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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3020 ..

MRS DUNNE (continuing):

from ACT Community Care; Housing of course; Supported Accommodation and Child Health and Development Services from Education, Youth and Family Services; along with a whole lot of general community services looking after peak bodies and community facilities that come from the previous department, DECS.

But the real problem, apart from the ordinary problems that any organisation has when it has a whole lot of disparate bits coming together and a whole lot of different corporate ethos and is finding for itself a new way of operating, is the fact that this government has severely hamstrung the funding for community organisations that comes out of this department because of the differential way that it was treated. Those organisations that were unfortunate enough to come from the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services have been hamstrung by the fact that this year they are getting less of an increase than the CPI.

The CPI is a pretty marginal and mean, perhaps mean and tricky, sort of index, because it is not actually what the Treasury says the CPI is but what somebody else says the CPI is-at 2.5 per cent. But it is really mean and tricky when it comes to the decision made in the previous Department of Education, Youth and Family Services to allow only a 1.5 per cent margin for inflation for those organisations. So the funding coming out of the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services is considerably lowered, and this has considerable impact on organisations that go into this new department. They will not be able to meet the needs that are there.

I would just like to touch on the Office of Child Health and make a plea for the parents of people across the ACT in a range of areas who need to have their children assessed and managed and have diagnostic work done through this office: can we please have some resources so that the diagnosis is done in a timely fashion? The autism organisations, for example, find that they cannot get their children diagnosed. When people think that they might have autism, they have to wait for months, and that is just one of the many occasions when there seemed not to be enough resources going into an organisation to actually meet the needs of people.

If you spend a little bit of money now you might save it a long way down the line. It is all about early intervention. If you can find out that a child has a particular difficulty-a speech impediment, a hearing difficulty or a sight difficulty-and you can address that when the child is three, four or five, before all the problems that accumulate around that if they are not addressed start to mount up for these children, we might be a lot better off.

We might be a lot better off in this place, when we are discussing the budget, if the Treasurer would put away his cryptic crossword and had a listen to some of the criticisms of what goes on in the budget, because child assessment is important. It is more important than the cryptic crossword-or perhaps you are doing the Australian's simple one. But let us talk about it. Let us look at the issues around the early assessment of children in need.

Children in need in the ACT, and their parents, would not be impressed to know that, when we are discussing these things, the minister is doing his crossword. They want services for their children. And when someone at a school says, "I think that you need to have your child assessed," the parents do not want to have to wait three months to find out whether their child has autism, or whether their child has a speech impediment that

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