop an electronic national child personal health record.
- Work towards a comprehensive national minimum data set and a national data collecting system to enhance reporting on service performance and child and family outcomes.