Page 3655 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 November 2022

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Best Start outlines how we can focus on supporting children and their families so that they can thrive now and into the future. When children thrive, our community thrives. This strategy outlines real and tangible actions that can be implemented collectively across government and the community sector. It calls on us to coordinate our efforts to improve the childhood and life outcomes for Canberra’s future community.

The Best Start strategy will contribute significantly to this government’s ambitious child and family reform agenda. This is because, while we continue to invest in our children’s futures, we also recognise that, to give children the best start, the circumstances and needs of their families and the people around them must also be considered. We are focused on improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for all children and families.

Along with the Best Start strategy and the first action plan, I am happy to update the Assembly that this government has committed over $7 million for a new early intervention service to operate out of the Child Development Service.

Best Start is an important piece of work that is grounded in evidence and was initially guided by an expert reference group with expertise in child development, the early years and early support sectors. I would like to acknowledge and thank Professor Michael Brydon for his leadership and commitment in guiding the formation of Best Start. The government has also sought, listened to and reflected the voices of people with lived experience, to ensure Best Start is responding to and meeting the needs of our local community.

Best Start will be delivered over the next 10 years, in three phases. The first action plan sets out our initial steps to improve the supports and services available to families so that their children can get the best start in life. One of these first steps is to establish the ACT community of practice, which will bring together a range of people to collectively guide the development of future action plans. These plans will be iterative and will include monitoring and evaluation components so that we can ensure that we are achieving what we have set out to do.

The government is aware of the need for therapy supports for children and families to support positive, lifelong developmental outcomes. For this reason the government has committed to establishing a new early intervention service, to operate out of the Child Development Service from February next year.

The new service will provide critical speech, occupational and physiotherapies, or a combination of these therapies, to children aged 24 to 36 months, free. The therapies and supports offered will vary, depending on the needs of each child and their family, but may include one-on-one therapy sessions, small group programs or parent information sessions.

Together, Best Start and the expanded therapeutic intervention services will support the wellbeing and development of children starting along their life journey. It will ensure that services and supports are available along a continuum of need, as required.

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