ACA welcomes recommendations to safeguard mental health in young children

by Freya Lucas

November 19, 2020

The Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) has welcomed recommendations put forward by the Productivity Commission in relation to the prevention of mental health issues in young children.  

 

A ‘generation reform’ of mental health services to improve the prevention and early intervention efforts that focus on the wellbeing of infants, children and their parents was central to the Commission’s findings, based on observations by the Commission that one in ten preschool aged children in Australia face increased risk of mental illness in adulthood. 

 

ACA President Paul Mondo said he fully endorsed the Commission’s views that early childhood education centres represent “an initial point to identify risk factors for mental illness and to offer direction towards any necessary services.”

 

Other recommendations made by the Commission include: 

 

  • special purpose grants to enhance the ability of early childhood; education and care services to  support the social and emotional development of children; 
  • State and Territory Governments should expand routine health checks in early childhood to  include social and emotional wellbeing; 

 

  • evidence-based approaches to mental health and wellbeing in the training and continuing  professional development of teachers and early childhood educators ; 
  • expanding the measurement of wellbeing in the early years to middle childhood; and 
  • expanding parenting programs; 

 

“We agree with the Commission that our early learning sector is a gateway into the broader mental  health system,” Mr Mondo said. “We believe we can provide an untapped opportunity to support children’s emotional and social development and identify risk factors early on.” 

 

ACA made a detailed submission to the Productivity Commission, developed with Monash Partners, Sydney Partners Health, Research and  Enterprise (Sphere) and SNAICC, with many of the recommendations subsequently endorsed. 

 

Central to the proposal was the need to equip the early learning sector with the training, skills, resources  and support its needs to identify and better support families struggling with mental health and domestic violence. 

 

The proposal also aims to develop innovative, evidence-based play and education methods aimed at preventing the next generation of victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.

 

“We agree that generational reform, leveraging Australia’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, is urgently needed to support families and prevent our youngest and most vulnerable from experiencing devastating mental health and family violence impacts,” Mr Mondo said. 

 

In order for that to happen, he continued, early childhood educators must be supported by adequate professional development and suitable resources to allow them to identify those children at risk, and to support early intervention.

 

“We look forward to working with all State and federal governments as they adopt the Productivity  Commission’s recommendations,” Mr Mondo said. “With the proper additional funding, we know we can  strengthen our ability to better protect, and nurture, the emotional development and wellbeing of  Australia’s youngest children.” 

 

A copy of the ACA joint submission to the Productivity Commission can be found here

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