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 Western Sydney Primary Health Network (WSPHN), 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).

Tamara* is an Aboriginal woman living in social housing with her two children, Caleb and Jacob, aged seven and four. Tamara came into significant Centrelink debt after the birth of her first child, Caleb, who she placed informally in the care of her Aunty for six months whilst trapped in a violent relationship. When Caleb was returned to her care, Centrelink informed Tamara that she owed over $30,000.

Tamara could not determine why this debt accrued so rapidly and was in financial crisis as she tried to meet the repayments whilst also managing rent and childcare costs. The financial strain meant that she was unable to afford preschool for her youngest child, Jacob, and the financial worry was having a significant impact on her mental health.

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) Housing, acted as an Advocate for Tamara’s family and referred her to the KEYS Network for support. A local provider, Brighter Futures was identified as the Lead Service Provider (LSP), due to their experience supporting families with children aged 0-9 years. DCJ worked closely with an Aboriginal caseworker at Brighter Futures to understand and respond to the family’s needs. Brighter Futures was responsible for interacting with the family, helping them develop a Family Plan to prioritise their goals, and providing ongoing feedback to keep them informed.

The KEYS team were able to advocate for the family’s debt to be waived with Centrelink. All previously paid debt was refunded to Tamara, who is now able to manage her finances and meet the needs of her family. Both of her children are now able to attend childcare.

The KEYS Navigator utilised the referral pathway in WentWest, for mental health intervention by facilitating a mental health assessment and treatment. Tamara continues to access regular counselling services to improve her mental wellbeing and has established a positive relationship with her Brighter Futures caseworker.

Tamara and her children now have financial security, stable access to childcare, and the mental health resources to begin the next chapter of their story.

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