Taking Preventative Action
2.7 Building on Broader Government Support of Children and Low Income Communities
More broadly, the Government is committed to supporting children and families experiencing or at risk of disadvantage. The Government released A Stronger, Fairer Australia in January 2010, outlining its vision for social inclusion – that no Australian is left behind by giving all the opportunities, resources, capabilities and responsibilities to learn, work, connect with others and have a say in community life. Good health lays the foundation for, and is an outcome of, social inclusion.
Through COAG, the Government has set out its vision for promoting positive outcomes for children and preventing harm. The National Early Childhood Development Strategy, endorsed by COAG in July 2009, seeks to achieve positive early childhood development outcomes and minimise the impact of risk factors before problems become entrenched. The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, endorsed by COAG in April 2009, seeks to deliver a substantial and sustained reduction in child abuse and neglect nationally.
The Government has invested extensively in promoting healthy early childhood development in and outside the health sector. Through the education sector, the Government has invested $970 million in early childhood education services to ensure, in partnership with state and territory governments, that by 2013 every child has access to 15 hours a week of quality play-based early childhood education for 40 weeks in the year before full time schooling.
For children entering primary school, the Government is providing $1.5 billion over seven years to support the learning needs and wellbeing of students in 1,700 disadvantaged schools across Australia under the Smarter Schools National Partnership for Low Socio-economic Status School Communities. Education is a critical determinant of health outcomes throughout life by improving employment opportunities, social capital and health literacy, as well as reducing the risk of obesity, tobacco use and the excessive consumption of alcohol.
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The introduction of new leave arrangements in the workplace will help ensure parents have time to nurture their child’s early development. The Government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme of up to 18 weeks of payment at the rate of the Federal Minimum Wage will commence on 1 January 2011.
To monitor early childhood development nationally, the Government has invested $21.9 million to 30 June 2011, for the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI). The AEDI provides regional and national snapshots of young children’s health and development as they enter their first year of full-time school. This information will help communities and governments to pinpoint the services, resources, and infrastructure young children and their families need to give children the best possible start in life.
In addition to these national approaches, the Government is also implementing a range of targeted initiatives that support children and low income communities. For example, Communities for Children is a prevention and early intervention initiative implemented in 45 disadvantaged communities around Australia from 2009. The program takes a whole of community partnership approach to improve service coordination, address unmet need and improve community capacity around the needs of children from birth up to 12 years of age and their families.
Research has found that the intrinsic social interaction and financial compensation associated with being employed leads to improved health outcomes for people with disability. The National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy, released in September 2009, includes a series of initiatives to help people with disability, including mental illness, find and keep work. Elements include $1.2 billion for new demand driven employment services for people with disability and a $6.8 million Disability Support Pension Employment Incentive Pilot.
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