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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 November 2021) . . Page.. 3623 ..

is to support the low income families in Canberra who need an assessment for an older child and simply cannot afford one. Stakeholders have shared with me an estimate that about 50 families each year find themselves in this situation.

Clearly, there will be some cost involved. I was told, as part of budget estimates hearings, that the average cost for a public autism assessment is between $1,900 and $2,200. If we take that top figure and multiply it by 50 young people, we arrive at $110,000 per annum—not very much. I remind those opposite, however, that there are also costs associated with delayed diagnosis.

As in so many cases, early intervention can be much, much cheaper than dealing with the complexity of late intervention. Aggarwal and Angus in fact found that the delayed assessment of those with autism spectrum disorder can result in huge costs not only to the people with autism and their families but also to the public systems that serve them.

Extending access to public autism assessment will also accomplish something else, something quite important. It will give us the data we need to improve early detection in this territory. As Australian researchers have found:

In order to develop targeted education strategies and policy aimed at facilitating early diagnosis in a particular community, it is important to understand what factors are associated with age of diagnosis in that community and where any delays are occurring in the pathway to diagnosis for children.

The only way to obtain such data is to capture those families that experience delayed diagnosis and start to analyse what went wrong.

There will inevitably always be some cases of autism spectrum disorder that experience delayed diagnosis, but we can increase the likelihood of early diagnosis by taking steps to address failings that we discover in our existing systems. That requires data but, as we obtain data, I likewise call on the ACT government to use what we learn as it follows the clear recommendations of Australian researchers Aggarwal, Angus, Gibbs, Aldridge, Sburlati, Chandler, Smith, Cheng and others. This includes improving what is already being done to increase awareness amongst both parents and professionals. It will also include fixing any other gaps that the data may reveal.

On behalf of Canberra families and those who serve them, I commend this motion to the Assembly.

MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Seniors, Veterans, Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health and Minister for Mental Health) (3.45): I move:

Omit all text after “notes that” (first occurring), substitute:

“(a) early diagnosis and early interventions are more effective in improving long-term outcomes for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD);

(b) delayed diagnosis has been linked to poor mental health in young people and can result in huge costs to children and young people, their families, and the systems that serve them; and

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