Government needs to prioritise a return to face-to-face child development services

Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning Donna Faragher is calling on the McGowan Government to prioritise a return to face-to-face child development service appointments along with parenting groups and drop-in clinics with child health nurses across the State.

Mrs Faragher said responses to questions in State Parliament and Legislative Council Budget Estimates confirmed that all metropolitan child development service appointments continue to be provided via telehealth where clinically suitable, parenting groups remain online only and parent drop-in clinics with child health nurses are closed in line with the COVID-19 system alert red phase.

“Despite the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in the community, access to face-to-face appointments for important child development services and parenting sessions are still being denied.

“I fully understand the value of telehealth and the importance of ensuring face-to-face services are delivered in a COVID safe manner, however it is time the Government reviewed the current restrictions placed on the delivery of child development services, including allied health services, to give parents a choice on whether their child has their appointment either face-to-face or via telehealth.

“Additionally, the importance of new parents being able to meet face-to-face with other new parents and child health nurses cannot be underestimated.

“Given similar health services and other programs supporting parents and their children are being delivered face-to-face on a daily basis throughout the community, including private allied health service appointments, child health nurse checks, playgroups and other parenting programs, the delivery of child development services and parenting programs in community-based settings could be reinstated with appropriate COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

“If you can visit your local GP or a specialist for a face-to-face appointment, surely a child should be able to access critical child development services and new parents should be able to participate in parenting sessions face-to-face where possible and when requested,” Mrs Faragher said.

Mrs Faragher said while the Director General of the Department of Health advised in Budget Estimates that he understood the concerns and that the Department did not want to put any undue delay on the return to face-to-face appointments, the Minister representing the Minister for Health was not able to give a timeline as to when these restrictions would be lifted.

“I am calling on the McGowan Labor Government to review these restrictions as a matter of priority for parents and their children,” Mrs Faragher said.