Page 4131 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (3:42): I am very pleased to rise today to discuss this matter of public importance. All Canberrans, especially our most disadvantaged residents, are supported by a committed human services system that includes public and community housing, child, youth and family support services, disability services and more.

The human services blueprint, as Minister Barr announced today, will build on the strengths of the current system to ensure a focus on people and their needs rather than on programs and structures. I encourage Canberrans to share their views on the development of the human services blueprint, which is designed to be a three-year plan to make the ACT human services system more accessible and responsive.

On this, early intervention is of vital importance in improving the lives of children and young people at risk in the ACT. We know that children who get off to a good start in life are more likely to do well. We also know that young people who have strong, protective factors in their lives, such as a supportive family environment, are more likely to do well as they move into adulthood.

We are fortunate in the ACT that most young people are able to safely navigate their path to adolescence and adulthood. They receive the guidance, support and opportunities that they need to prepare for life as an adult. However, some children and young people and their families need additional assistance and support to learn to understand their environment and to help them grow up and be strong, safe and connected.

Early intervention when issues arise is critical. Identifying a concern early in the life of a problem or need is important in being able to identify appropriate action and maximise the opportunity for issues to be addressed. Early intervention is not just about age; it is important that early intervention occurs as soon as possible the first time an adolescent offends, parents are involved in allegations of abuse and neglect or a medical or developmental delay or disability is recognised or diagnosed.

Early intervention has a particularly critical role to play for vulnerable children and young people, including those at risk. Early intervention assists in improving children’s quality of life. Experts such as Professor Eileen Baldry from the University of New South Wales tell us that “early holistic support is crucial for the development of wellbeing for children with mental health disorders, cognitive impairment and those with disadvantaged backgrounds”. Professor Baldry indicates that, without early intervention, the “costs to government can be extremely high”.

We continue to have excellent early intervention services in the ACT for vulnerable children and young people. Many are provided through the three child and family centres located in Gungahlin, Tuggeranong and Belconnen which encourage families to access support and services in the local region, such as child health nurses, relationship counselling and specialist advice on developmental delay, and provide opportunities for other issues to be identified, and for families to be referred to appropriate and valuable services.

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