Victorian Coalition pledges $50m in autism ‘revolution’

The Victorian Coalition has promised a “revolution” in the way the state supports families ­living with autism, in a $50 million major pre-election pitch that ­includes a pledge to create a 24-hour autism helpline for parents.

Less than nine weeks out from the Victorian election, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has unveiled a seven-point plan to spend $50m over four years to boost services and support the 55,000 Victorians living with autism.

The package includes extra funding to expand an autism helpline, and funding for a new support group fund for community groups to build a pool of basic ­programs for families.

If elected the Liberals would create an advisory council to provide an ongoing forum for autism-related issues and feedback on the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Victoria.

The Coalition has also promised to review the eligibility ­criteria for Program for Students with Disabilities funding, and has also committed to push back ­student funding reappraisal dates to the end of Year 7, to help ease the transition to high school.

“Our seven-point plan will be the start of our government’s journey to what we hope will one day be a system of carer support that is copied by other countries as the one of the best in the world,” Mr Guy said yesterday.

The plan is backed by Autism advocacy group AMAZE, which runs the autism helpline and will receive $2.4m so it can operate around the clock.

AMAZE chief executive Fiona Sharkie said the program would help boost educational results for children on the autism spectrum.

The Coalition would commit $4m over four years to re-establish the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre’s Early Diagnostic Clinic within La Trobe University to diagnose children up to three that may have an autism spectrum disorder.

Chantelle McGuinness, from Preston in Melbourne’s north, said the package was enough to make her consider ­voting for the Coalition at the state election on November 24.

Her son Eli, 8, has ­autism and receives funding under the NDIS for a fortnightly session with an occupational therapist, as well as a weekly session with a group that works on social skills.

“It’s felt as if because autism isn’t always visible, then it’s not ­always looked at or taken seriously as a disability, but this shows now people realise that it has a lot of different faces,” Ms McGuinness said.

The Andrews government said that more than 100 schools across Victoria were already taking part in a “world-leading” pilot to assess the needs of students with disabilities and other needs, including ­autism, and that people with ­autism would benefit from a $50m support package for carers.


Vic opposition's $50m autism support plan

Victoria's Liberal-Nationals opposition has promised $50 million in support for families with children with autism if they win November's election.

Families with autistic children are being promised a $50 million support package by the Victorian opposition.

The money, provided over four years, would include a 24-hour helpline, a support group fund and a review of the current eligibility criteria for students with disabilities program.

"We've got an issue here that we need to deal with," Opposition Leader Matthew Guy told reporters.

"We've got families here who are hurting, we've got families who are are unsure what to do, we've got to provide greater support for them to give their kids the best start in life."

Autism peak body Amaze currently runs a support helpline and the coalition says they would give $2.4 million for it to become a 24-hour operation.

Mr Guy said his government would also create an advisory council to provide an ongoing forum for autism-related issues and feedback on the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Victoria.

A $4 million sum over four years would be spent re-establishing a clinic for children aged up to three who may have an autism spectrum disorder and to support ongoing research at La Trobe University.

The clinic would diagnose children years before they can be assessed by public diagnosis clinics, helping them get access to critical early intervention therapies sooner.

The plan has been backed by Amaze.