3Bridges Community OSHC

3Bridges Community Manager Daniel Emmerick shares how his outside school hours care (OSHC) services have continued to improve and support children’s wellbeing and learning this year.

Could you tell us a bit about your service, and about the Aboriginal Land which your services operate on?

3Bridges Community is a not-for-profit organisation that offers a range of services including 9 OSHC services located across Sydney on the lands of the Darug and Eora peoples. Our organisation has built a reputation of being community focused and having a positive attitude when it comes to accommodating individuals with disability and additional needs. One of our largest OSHC services in Penshurst, situated on Biddegal land, has 10-15% of children with a diagnosed disability.

How do 3Bridges Community services engage with the community?

Over four decades, 3Bridges has established relationships with many families and networks within our local community. The connection to other community services is beneficial when it comes to referral for families that need support with NDIS applications and accessing specialised services. Our service is also part of a network reference group based in the St George and Sutherland area, which allows us to exchange ideas with entities outside of the organisation.

At our 3Bridges OSHC Penshurst West service, we have worked with youth services to implement a mentoring program to support inclusive practices and to empower children. A youth worker and a group of young people visit the Penshurst West service weekly and children with additional needs have particularly enjoyed taking part in outdoor activities with them. One experienced youth worker provided additional guidance to staff, who have seen how greater connections with the community can make a huge difference in children with additional needs. We are now looking to expand this mentoring program across our 3Bridges OSHC services.

What key techniques have assisted your services to connect with families, in particular during 2021?

Within our services we emphasise the importance of having an open and honest dialogue with families prior to enrolling a child with additional needs. The family and the child visit the 3Bridges OSHC service and have an initial meeting to discuss the needs of children and the available supports as a non-specialised disability service. These open and honest conversations address expectations and helps to assess whether the environment is suitable for the child. We also communicate closely with all parties that work directly with the child in order to best meet their needs. Having regular check ins with the school and teachers also helps to inform adjustments to programming within our services. There is also close communication with the team that works with children who attend a school for specific purposes, which may include an occupational therapist, speech pathologist and the classroom teacher.

Having these strong connections has been critical throughout this year, in particular after the lockdown period as we have welcomed back children and families to our services. We continue to work closely with our families and communities to ensure the wellbeing and best outcomes for all children at our OSHC services.

How have you improved the delivery of inclusion services to children?

With the support of the Commonwealth Government’s Inclusion Development Fund (IDF), we have been able to develop and deliver several initiatives across all 3Bridges OSHC services to upskill our staff. Behaviour therapists were on-boarded and visited a few of the services to work with our educators, and offered invaluable support and insight on working with children with additional needs. The funding also went into other initiatives such as engaging music therapists and implementing cultural projects in the community.

Across 3Bridges we have a positive attitude when it comes to engaging children with high support needs. For instance, there may be times when the service may be initially considered unsuitable due to the child’s high support requirements, however, the service can offer the child a trial and often the environment turns out to be adequate. To support our staff we also offer mini workshops with their managers around responding to difficult situations. In addition, we have worked with Aspect, an autism-specific service provider on a training project which delivered numerous training sessions and provided resources to staff.

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