Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning Donna Faragher says significant increases in wait times for primary school students accessing critical allied health services through the Department of Health in the past year are unacceptable.

Mrs Faragher said the increases in wait times to access early intervention services included speech pathology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

“Answers to parliamentary questions show that for the January-March 2021 quarter, the median wait times for primary school children accessing Metropolitan Child Development Services had ballooned out to 7.9 months for speech pathology (up from 4.8 months in February 2020), 6.7 months for occupational therapy (was 3.3 months) and 6.5 months for physiotherapy (was 0.9 months),” Mrs Faragher said.

“Such long delays in accessing these critical services are unacceptable.

“This is on top of revelations through media reports that the wait time to see a paediatrician in the public system is between seven months and two years.”

Mrs Faragher said private services could be costly and out of reach for many families so access to government-provided services was critical.

“Waiting almost eight months to access speech pathology services, for example, is far too long – and this is just for a first appointment.”

Mrs Faragher said the strong relationship between literacy development and oral language skills, particularly in the early learning years, made timely access to speech pathology services incredibly important.

“All children deserve the best possible start and the early years are a critical period in every child’s life,” she said.

“The McGowan Labor Government needs to invest in more resources to ensure children can receive the necessary support when they need it.”