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As part of its commitment to the education, wellbeing and future outcomes of children and adolescents, Learning Links was eagerly awaiting the Federal Government 24/25 budget announcements around early childhood reforms, education, disability and allied health.  

While many investments and initiatives outlined in the budget are a step in the right direction, Learning Links believes there is more to be done to equip children with the foundation skills they need in the early years and provide ongoing supports to address learning, communication and mental health challenges throughout the school years. 

Early Childhood Reforms 

Learning Links believes that children of all backgrounds and abilities deserve the opportunity to develop and thrive in an early education environment that fosters inclusivity and a love of learning. Having directly supported children with complex additional needs for over 50 years, and more recently partnered with other providers to enhance their inclusive practices as a Sector Capacity Building Partner, we know firsthand the importance of investment in this area. 

We were pleased to see $98.4 million in funding for the Inclusion Support Program to enhance the capacity of early childhood education and care services to support children with disabilities and additional needs. However, there is so much more to be done. 

With one in five children entering school with developmental vulnerabilities, more effective screening, targeted early intervention and increased support for early childhood professionals are critical. To realise the government’s early years vision, we hope to see additional investment in the sector, particularly as they consider the recommendations of the ACCC’s report into the costs of early childhood education and care alongside the Productivity Commission’s inquiry, which will be released by 30 June 2024.  

School Education 

Learning Links is committed to empowering school-aged children to learn, develop, and thrive by providing evidence-based literacy, numeracy, communication, and mental health programs for students facing learning difficulties, alongside parent support and teacher professional learning. We build capacity in over 130 schools each year. 

We were pleased to see funding for key areas aligned to Learning Links’ mission, including: 

  • $34.6 million to build upon existing evidence-based curriculum and professional development materials available for free to all teachers  
  • $110 million to accelerate action against the National Agreement on Closing the Gap Priority Reforms to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students 

With ongoing concerns around students outcomes for literacy and numeracy and little to no funding available for families to access supports for specific learning difficulties, ADHD, and communication difficulties, we will be following developments with the National School Reform Agreement closely. 

Mental Health Support 

Learning Links is fortunate to provide mental health support for thousands of children and adolescents each year, helping them to learn and reach their full potential at school. This is thanks to crucial funding from the federal and state governments, as well as community partners. 

With more than 14% of children facing mental health challenges, we are committed to addressing this significant societal issue.  

While increases in support for access to mental health care in the form of additional Medicare-rebated sessions or an uplift to the rebate cap would have been welcomed in this year’s budget, it’s promising to see additional funding for Primary Health Networks, a national early intervention service, and the development of new models of care for children and adolescents. We will await further details to understand the role these initiatives will play in the lives of the families we work with. 

NDIS Funding and Transition to Foundational Supports 

We recognise the importance of NDIS funding in providing essential supports for children with disabilities and developmental delays. The transition to foundational supports is a critical step in ensuring that children who are not covered by the NDIS also receive the help they need. This includes increased investment in early intervention and support services to ensure all children, regardless of their eligibility for NDIS, can access the necessary resources to thrive. 

Moving Forward 

Learning Links remains committed to advocating for the needs of children facing difficulties. These children deserve targeted, high-quality, and evidence-based support from the early years right through to the end of school, so they have the opportunity to build the skills and confidence they need to live a bright and fulfilling life. We will continue to seek opportunities to work with all levels of government to ensure that every child has the chance to succeed.