Service closes autism support program to ease pressure on waitlist
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > Service closes autism support program to ease pressure on waitlist

Service closes autism support program to ease pressure on waitlist

by Freya Lucas

March 20, 2024

A specialised program which supported children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in a mainstream early childhood setting has been closed down, with the owner of the service saying the space was needed to cater for “an ever growing list of families wanting to enrol in mainstream programs.” 


The ‘Bee Me’ program operated from one of the rooms in the Malangenna Children’s Centre in the Tasmanian town of Devonport, and was operated by the St Giles Society, a disability services and support organisation.


Operating under an integrated model, the program supported children with ASD, providing them with access to a psychologist, a speech language pathologist, a key worker, nutrition supports and occupational therapists, using early intervention approaches to improve outcomes for children. 


Speaking with The ABC about the closure of the program the service owner said that low enrolments in the program, coupled with high demand for additional places in the mainstream aspect of the service led to the decision. 


The owner of Devonport Child Care Centres (DCCC), which operates Malangenna, Mick Clark said that the decision to discontinue the Bee Me program was made due to low enrolments.


Citing an ever-growing wait list of families wanting to enrol their children into one of the centre’s three mainstream childcare programs, Mr Clark said that the decision would “ease some of the pressure on placements”.


The 67 place service has four rooms, one of which was assigned to the Bee Me program, however low utilisation of the service, coupled with some days when the program did not run meant that there were days when the room, with ten licenced places, sat empty. 


“We had some days where there were no children in that space at all,” the owner explained.


“[We] can’t really run a service for one thing on one day, and then completely change it for another.”


“We can have 10 children a day in that room, five days a week. That’s 50 places that we could do.” 


St Giles had been offering the Bee Me program in Malangenna for nine years, and while the decision “came as a surprise” to Senior Manager of Allied Health James Thomas, the organisation said it “fully understood” and accepted the position of the service owner.


“Obviously, as an organisation we are disappointed with the closure of the Bee Me program but fully understand and accept the position of Malangenna,” Mr Thomas told The ABC.


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