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9th February 2022 Latest News

Support for children and mothers experiencing homelessness and domestic violence

In a pioneering move, on-site health services could administer vaccinations, prescribe medications and make referrals – reducing the need for hospital visits and encouraging families to seek more timely and targeted medical attention for their children.

A research team led by Dr Yvonne Parry, from the Flinders University School of Nursing and Midwifery in collaboration with UnitingCare Wesley Bowden (UCWB) Inner Southern Homeless Service, found that children attending with their families at homelessness services are often disconnected from healthcare supports.

Dr Parry says their project sought to reduce the rising impact of homelessness on increasing numbers of children in the system within South Australia.

“We think a radical, back-to-basics approach is needed to take health services to children experiencing homelessness, rather than expecting families experiencing the challenges of homelessness to face the added challenge of navigating the health system in a quest for child-specific services,” Dr Parry says.

The Hospital Research Foundation Group is proud to be continuing a vital service aimed at improving the health of children and women experiencing homelessness and domestic violence.

The nurse-led community service has been run by non-government agencies across Adelaide since 2019 and provides health assessments, treatment and referrals for this vulnerable group.

THRF Group is delighted to be providing a $50,000 grant to help it continue in 2022.

The funding will also contribute to a formal evaluation of the service through Flinders University, to help it become established as a permanent service offering in the future.

More than 170 families helped each year

Associate Professor Yvonne Parry (pictured) from Flinders University said the service sees more than 170 families a year, many of whom are at a higher risk of physical and mental health problems.

“Families make up about 66 per cent of the homeless population in Australia, and up to 80 per cent of this due to domestic violence, so there is a huge need to monitor the health and welfare of these vulnerable children and their mothers,” A/Prof Parry said.

“Without access to healthcare such as a regular GP, developmental milestones may be missed and mothers are at risk of delaying their own health needs.

“This can result in detrimental long-term health outcomes such as missed immunisation, physical, cognitive and behavioural developmental impairment and failure to meet milestones. Add to this the impact and trauma of exposure to domestic violence which may result in delays to seeking appropriate healthcare.

“We are hugely grateful to The Hospital Research Foundation Group for supporting this project and helping us move forward to ensure families have access to timely and appropriate healthcare.”

The sites involved in the formal evaluation include:

  • Outer Southern Homelessness Service, Lutheran Care, Morphett Vale
  • Uniting Care Wesley Bowden, Community Centre, Bowden
  • Kurlana Community Childcare Centre, Hendon
  • Torrensville Community Centre, Torrensville.

Access to healthcare for vulnerable children

THRF Group CEO Paul Flynn said the Foundation placed a huge priority on helping vulnerable sections of the community.

“Our supporters tell us that this area of healthcare is very important to them. Good health begins at an early age, and without the very basics in life or a safe place to sleep, there can be long-term impacts on physical and mental health,” Paul said.

“Ensuring these families see a qualified nurse practitioner and receive the right treatment and referrals provides a great first step to preventing them from falling through the gaps.

“We are also a Gold Partner of grassroots charity Treasure Boxes which provides essential items to disadvantaged mothers and children. Early intervention really does help.”