National Community Hubs Program – Mid Year Update 2020

Since the start of this year, 5,861 families connected with a hub. There was plenty of change across the network, with new hubs opening in Playford (SA), Wyndham (Vic), and Casey (Vic), and two hubs closing: Blair Athol North (SA) and Information and Cultural Exchange (NSW). However, the biggest change was, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic that forced us all to ask: how do you deliver place-based programming, when there is no place? Quite simply: you adapt and you innovate.

Connection with families

From early March, as schools started restricting access to hub participants, hub leaders began to explore all the different ways they could keep activities going. The single biggest barrier to connecting with families was technology – including both lack of access and lack of confidence.

The demands of home schooling also had an impact. From off-site to online, phone calls to take home packs, there wasn’t much that hub leaders didn’t try. Social media and telephone calls replaced in person connection in the hub, with most face to face engagement moving to the school gate.

Hub leaders also began to have a critical role in their school’s ability to transition families to home learning. For many, this meant checking in on school families and connecting with parents that they had not engaged with before. Hub leaders also assisted in translating and interpreting documents such as newsletters for families and supported schools by putting together and delivering take home packs for home learning, and food or supply packs (including bedding and clothing) for vulnerable families.

Moving online and to remote delivery

In Term 2, hub programs increasingly moved online, or to remote delivery. On average, online sessions included about 8 adults and 7 children, and covered:

  • More than half of the English classes (505 of 968 classes).
  • Most formal training (90 of 142 classes) and about one third of informal training (93 of 259).
  • About a third of playgroups and early years classes (342 of 970).

Where sessions couldn’t be run online, hub leaders distributed work sheets, activity packs and other printed materials, ran face to face sessions through walking groups or in parks, made phone calls, and sent around videos.

To support this, CHA created Hub Central, an online site with resources to help hub leaders run programs across four key areas – English, Early Years, Health and Wellbeing and Coffee and Chat. An additional How To category contained tips and guidance on using technology and engaging remotely. 92% of our hub leaders used Hub Central in Term 2 to support their engagement with families, with Early Years content being the most used category.

Referrals to family support, emergency aid and accommodation services doubled

Hubs connect with local organisations in many ways, most commonly by either partnering with organisations who deliver services within the hub such as education and training organisations or local health services, or by referring hub participants to services elsewhere.

In Term 1, our hubs worked with 130 different partners. In Term 2, despite hubs shutting down their place-based operations, an additional 169 partners were added – a significant increase on Term 1 and reflective of the changing focus for hub leaders as the COVID-19 emergency unfolded. Many of these were community support organisations, including a noticeable increase in emergency aid organisations and food donation organisations.

Similarly, service referrals increased between Term 1 and Term 2, with a noticeable shift in the types of referrals being made. Referrals to family support services, emergency aid and accommodation services doubled, with increases also in referrals to community health services and financial counselling. Concerningly, referrals to family violence services also increased. Referrals to migrant resource or settlement services, maternal and child health services, and GPs all declined between Term 1 and Term 2. The ability of schools and their hub leaders to shift their focus to respond to the changing – and often acute – needs of their community as COVID-19 unfolded, is remarkable.