Autism support services would undergo a $50 million “revolution” if the Coalition wins the November election.
The package includes a 24-hour autism helpline and a $4 million increase for early diagnosis services, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy announced on Monday.
The peak autism support group, Amaze, will receive $2.4 million to expand their current hotline to 24 hours. It currently operates during business hours.
The Coalition will also create a Premier’s Autism Advisory Council to tackle issues and deliver solutions for families dealing with the condition.
Student funding reappraisal dates will also be pushed back from the end of grade six to the end of year seven so that children can continue receiving the same level of support when they begin high school.
Mr Guy said much of the $50 million would go towards the assessment of children going into secondary school. The policy also includes a $500,000 fund that will provide resources and grants for local community support groups.
Mr Guy said parents with autistic children needed more support than they were getting from the state today.
“More Victorians are touched by the wonders, the love of particularly kids with autism than ever before,” he said.
“No-one’s asking for miracles ... but what those families are asking for is help. This package will give that help.”
Amaze chief executive Fiona Sharkie said 85 per cent of Australians have contact with a person with autism but only about a third of those people knew what support they could offer.
She said autistic children had among the worst educational outcomes of any children with disabilities.
“But all that can change if the right support is provided in schools with the right investment,” she said. “There is a great opportunity for Victoria to really be the leading state in autism.”
The Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre’s Early Diagnosis Clinic for children aged up to three years old will be re-established if the Coalition is elected.
The Coalition would also set up an “inclusive education outreach taskforce” within the Education Department to work with mainstream state schools to support students with autism or other special needs.
The Opposition also promised to increase professional development for teachers to better support participation by students with autism.
Spectrum Journeys director Kate Johnson said she strongly supported the commitment to education reform to better support children with autism.
She said education for those children was the greatest stress for parents and other carers. Ms Johnson said carers were often having to advocate for their children to be included, go on camps and participate “meaningfully” in class.
Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre manager Doug Scobie said early detection meant interventions could be done earlier and would be more effective.