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Domain 2
Child wellbeing

i-Connect: Improving emotional and behavioural functioning

i-Connect is an early intervention mental health program for children, young people and their families in East Gippsland who are at risk of disengagement from school, work or the community. The program provides intensive therapeutic case management support. It draws on socio-ecological and systems models in its design and implementation. i-Connect emphasises collaborative and integrated service delivery as well as ensuring accessibility and cultural responsiveness are incorporated at all levels.

The program routinely administers the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), a widely recognised and internationally used emotional and behavioural screening questionnaire for assessing the mental health status of children and young people (Goodman, 1999). The total difficulties score ranges from 0–40 and is calculated by combining the emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperactivity and peer problems scores. Scores between 20 and 40 are considered very high, while scores between 17 and 20 are considered high. Young people’s average pre-test score was 21.39 and their post-test score was 17.84. This means that, on average, the young people in this sample moved from the very high range to the high range. On average, there was a 20% decrease in the total difficulties score for children and young people who participated in the i-Connect program (see i-Connect SDQ average total difficulties score).

i-Connect is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

I like, like you: Increasing social and emotional competence and healthy relationships skills

‘I like, like you: A healthy relationships program’ (ILLY) is a family violence prevention program delivered in schools. It is designed to be implemented as a whole-school approach that promotes the connections between healthy relationships, equality, and mental health and wellbeing. The program’s pedagogical approach incorporates experiential, interactive and didactic activities, to build on students’ knowledge and practical skills. There is a strong focus on enhancing students’ social and emotional competencies in the key areas of self- and social-awareness, self- and social-management and responsible decision-making. Evidence shows that building these areas leads to more cohesive classroom environments (Zins & Elias, 2006), supportive and respectful relationship behaviours (Caprara et al., 2000), increased academic success (Denham et al., 2010) and improved mental health outcomes (Durlack et al., 2011).

Student focus group

In June 2023, we facilitated a focus group with 9 students from year 8 who had recently participated in the ILLY program. They were asked what they had learned in the areas of emotional intelligence, stereotypes, conflict resolution and managing relationships.

The students identified areas such as open communication, self-awareness, respect, self-management and empathy as the most important skills and knowledge they had built over the course of the ILLY program.

‘The program affirms and supports other conversations and activities the students do in the curriculum. [It] gives students an opportunity to have a voice, to consolidate learning about respectful relationships and communication.’

School staff member

Student survey

Students are asked to complete a self-assessment at the start and end of the ILLY program. The survey aims to capture the students’ learning progress in the key social-emotional areas, as well as behaviours associated with safety and understanding of gender inequality. Consistent with previous routine internal evaluations (2020), the 2022-23 surveys indicated improvements in communication and conflict resolution skills, as well as increased understanding of emotions, empathy, and healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviours. The largest change that the students identified was in their understanding of the importance of gender equality.

Staff survey

Staff are also surveyed about how the program meets the needs of their school and their opinion on the best thing about the program. The responses from 2022–23 highlighted improvements in students’ emotional regulation and communication skills. Staff also noted that important topics were introduced in a way that prompted ongoing discussion that would continue after the program itself had finished. They observed that the program was a good fit for their school because it was adapted to suit both the context of the school and the capabilities of the student cohort, and because it could be integrated with the schools’ broader respectful relationships curriculum.

School staff survey

8.6/10 Average program satisfaction
8.5/10 Average rating of how the program met school needs

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