Government needs to act to reduce wait times for Child Development Services

Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning Donna Faragher says the significant wait times for primary school children accessing critical allied health services through the Department of Health cannot continue and urgent funding is required.

Mrs Faragher said children in Western Australia seeking access to vital early intervention services such as paediatricians, speech pathologists, clinical psychologists and audiologists are in some cases waiting more than a year to do so.

“I am regularly being told by parents, early childhood educators and school staff of their frustrations with these long wait times and they have every right to be frustrated,” Mrs Faragher said.

“Answers to questions in State Parliament this month revealed the median wait time to access a paediatrician through the Metropolitan Child Development Service (MCDS) is now over sixteen months.

Accessing a paediatrician in the public health system is not the only service stretched to its limits with wait times to see a clinical psychologist currently sitting at ten months.

Earlier this year figures released by the government also showed that children were having to wait nearly eight months to access a speech pathologist and over six months to see an occupational therapist.

The simple reality is our children are missing out and losing valuable time while waiting to access these supports.

Mrs Faragher said the increasing wait times were not the fault of the hardworking paediatricians and allied health staff working across these government services as they were doing the very best they could to support children and their families but it was clear they needed more resources to reduce the pressure.  

“The Child and Adolescent Health Service has submitted a business case to the Health Department requesting a continuation of additional funding to reduce these wait times but so far Minister Cook’s response as to whether it will be approved has been non-committal.

The government is aware of these increasing wait times and the need to provide additional resources as a matter of urgency.

A significant investment in this critical area is needed and I urge the McGowan Government to provide additional funding in the upcoming September State Budget to ensure all children can access these services when they need it most.