Ahead of next week’s State Budget, the Opposition is calling on the McGowan Labor Government to commit additional funding to support children in their early years.
Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning Donna Faragher said greater investment was urgently needed to ensure children in metropolitan and regional WA did not miss out on vital services and programmes to support their development.
“The early years is a critical period in a child’s life but with long and ever-increasing wait times to access paediatricians, clinical psychologists and allied health services through the Department of Health, children are missing out,” Mrs Faragher said.
“The median wait time for primary school children to access a paediatrician through the metropolitan Child Development Service is 16.4 months, 12 months to see a clinical psychologist and 9.2 months and 8.7 months to see a physiotherapist and speech pathologist respectively.
“These figures are alarming and are not limited to metropolitan Perth with children in regional WA also facing lengthy delays to receive support.
“Given last year’s State Budget provided only a very minimal funding increase to child development services, it is high time funding was increased significantly to address these unacceptable delays.”
Mrs Faragher also called on the McGowan Labor Government to prioritise the establishment of additional Child and Parent Centres across the State.
“Designed to help close the gap between the development and learning outcomes of young children who may be at risk of developmental delay, these ‘one-stop-shop’ centres provide various programmes and services to engage families with young children,” Mrs Faragher said.
“Despite their effectiveness, however, the Minister for Education has said “there is no plan” to increase the number of centres in WA.
“This is incredibly disappointing given their proven effectiveness as a successful model of integrated service delivery. They have strong community support with the former Commissioner for Children and Young People also recommending an increase.
“Children and young people make up 23 percent of our State’s population, with over 417,000 aged between zero and 11 years. Children form a significant part of our community, and they need our support and they need our attention,” Mrs Faragher said.
“With a significant surplus expected in this year’s State Budget, there is no excuse for the McGowan Labor Government to not prioritise children and their early years of learning.”