Government changes to early intervention services for children with a disability are leaving Hawkesbury kids behind, according to Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman.
A round table with Ms Templeman, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services, Linda Burney, and Hawkesbury-based early childhood education providers, found under the changes, some children could start school without receiving the early support they need.
The round table participants found that local children are waiting up to 18 months for early intervention assessments and services, following changes to the support system.
Ms Templeman said she facilitated the meeting after local preschool directors voiced their concerns about the long delays in the Hawkesbury.
“Directors are concerned that some children who do not qualify for the National Disability Insurance Scheme now are receiving no support at all, thanks to NSW Government funding cuts, and long waiting lists at NSW Health,” Ms Templeman said.
“These Directors care deeply that the children they are educating and getting ready for school be given the best possible start. And for too many children with additional needs that is simply not happening at present.
Ms Templeman said the roundtable heard from a mother about the “interminable wait for support” that she had faced for her two-year-old son.
Parents and preschool directors said they were waiting as long as 12 to 18 months for speech and early intervention assessments through NSW-run Community Health.
“We heard many stories of how the changes are causing children to fall through the cracks – some who would qualify for assistance under NDIS, and others who need intervention
services and supports for behavioural issues not covered by the NDIS,” Ms Templeman said.
“When you’re talking about a 3 or 4 year old child, that means they may not see someone for help until they’re ready to start school. That’s too late. It’s an unacceptable situation.”
Ms Burney said that early intervention was crucial to enabling children with a disability to live life to their fullest potential, and the federal and NSW governments had dropped the ball on access to early intervention in the Hawkesbury.
She said Labor would scrap the Government’s arbitrary staffing cap on the NDIA which was “stifling the planning process”.
“Families shouldn’t have to wait in uncertainty and anxiety to get the support they need for their children,” Ms Burney said.
“Labor will ensure participants are placed at the centre of the planning process.”
*Front Row: Emma Charlton, Greenhills Childcare Centre; Michelle Gow, Wilberforce Early Learning Centre; Shadow Minister for NDIS, Linda Burney; Danielle Shepherd, Hobartville Long Day Preschool. Back row: Heather Kohegyi and Tracy Brown from HECIS; Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman; mum Evette Wolfshoerndl; Kimberley McGregor, Golden Valley Children’s Learning Centre; and Jacqui Filios, Richmond Preschool.