A National priority
All children with special or additional needs must have a legislated right to service.
All children deserve the right to the supports that will maximise their potential whatever that may be.
The health system is the first point of entry for all children: There must be:
- National global assessments of developmental, emotional and physical ability at prescribed stages of infant and early early childhood
- Full assessment of physical (including vision, hearing and dental), emotional and psychological health of the child at prescribed developmental milestones up to the age of 16 years.
These assessments would be valuable as epidemiological data and would ensure the health and well-being of the all children and track the effect or otherwise of family cohesion. Such assessments are necessary for all children whether they have medical/special needs/disability or not. We have universal health care and this system of paediatric supervision is already in place in many comparable western countries. It is important that there be incentives attached to these mandated assessments including the possible attachment to the family assistance payment system.
Such assessments will also act as a default child protection mechanism – with the capacity to assess the viability of the family unit and if additional support is required for parents and children. Parenting assistance and early interventions such as parenting training/family skill development would be of great assistance to children and parents in order to ensure the family thrives. Children need security, certainty and loving families to give them a good start in life.
Supporting children in families in this way would reduce the need for crisis state intervention and would minimise the risk of harm to children otherwise at-risk.
The escalating cost of child neglect and abuse indicates the need for an all-of-childhood approach must be elevated to an urgent national priority.
Cultural sensitivity regarding disability can delay assessment of need. The mandated assessments of all children would give an overall view and would not only target disability but also the social, physical and psychological well-being of each and every child.
A child-centred approach should be central to welfare policy and citizenship. It should be a partnership of government and parent.
It is an investment in Australia’s children paying enormous dividends to our society. Independent, confident, well-adjusted children become productive, confident people who contribute economically, culturally and socially. Investing in our children is the solution to poverty and is pathway to social engagement.
The state must provide for those who cannot provide for themselves and must help those who need support become valued and, to the greatest extent possible, become self-sufficient and independent members of society.
Once an assessment shows a child has additional needs that child must be entitled to immediate support to meet the assessed need; early intervention services, aids, appliances, modifications, accommodations, and technology and needs-based educational assistance to maximise their potential.