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Wait time for pre-schoolers early intervention now 106 days

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 17 April 2019, 8:48AM
That means more children with communications difficulties, development delays, or disabilities are waiting longer for specialist support which helps them learn and participate at home or in early childhood education. Photo / Getty Images.

Preschoolers with disabilities or development problems are waiting more than 100 days to get extra help - despite the Government's commitment to cut wait times for support a year ago.

And the waiting list for early intervention has grown in the last year, against projections that it would be halved by funding increases for the sector.

That means more children with communications difficulties, development delays, or disabilities are waiting longer for specialist support which helps them learn and participate at home or in early childhood education.

This is despite a $21.5 million boost from the Government last year.

Autism NZ chief executive, Dane Dougan, told Mike Yardley while the extra funding is a good start - there are systemic issues that need to be addressed.

"It's a systemic problem, it's not just a matter of throwing more budget at the issues, we have to look at the whole system and see what needs to change."

Waiting list sizes are also increasing, with the number of children waiting for care increasing from 2552 in the middle of last year, to 2637.

Dougan said this is putting extra pressure on the system.

"There are more and more people being diagnosed with autism and the earlier they are diagnosed, the better chance they go on to live to their full potential, which means we need to have better intervention and better support. So I'm not minimising the fact that more money has been put in, I think that is a real positive, however, we do need to look at the system and see whether that money is being used as efficiently as it can be."

He said the money was put into extra resources for therapy that children may need. Dougan said it is also set to be used on learning support coordinators.

He said those things are both positive, but there needs to be more support in other areas.

Part of what makes the situation more difficult is how individualised every child is, Dougan said.

"Every child is different so what's going to work for one child may not work for another."

"You do have to take a very individualised approach to autism."

However, he said the earlier a child is diagnosed with autism and receives help the better.

DELAYED CARE
Average wait times for early intervention:

• Tai Tokerau: 73 days
• Auckland: 101 days
• Waikato: 102 days
• Bay of Plenty/Waiariki: 123 days
• Hawke's Bay/Tairawhiti: 98 days
• Taranaki/Whanganui/Manawatu: 128 days
• Wellington: 178 days
• Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast: 47 days
• Canterbury/Chatham Islands: 89 days
• Otago/Southland: 81 days
• National: 106 days

- Ministry of Education, April 2019

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