Protecting the rights of children
The Carers Alliance believes society owes every child the best it has to give. It is therefore imperative that each child be given every support necessary to maximize their development – physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.
In order to achieve this outcome, the following changes must be given national priority:
v All children must have a legislated right to age appropriate assessments that ensure their physical and emotional needs are met at all times.
The health system is the first point of entry for all children. To maximize effective service delivery there must be:
- National global assessments of developmental, emotional and physical ability at prescribed stages of infant and early childhood
- Full assessment of the 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 provide valuable epidemiological data and would ensure the health and well-being of all children. Such a model would be of great benefit to our existing health care system, and is already in place in many comparable western countries. In order to be effect, it is imperative that there be incentives attached to these mandated assessments – these could be linked into existing payments currently offered by the Family Assistance Office.
v All children deserve the right to access programmes and support that will maximise their potential.
A child-centred approach should be central to welfare policy and citizenship. It should be a recognized as a partnership between government and parents.
This investment in Australia’s children will offer significant benefits to our society. Independent, confident, well-adjusted children become productive, confident adults who contribute economically, culturally and socially. Investing in our children breaks the cycle of perpetual poverty while establishing pathways to social engagement and community involvement.
Furthermore, once an assessment identifies a child with additional needs, that child must be able to access immediate support such as early intervention services, aids, appliances, modifications, accommodations, technology and needs-based educational assistance to maximise their potential.
The escalating costs associated with protecting children from abuse and neglect indicates the need to implement an all-of-childhood approach as a matter of priority.
Such assessments will also act as a default child protection mechanism – with the capacity to assess not only the viability of the family unit, but also determine whether additional support is required. Timely delivery of needs based parenting assistance and early intervention strategies would be of great assistance to both children and parents, and would ensure the family unit thrives. The security and certainty that comes from being part of a loving family to give our children a good start in life is incalculable.
Supporting children and families in this way would reduce the need for crisis intervention and significantly reduce the number of children that are currently deemed to be at risk of harm.
v All children with special or additional needs must have a legislated right to service and equipment.
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.
Regular assessments provide an opportunity to identify children with special or additional needs in a timeframe that is able to maximize the benefits of early intervention. It also enables healthcare and service providers to do projections for future care and equipment needs, based on collected data from similar patient groups.
This ability to generate cost projections is beneficial to everyone involved in the care of the child, as it ensures a proactive treatment model can be sustained, where funds are available as required – as opposed to the current reactive treatment model, where funds are not sourced until the need is identified with the child being placed on a holding pattern until a vacancy for support becomes available. The current treatment model often results in significant delays during scripting, funding and delivery of necessary equipment – or finds children being placed on waiting lists for therapy or counseling services.
Extended delays to access service and equipment during a child’s formative years not only impedes their ability to reach their full potential, but can often result in developmental delays that will have financial ramifications on our society as that child progress’s into adulthood.