The Western Sydney Kids Early Years (KEYS) Network is the first of its kind in New South Wales. It is designed to align social and health sector agendas to deliver cohesive client services. KEYS relies on multi-sector collaboration to develop a coordinated care model for those stuck in a cycle of disadvantage. The KEYS Network is a collaboration between WentWest, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN), Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) and the Department of Education (DoE).

Debbie*, a mother of two boys, was referred to the KEYS Network by an acquaintance. Her boys are four and five years old, and one has autism.

When Debbie was initially connected with KEYS, she was vulnerable and isolated. She had limited access to community support or health care, and her children were not attending early childhood education services. Debbie had experienced domestic violence in her marriage, alongside experiences of trauma and domestic violence from her family of origin. Debbie had difficulties accessing permanent housing and was reliant on the kindness of a friend, who had agreed to let them stay in their granny flat for a short period. Debbie and her children were about to become homeless. The option of returning home to her family and facing domestic violence was distressing for Debbie.

KEYS learnt that Debbie had reached out to Mission Australia for housing support. Having connected with the Mission Australia caseworker, KEYS identified the charity as the Lead Service Provider (LSP). The KEYS team were able to leverage their multi-agency partnerships and shared knowledge to assist the LSP and family to quickly link with wider service providers, including Centrelink, health and childcare services.

KEYS was also able to help Debbie’s family secure a six-month tenancy through coordination with DCJ Housing and started a Family Plan to help them engage with the right services. Debbie shared that her most important priorities were to respond to the health needs of her autistic son, build connections within the community, and find a secure job.

Through a partnership with Blacktown City Council, KEYS advocated for the boys to engage in early childhood education services so that Debbie could focus on securing employment. KEYS is currently exploring options to empower Debbie to find a job and meet her family’s long term financial needs.

Debbie had not previously received support to assist with her son’s autism. KEYS uncovered that the family was on a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) waitlist, however, their case had been lost due to a system error. Liaising directly with NDIS, KEYS rectified this error and facilitated a transfer to the correct early intervention provider resulting in an NDIS assessment. The family are now preparing for therapeutic supports to commence.

For this family, KEYS has streamlined the process of access to housing, childcare and disability services and has prevented the family from falling through the cracks in the wider service system.

Debbie has expressed her gratitude for having safe and secure housing and receiving coordinated support from multiple services connected via the KEYS Network. KEYS has assisted the LSP to navigate the service system that the family was lost within. Debbie now acknowledges that she feels more confident in being able to access services in the future.

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*Name has been changed to protect the identity of this client