Page 869 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 March 2005

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disorders. My question is: how many children are awaiting assessments by Therapy ACT and for how long have they been waiting?

MR HARGREAVES: The responsibility for autism diagnosis services was transferred from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service to Therapy ACT on 1 March 2002. Between August 2002 and June 2004, additional resources were provided from within the current budget to establish a multidisciplinary model for providing autism assessments in line with international best practice.

Two rounds of autism assessment training for staff involved in the autism assessment process have been conducted. The first was conducted in August 2003 and the second in August 2004. Dr Kylie Gray from Monash University in Melbourne provided the training.

Mr Smyth: Mr Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt the minister, but it is very hard to hear the answer. Perhaps the minister could get behind the microphone.

MR HARGREAVES: That is not a problem, Mr Smyth. I will move a couple of paces to the left.

MR SPEAKER: I would like to see that, too!

MR HARGREAVES: Speaker, one: Assembly, nil. I have to say to the members of the opposition that this will be the last time that they will see me move to the left!

Returning to the subject at hand: the autism diagnosis waiting list, effective 2 March 2005, is 92, with roughly 10 assessments in progress. The waiting time for a child less than five years of age is one year. The waiting time for children over five years of age is two years.

All people on the waiting list were sent a letter in June 2004 to determine whether they still required this assessment. Those clients who failed to respond to the first letter were sent a second one asking them to contact us or their names would be removed from the waiting list. That is standard practice, as you would know. This action accounted for the significant reduction in the waiting list since August 2004.

I will give members some other figures; I can see Mrs Dunne with pen poised. In the ACT, 17 children were assessed in 1995, 65 to 75 in 2000-01, 84 in 2002-03 and 75 in 2003-04. New funding of $1.63 million has been allocated over the next four years to expand the autism service, to improve support for families and children post-diagnosis, and to provide intensive parent education programs.

A second psychologist position has been advertised for autism diagnosis. The equivalent of three full-time therapists—a speech pathologist, a social worker, and a psychologist and occupational therapist—started work in February 2005 and spent the month developing the program. An information session is to be held on 16 March 2005—in a couple of days. Parents and relevant stakeholders were invited to a coffee morning to launch the service.

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