Summary

The Children’s Headline Indicators are a set of measures designed to focus policy attention and to help guide and evaluate policy development on key issues for children’s health, development and wellbeing in 19 priority areas. The Children’s Headline Indicators were endorsed by health, community and disability services ministers and education systems officials in 2006. Children’s Headline Indicators were defined for 16 of the 19 priority areas. For the remaining 3—family social network, social and emotional wellbeing and shelter—more work was needed to conceptualise and identify the most important aspects of these areas for children’s health, development and wellbeing.
This information paper outlines the process of developing a Headline Indicator for the family social network priority area.

Identifying and defining a Headline Indicator

The process of developing a Headline Indicator for family social network involved:

  • conceptualising the area of family social network; that is, defining the scope, theoretical basis, and main elements of the area
  • reviewing the literature associated with family social network and children’s wellbeing
  • identifying possible indicators through a review of indicator frameworks and reports
  • consultation with key experts and stakeholders.

Through this process, it was agreed that the Headline Indicator for family social network should focus on the quality of family relationships and interactions with wider social environments, with a recommendation that a new priority area be considered to capture relationships and interactions within the family.

There was agreement that being able to get help or support when needed was a strong indicator of quality family relationships with others outside the immediate family. It is therefore recommended that the Children’s Headline Indicator for family social network be broadly defined as the proportion of children aged 0–12 years whose parent or guardian was usually able to get help when needed.

A number of conceptual issues were found that required further consideration in order to report on this indicator, such as the frequency or amount of help, and which sources of help should be captured. To clarify these issues, a more technical definition of the indicator is proposed as the proportion of children aged 0–12 years with at least one residential parent or guardian who was usually able to get help from formal and/or informal social networks (from sources outside the household) when needed.

Next steps

There is currently no national data source suitable for reporting on the recommended Headline Indicator for family social network. Further work is therefore needed to find the most appropriate data collection methodology and vehicle for this Headline Indicator. A large-scale national survey that uses children as the counting unit, and allows disaggregation by state and territory for subpopulations of children (for example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children), is considered preferable.