CoLab and partners call on Governments to overhaul children at risk policy in new report

by Freya Lucas

October 17

A unique partnership between five philanthropic, business, not-for-profit and research organisations has resulted in a major national study, the first of its kind, which has found that an overhaul of government policies is needed to ensure at-risk children receive vital support services at a much earlier stage.

 

Exploring the benefits and opportunities arising from ‘early intervention’, the How Australia can invest in children and return more study found hospitalisations for mental health, youth unemployment, obesity and out-of-home care have skyrocketed in the past decade.  

 

By failing to intervene early and address systemic causes of those issues, the report found, Australian taxpayers were spending $15.2 billion every year in what the report termed late intervention measures.

 

CoLab (Collaborate for Kids) – a partnership between Telethon Kids Institute and Minderoo Foundation), Early Intervention Foundation UK, Woodside Energy and The Front Project produced a detailed report card based on the findings of the report, calling for a smarter and targeted evidence-based approach to early intervention. 

 

Such an approach, they said, would mean effective support services are provided to children and families at an earlier stage, before problems begin or are magnified to crisis point.

 

Report partner, Nicola Forrest, co-founder and director of the Minderoo Foundation, said there was an “immediate opportunity and urgent need to start a conversation about the benefits of early intervention”.

 

“On one level, early intervention can be a singular service, such as speech therapy, provided as soon as difficulties emerge in a child so they have a better chance of coping at school. At another level, it can involve critical ‘wrap-around’ support for struggling new parents to prevent children entering out-of-home care,” Ms Forrest said. 

 

Of the $15.2 billion annual cost to Australian governments in ‘late intervention’ supports, the report identified 39 per cent is going to child protection services, including for the 45,000 children in out-of-home care. The cost of dealing with youth crime accounts for 18 per cent while payments for unemployed young people accounts for 13 per cent of the national tally. 

 

The report also reveals a more than 25 per cent rise in the number of young people hospitalised with mental health issues in the past decade, while there has been an alarming 34 per cent increase in young people living in out-of-home care over the same time.

 

“Our young people deserve every effort to lead healthy, fulfilled lives,” Ms Forrest said. “Early intervention offers up a fantastic opportunity for this nation to deliver better outcomes for some of its most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and families.”

 

More information can be found here, with access to the full report available here. 

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