Working Paper

Early Childhood Development and the Role of Neighbourhood Hubs for Supporting Children’s Development and Wellbeing in Disadvantaged Communities: A Review of the Literature

Published: 2022

Non-technical Summary

This report reviews the body of research that examines integrated early years services as ‘neighbourhood hubs’ located on or near primary school sites, especially in low socioeconomic areas of Western Australia. This review explores the extent to which research evidence supports the proposition that schools are logical and ideal ‘hubs’ for inter-linked, broadly based early childhood health and education services and that ‘school communities’ offer natural social contexts for the delivery of such services in Australia. Children who experience disadvantage tend to fall behind across various developmental and educational outcomes compared to their more advantaged peers. Factors contributing to socioeconomic disadvantage for young children may limit their access to basic primary healthcare or educational resources. Many of these factors are modifiable at the community or place level through strategies that facilitate connectedness among support services to address or mitigate the current inequity for young children associated with socioeconomic disadvantage. Such inequity can exact substantial social burdens and costs on health, education, and welfare budgets at the societal level. Researchers in the past decade have argued a strong case for investment in place-based approaches. Place-based approaches may offer significant long-term economic gain for nations as they strengthen opportunities for all families and their children. Neighbourhood hubs offer a locally tailored means of reaching families who need prompt, accessible and more effective support. However, many service systems have policies and guidelines that require certain needs-based thresholds to be reached before support may be provided. A neighbourhood hubs approach may present a suitable avenue for greater policy emphasis, especially in places with concentrations of disadvantage where families and parents face additional day-to-day challenges. Such a strategy can support families and children approaching a state of crisis whilst using less invasive, practical preventive and early intervention support services. The responsibility to step-up and lend families/parents accessible, trusting and appropriately tailored support through local hubs is greatest within these localities.

Authors

Ansell D.Cahill R.Clark K.

Partner Organisations

Edith Cowan University, Western Australia

Telethon Kids Institute

Clark, K., Cahill, R. & Ansell, D. (2022). ‘Early Childhood Development and the Role of Neighbourhood Hubs for Supporting Children’s Development and Wellbeing in Disadvantaged Communities: A Review of the Literature’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2022-11. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.