Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education Donna Faragher is calling on the McGowan Labor Government to immediately increase funding to support the delivery of critical child development services in this State.
Answers to questions in Parliament this week reveal the current median wait time to access a paediatrician and a speech pathologist through the Metropolitan Child Development Service has increased to 17.8 months and 12.2 months respectively.
“It is simply not good enough that children are having to wait this long to access these vital services,” Mrs Faragher said.
“Of deep concern is the fact that the wait time to see a speech pathologist has jumped from 8.7 months to 12.2 months, longer than a school year.
“This is not a reflection on the hardworking speech pathologists and staff working with children and their families, however the figures clearly demonstrate the service is just not coping with demand.
“With this knowledge, the McGowan Labor Government should be doing all it can to reduce these wait times yet nothing seems to change.
“This week, I asked the Minister for Health if any additional funding had been provided to support the service since the release of the 2022/23 State Budget and while the answer was “yes,” it has only increased from $35.6 million to $35.7 million.
“This is hardly a significant financial uplift and the answer gives me no confidence that any significant funding increases will be delivered across the forward estimates period either.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is that children are able to access these services when they need them most,” Mrs Faragher said.
Mrs Faragher said the strong relationship between oral language and literacy development along with various comprehension, reading, writing and communication skills was well known.
“Not addressing these difficulties early can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn and understand concepts in the classroom and can impact their ability to successfully communicate with their families, teachers and classmates.
“No one can argue that a child waiting more than an entire school year to see a speech pathologist is appropriate.
“I again call on the McGowan Labor Government to introduce a direct speech pathology service into schools across the State.
“This Government is sitting on a massive surplus and it is beyond time for additional funds and support to be directed to these vital child development services.