RFW has responded to the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) 2018 Report Card and their request for member’s input to their strategic planning for the next 5-10 years. RFW supports the early intervention and prevention aspects of the ARACY Priority Framework, as these align closely with our own strategic objectives. At RFW, we advocate national leadership and stewardship via the creation of a national target to reduce developmental vulnerability from 22% to 10% by 2025 (as measured by the AECD) – establishing it as a regional development priority – and development of a whole of government plan to deliver on it, prioritising the first 2000 days of life. We also made several recommendations in relation to targeted screening programs and improved access to appropriate services (such as those provided by paediatric specialists) are critical factors in addressing developmental health and childhood vulnerability issues.
RFW assessed ARACY’s key themes that are both current and central to the well-being of children and youth, which had been collated and informed by ARACY’s 2018 Report Card and The Nest Action Agenda, along with the Mission Australia Youth Survey Report – 2017. We also submitted ideas and suggestions for evidence-based programs, interventions, or strategies that ARACY could consider supporting. Like RFW, ARACY want to know what works for kids, and believe in transforming evidence into policy and practice to improve the wellbeing of young people. Our work aligns with all of ARACY’s criteria. We have supporting research to demonstrate efficacy, have the capacity to generate national or system-wide change, we are addressing one or more of the identified key themes, and have a track-record in attracting significant partners. RFW had programs, interventions,or strategies to address many of the key themes, and these were addressed in our response, which are summarised here.
Theme 1) Promotion of universal early learning and pre-literacy skills – programs, interventions or strategies to address should include telecare, as this improves access to services for all Australians, especially in rural and remote areas.
Theme 2) Improvement of primary and secondary education – RFW believes in Empower Communities – building capacity through outcome based collaboration, education and training. This includes working with schools, families and communities.
Theme 3) Understanding the root causes of mental illness and the promotion of resilience – ARACY’s 2018 Report Card focuses on the mental health of 18-24 year olds. There is an opportunity to look more closely at the early indicators of mental health issues (refer AECD data). RFW recommends a comprehensive screening and early intervention framework.
Theme 5) Addressing inequality – the draft ARACY Framework asks “How do we reduce inequity?” and “Who are the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups we need to be aware of and targeting?” The evidence points to rural and remote communities as being in great need. Disadvantage is linked to vulnerability and children living in very remote areas are up to five times as likely to be developmentally vulnerable as children from urban areas. With this in mind, we recommend increased use of telehealth models with provision of funding, improved infrastructure and connectivity, and collection and sharing of evidence to drive a step change nationally in the use of telehealth models to improve outcomes for children with developmental issues.
Theme 8) Disability – RFW recommends the integration of health and disability services for children. From the national level down, integrate the planning and delivery of health and NDIS
services for children with developmental issues, across sectors and across government agencies, developing an approach that will work for all country children who are developmentally vulnerable. This should include access to appropriate services for rural and remote communities.
We welcomed the opportunity to jointly advocate with ARACY on childhood mental health, addressing inequality or vulnerability.