Today the Liberal Nationals are announcing the beginning of a revolution for families with autism with one of the largest single investments in autism support, totalling more than $50 million over four years, should the Liberal Nationals be elected to government in November.
As part of this revolution, the Liberal Nationals will implement a 7 point plan of practical and hands-on support for children with autism and their families.
The centrepiece of this plan will be support for a 24 hour Autism Helpline, an Autism Support Group Fund to assist local community support groups to build a pool of basic programs and items families can utilise, and a review of the current eligibility criteria for Program for Students with Disabilities funding; and a commitment to push the student funding reappraisal dates back from the end of year 6 to the end of year 7. This will allow children on the spectrum to take the same level of support into their secondary school transition.
Our 7 point plan will be the start of our government’s journey to what we hope will one day be a system of carer support that is copied by other countries as the one of the best in the world.
Victoria is fortunate to have some fantastic organisations with amazing people that provide incredible support, like AMAZE, Parents Line and Carers Victoria. But there is more that can be done and must be done.
AMAZE estimates that around 55,000 Victorians are on the autism spectrum, and around 250,000 Australians have the condition – although possibly undiagnosed.
The Liberal Nationals’ 7 point plan covers both education and advocacy and support:
- A Liberal Nationals Government will provide $2.4 million to the peak autism body, AMAZE, to expand their Autism Helpline for parents and carers of children with autism, to open 24 hours. Many families with autism don’t know where to turn for advice immediately after receiving a diagnosis for their child and when times are difficult; for many families this can occur late at night. This helpline will provide targeted, relevant advice and crisis support at all hours, to help families maintain their sanity during difficult times.
- A Liberal Nationals Government will ensure families with autism have advocacy at the highest level by creating the Premier’s Autism Advisory Council, to bring together a cross-section of autism stakeholders to discuss issues and offer solutions to problems facing individuals with autism and families with autism, provide an ongoing forum for autism related issues, and an important feedback mechanism for issues relating to the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Victoria.
- A Liberal Nationals Government will create a $500,000 Autism Support Group Fund to provide resourcing and start-up grants for local community support groups for children and families with autism. This will support the start-up and resourcing of grassroots, community-led support groups who help families beginning to navigate the autism journey.
- A Liberal Nationals Government will review the current eligibility criteria for Program for Students with Disabilities funding, and push the student funding reappraisal dates back from the end of year 6 to the end of year 7. We need to look to see how we can better support students with autism and other disabilities in our schools, and we will review the criteria used to assess students including scope for more flexibility around criteria for qualification, and eligibility to attend specialist or mainstream schools, with flexibility on the IQ criteria.
- A Liberal Nationals Government will create an Inclusive Education Outreach Taskforce within the Department of Education to directly work with government mainstream schools to help them support students with autism or other special needs with best practice education and support, including how best to spend the Program for Students with Disabilities funding.
- A Liberal Nationals Government will undertake an Inclusive Education Workforce Capability Strategy to ensure that teachers and teaching staff can better access the necessary professional learning, including evidence-based pedagogy and curriculum, to fully support the participation and achievement of students with disabilities, particularly those with autism.
- A Liberal Nationals Government will commit $4 million over four years to re-establish the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre’s Early Diagnostic Clinic for children aged 0-3 that may have an autism spectrum disorder, and to support OTARC’s ongoing research at La Trobe University. The clinic can diagnose children with autism years before they can be assessed by public diagnosis clinics, which means they can access critical early intervention therapies much sooner.
As part of the Liberal Nationals’ focus on autism, Matthew Guy appointed a Shadow Assistant Minister for Autism Spectrum Disorder, the first dedicated position of its kind in Australia.
Comments attributable to Leader of the Opposition, Matthew Guy:
“These practical policies are a good start, but there is much more to be done and an elected Liberal Nationals Government will keep working to do more for children and families with autism.
Victoria must do more to help families who have a member or members that have autism. It is now time for real, practical solutions and new state investments to help these families.”
Comments attributable to Shadow Assistant Minister for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bernie Finn:
“This policy is the beginning of a revolution for families with autism in this State. It is a recognition of the many and varied problems they face and a tangible commitment to solving those issues. Perhaps more importantly, this is the start of a process that will directly connect the autism community with the highest levels of Government.
For the first time, under a Liberal Nationals Government there will be a real understanding of issues faced by families with autism and a genuine desire to make their lives better.”