Strengthening support to families: Basing a famfily support worker at a primary school in Melbourne, Australia.


This mixed methods study examines the benefits of basing a family support worker (FSW) at a primary school in Melbourne, Australia. The school has a number of high needs families requiring extensive support from school staff. Pre and post intervention data was collected on the time spent on social problems in the school community. These included managing students with behavioural and emotional issues, providing support and practical assistance to parents with problems and liaising with agencies to access support for students and families. Pre and post intervention Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires were completed by teachers whose students and families were clients of the FSW (n = 8) and compared with non clients (n = 10). Semi-structured interviews were held with FSW clients (n = 6), class teachers (n = 3) the assistant principal, principal and the FSW. Employing a FSW showed a reduction in the amount of time spent on welfare cases for teachers, and therefore a monetary saving for the school. Qualitative data collected from school staff and FSW clients was overwhelmingly positive. Having a FSW based at a primary school provides savings in teacher time, and expenses to the school. Teachers are freed to concentrate on education and the parents valued the relationship provided by the FSW.