Engaging hard-to-reach families and children: Stronger Families and Communities Strategy 2004-2009
This report documents one of three themed studies undertaken as part of the national evaluation (2004-2008) of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy (SFCS) 2004-2009 for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). The study explores how Communities for Children, Invest to Grow and Local Answers projects and activities have engaged clients who may be considered hard-to-reach. Using interviews with key informants in a sample of projects, the report explores the key research questions: w How, and how effectively, have services receiving Local Answers, Invest to Grow, and Communities for Children funding engaged hard-to-reach populations? What challenges have they faced? What would help improve reach and engagement? A background literature review shows the term hard-to-reach does not have precise meaning, but tends to be used in three ways to refer to: w populations underrepresented in service provision w service users (or potential service users) who may be invisible to or overlooked by service providers w service users (or potential service users) considered, for various reasons, to be resistant to services (Doherty, Hall Kinder 2003). The success of strategies that service providers use to engage and retain these three groups of hard-to-reach clients is important to evaluators, policy makers and service providers because these marginalised groups are often the main intended beneficiaries of interventions. It is also important to know who benefits from interventions because programs may achieve their goals by improving the wellbeing of those populations easiest to assist. Programs may therefore improve aggregate wellbeing but may exacerbate inequality if hard-to-reach populations are left behind. Another important reason for studying engagement with hard-to-reach families is to improve program design to meet the needs of the most vulnerable more effectively.