WentWest is excited to announce the rollout of the Western Sydney Kids Early Years (KEYS) Network. Over the past month, KEYS has begun taking referrals to connect families in Western Sydney to essential support services. A revolutionary new approach to align health and social sector goals, KEYS is the first network of its kind in New South Wales and is designed to deliver cohesive, coordinated client services. The initiative relies on multi-sector collaboration to develop a family-centred care model with improved case and crisis management for those who require additional support.

One in four children aged five and under in Western Sydney is on a life trajectory for poorer health outcomes. Despite the strength and commitment of health professionals, social services and support organisations in our region, navigating the system can be incredibly challenging for families. The KEYS Network combats this by supporting services working with vulnerable children aged five and under and connecting them and their families to tailored, specialist services, including medical, parenting, psychological, social and practical support. Each child and family member are empowered to establish goals supported by their preferred lead service provider, who acts as a primary point of contact. This removes the stress of liaising with multiple providers, telling their story multiple times and streamlines timely access to holistic services. A networked service system makes it easier for people to identify appropriate services to support families’ goals, meaning that fewer people fall through the gaps and end up in crisis.

Ray Messom, KEYS Project Board Member and CEO of WentWest, says, “KEYS strips away the complexities of the health and social service systems, removing barriers to innovation, encouraging collaboration between agencies and empowering local decision making to improve the lives of these families most in need of our care”.

Promoting collaboration between services and sharing information respectfully and securely between providers, the KEYS Network ensures that no family gets left behind.

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 in 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 to her family of origin 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 was able to leverage their multi-agency partnerships and shared knowledge to assist the LSP and family to quickly link to 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.

The Kids Early Years (KEYS) Network, is a new initiative implemented through the Western Sydney Service Delivery Reform, a collaborative partnership with the Human Services agencies in Western Sydney aiming to improve service delivery to vulnerable people.

The KEYS Network is now live and taking referrals. If you work with families with children aged five and under living in Western Sydney who are not engaged with appropriate services or require a multi-agency response, head to the KEYS website to make a referral: https://wskeys.com.au/

The KEYS Network is also on social media and will be a crucial tool in communicating the latest KEYS information and stories. Follow our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WesternSydneyKEYSNetwork/