Doubt on future of autism care centre

Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre manager Kathryn Fordyce spends one-on-one time with Jethro Goodwin, 5. Picture: Grant Wells.

Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre manager Kathryn Fordyce spends one-on-one time with Jethro Goodwin, 5. Picture: Grant Wells.

By EMILY WOODS, Oct. 10, 2014.

THE only regional autism early learning centre in Australia is at risk.

There are questions around continued government funding of the Burnie Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre [ASELCC] and the Burnie City Council has confirmed it cannot continue its support of the centre.

‘‘It’s a really tight fiscal environment and you don’t know what might get the chop,’’ ASELCC manager Kathryn Fordyce said.

Research into the success of the centre over the four-year period of federal funding is being undertaken by the University of Tasmania Rural Clinical School, but it looks like the research may not be completed in time to influence the government’s decision.

‘‘The timing is not great in terms of using the data from the research to influence the government’s decision,’’ Ms Fordyce said.

‘‘We’re due for review in June 2015, we would expect that they’re going to make a decision on the service before we’ve got any results of our study, unfortunately.’’

Ms Fordyce said the positive feedback they had received from families, schools and the education department proved that ‘‘the service provides such a critical support to families’’.

Braddon MHR  Brett Whiteley said the government was ‘‘considering future funding in the context of the transition of all disability programs into the National Disability Insurance Scheme’’. ‘‘Any decision on the future of the ASELCCs will be based a comprehensive analysis of a range of evidence, including findings from the University of Tasmania research.’’

The Burnie council said it had ‘‘a policy to no longer be involved in direct service delivery’’ of the autism centre, which provides families across Tasmania with early intervention, support, guidance, information and care for children regarded as being on the autism spectrum.

‘‘Council believes there are other operations with greater need, in a better position, from a governance point of view,’’ council director of community and economic development Rodney Greene said. ‘‘We’re currently working with the Department of Human Services around how it will operate after June 30, 2015, and we expect that it will continue to operate past that time.’’

But ASELCC manager, Ms Fordyce, was concerned about the future of the centre if council goes ahead. ‘‘Beyond June 2015, if council stick to that decision, there’ll be some kind of process around transition to another provider, so someone else running our service,’’ she said.


Editorial: The ASD community is concerned by the prospect that one of the six ASELCC's around the country (link here) is closing with the arrival of the NDIS winding back Federal Government support for children with autism spectrum disorder. The federal Government part-funded six ASELCCs, one in each state ... and presumably the Government's failure/refusal to fully fund these centres is the reason Burnie City Council is now involved. The ASELCCs arose from an ALP promise made just before the 2007 Federal election was announced. Later, federal and state Governments lied about these centres: their joint 2010-2020 National Disability Strategy (NDS ... download below or from here) claims there will be eight ASELCCs ... but there was only ever plans for six ASELCCs. The Governments' NDS says these centres are part of the Commonwealth's Helping Children with Autism package but they are not. An evaluation of the ASELCCs and the Commonwealth Government's response (see here or downloads below) avoids the issue of whether the centres even delivered best practice (as the Commonwealth Government advises, links to the Government's advice are on this page). This evaluation points out that Governments only part-fund these centres so viability of the ASELCCs was always questionable/marginal.