Page 3917 - Week 09 - Thursday, 25 August 2011

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challenge. For some families, we understand after-school hours care enables parents to return to work full time.

We would all acknowledge that access to safe and fun recreational activities after school and in the school holidays is important for the health and wellbeing of all children and young people in our community. Having said that, we need to make sure that children and young people with a disability are able to access those opportunities. In presenting today’s report, I would like to briefly outline the key findings and the next steps for the ACT government in response to this matter.

There are approximately 2,500 students with a disability enrolled in public and non-government schools and, of these students, the report estimates that 193 primary school and 115 public high school and college students require access to some form of out-of-school care. Children under 12 with a disability mainly attend mainstream, out-of-school hours care and vacation care and these programs are supervised, age-appropriate recreational activities which encourage children to interact with friends, learn life skills, problem-solve and be challenged by new experiences in a safe environment. They are usually located in schools run by the school’s P&C association and licensed by a childcare regulatory body. The inclusion of children with a disability in these programs is supported by the federally funded inclusion support team. Young people over the age of 12 with a disability can attend community-based programs after school at the youth centres across Canberra.

There are, of course, a range of services funded by both the ACT and federal governments which provide specialist responses to the needs of students with a disability. These include the after-school and school holiday programs which have been run successfully by Woden Community Services for many years. Also the Tuggeranong youth centre run by Communites@Work provides after-school and holiday care programs for young people with high support needs.

We know that, for a variety of reasons and sometimes at the preference of the parents, mainstream services are not always a viable option for children and young people with complex behaviours and high needs associated with their disability. The scoping study sought to understand the barriers which impact on the access of this group of children and young people to mainstream after-hours school care. The report confirms students who tend to experience the most difficulties accessing mainstream out-of-school care are those with complex behaviours associated with autism and students with severe and profound disabilities who have complex care and medical needs or who use a wheelchair.

The community has told us, through this scoping study, that a range of out-of-school solutions were needed and not a one size fits all. Community stakeholders have told us that some programs should be community based and some should be more targeted towards special schools. Similarly, some parents of primary school children want after-school care, as I have said, in specialist schools, and others consider a joint program including children with and without a disability to be a good model.

To respond to the need and considering the advice we have been provided in the scoping study, I am pleased to advise that the government will establish a range of new after-school and vacation services across the ACT. These new services will

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