Having a nurse practitioner on call is a new initiative between Uniting Care Wesley Bowden (UCWB) and Flinders University.
In a first for the South Australian homelessness sector, a nurse practitioner will be available at Marion where children and their families who are engaged with UCWB’s homelessness services will have access to professional and free health services.
The nurse will also be available as an outreach service across the Marion, Holdfast Bay and Mitcham council areas.
The initiative recognises the detrimental impacts crisis and homelessness can have on children and their families who are vulnerable to not being able to have their needs addressed because they don’t have access to health services.
Children who are experiencing homelessness are at risk of disease, infection and malnutrition and not being able to reach important developmental milestones.
UCWB’s homelessness services supports approximately 700 people each year, of which around 150 are children aged under nine.
Fiona Kelly, UCWB Chief Executive, says the service recognises this growing number of children entering homelessness and the impact this has on their physical and mental health. The service will make it much easier for families to access free health care while going through an extremely difficult period on their life.
“Having a nurse practitioner working alongside our social workers will enable us to intervene early to disrupt patterns of ill health for families,” Kelly says.
“In this way we can respond to their physical and mental health needs and assist children and families become physically and mentally well as they re-enter housing and their communities.”
The program builds on the successful partnerships that saw student nurses from Flinders University work alongside UCWB’s homelessness team.
The partnership saw the two organisations work together to build the students’ understanding of the needs of children and families within community services and homelessness settings in an educational program in a community setting.
The program addressed a gap by connecting homelessness and medical services. It provided care, pre and post-natal services, developmental assessments and referrals for physical and mental support, as well as information and referral to other services.
The success of the program led to UCWB and Flinders University winning an award from the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse, the first homelessness service in Australia to do so.
Dr Yvonne Parry, from the Caring Institute at Flinders University, believes the program is an important move towards improving outcomes for children affected by social isolation, and other major issues associated with homelessness.
“This sets an important precedent for other homeless services,” Dr Parry says.