For regional families, this UnitingCare service is a lifeline
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > UnitingCare’s Remote Family Care Service offers regional families a change to access ECEC

UnitingCare’s Remote Family Care Service offers regional families a change to access ECEC

by Freya Lucas

March 27, 2023
Image shows a large wooden barn.

Educator Agnes “Aggie” Mason is in a unique early childhood education and care (ECEC) role that sees her visiting with families to provide education and care. 


Her program is available to anyone who can’t access a similar service within 40 kilometres, with exceptions for people dealing with health or disability issues. Offered by UnitingCare, the service has four educators who travel around Queensland, servicing 29 families. 


Recently the Donaldson family, who live on a cattle station outside of Emerald, in Queensland’s Central Highlands, shared their story of working with the service with the ABC. For their young daughters, Ayla who is three years old, and Ruby, who is one, the service offers a glimpse into the world of early education. 


Ms Mason was with the family for two weeks, helping the children to learn through play, and engaging with activities and inspiration from around the property. 


UnitingCare’s Remote Family Care Service (RFCS) is partly funded through the Department of Social Service, which makes it ineligible for the federal Child Care Subsidy. UnitingCare instead uses a sliding-fee scale which it says makes it comparable to what families would pay if they were receiving the subsidy at other early education services.


Ms Mason has been with the organisation for just over a year, and in that time she has visited 12 families, for two weeks at a time, right across Queensland and is now on her second rotation.


The children, she said, get really excited about having someone come to spend one on one time with them, with the remote educators often arriving loaded with boxes of arts, crafts materials and plenty of ideas for activities.


Fellow educator Janette Birch has been in the role for more than 25 years, and is now on her second generation of working with some families, describing her unique role as “a gift”.


“It is a really big thing, learning new outcomes, because a lot of these children haven’t had access to a normal childcare centre before, [like] their city cousins,” she told the ABC.


The service is a gift for parents too, many of whom are used to working with children in tow and underfoot. Having care means that some of the jobs on the properties which are too dangerous to do with children present can finally be attended to. 


Aside from the opportunity to work in unique locations, Ms Birch loves her role because of the connections she’s able to make. 


“It’s not just for the families. It’s also for the communities, because I’ve been in it such a long time, I’m a comfort,” she said.


Learn more about the unique RFCS service here. For the original coverage of this story, see here. 

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