Research project seeks to improve the lives of single parent, low-income families

Thursday, 21 May 2009

29 April 2009: The Institute of Child Protection Studies (ICPS) based at Australian Catholic University (ACU) presented its findings on the day-to-day experiences of vulnerable parents with low incomes, and how they use services in Canberra – today at the ACT Children’s Plan Community Network Forum.

The research project was funded under the Commonwealth ‘Communities for Children’ research program, through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and Northside Community Services (NCS).

The project seeks to improve the social connectedness and capability of vulnerable and hard to reach parents and the safety and life chances of their very young children in Inner North Canberra.

The ICPS conducted research over the last 12 months which included 55 surveys and 20 in depth interviews with parents of young children who described themselves as ‘isolated’.

Keynote speaker, senior research fellow of the Institute and ACU staff member, Dr Gail Winkworth, presented the findings of the research project to 80 service providers at today’s Community Network Forum entitled ‘From Isolation to connection – working with children and families.’

One of the most influential findings was the aspirations of participants to be good parents, to obtain further qualifications to get better jobs, and to find employment which would enable them to increase their financial income; whilst still spending time with their young children.

These aspirations however, are hindered by several issues regarding Canberra’s community services. These include: 

-    The perception that parents cannot obtain flexible child care to allow them to take up opportunities for employment and for future study i.e. no child care services available after 6pm;
-    The inability to feel safe in public housing flats that are commonly occupied by verbal abuse, threats of physical violence and theft;
-    The importance of receiving Centrelink payments and the catastrophic impact of a reduction in payments.

The research further indicated that a significant number of parents (37 per cent) regard themselves as disconnected from informal and formal supports and have a strong sense that single parents are judged by their families, their communities, and the services which are funded to assist them.

This alarming statistic supports the underlying goal of the research project; to increase social connectedness amongst ‘isolated’ parents.

The research findings prepared by the ICPS will inform NCS on how to better facilitate its community outreach services such as public housing, Centrelink, legal aid and ACT Maternal and Child Health nurses to single parent, low income families.