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Search is on for therapists

Kim Wilson, shadow health minister

The Department of Health says it is “taking all measures to expedite” the recruitment of school-based therapists and mitigate the disruption in service to students.

In the meantime, parents are being encouraged to attend training sessions to help with their children’s development.

Shortly before the school term began this month, health minister Jeanne Atherden announced the number of therapists would be cut as a result of staff departures in the Department of Health Therapy Services.

Last week, Shadow Minister of Health Kim Wilson claimed some therapists were leaving government amid fears over job security, and that children were missing out on vital therapy.

Giving a progress report, the Department of Health said seven therapy positions are under active recruitment, only two of which are vacant.

An occupational therapist has been identified for one of those vacant positions, and may be filled permanently by November; the department says it is aggressively looking for a relief for the other post. Of the five remaining recruitments, three advertisements have already been posted and closed on September 9, and work has commenced on advertising the other two recruitments.

The Department says it is seeking to bring in more therapists, but that recruitment of permanent post holders can typically take six months.

“In the past some therapist posts, for special needs and early intervention, have been difficult to fill and required overseas advertising,” it said in a statement.

“The department is encouraged by local applicants responding to recruitment drives, as it speeds up the recruitment process when candidates who meet requirements can be sourced locally. The department is also taking steps to ensure that employees will be in place before any therapist post is vacated.”

It said parent training opportunities are being provided to incorporate all disciplines: speech language pathologist, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

The statement said: “Existing clients and their families are encouraged to participate in training sessions that are offered to them by their therapists. Additional information and suggestions to assist in the overall development of communication and sensory motor skills will be made available on the Department of Health website.

“Children are unique individuals who develop skills at their own rate. Some children develop faster or slower than the average.

“Speech and language as well as gross and fine motor development occurs in predictable stages. Parents may have concerns about their child’s development in some areas.

“It is important that parents gain an idea of what skills to watch for and to have some idea of what should be developing at different age levels.

“Some of the parent training sessions that are planned will provide general information to explain the normal stages of childhood development.

“It will elaborate upon strategies that parents might utilise to observe and enhance their typical child’s overall development. Parents are encouraged to attend these training sessions in order to become empowered with knowledge about childhood development.

“Some children may have already been assessed by an allied health professional as having a delay or a disorder in some aspect of their development.

“As parents are in the presence of their children more frequently than a therapist might ever be, home practice is key to improving outcomes of therapy. Parents are encouraged to attend these training sessions in order to become empowered to incorporate practice activities in the home environment.

“The team of early interventionist therapists have been working steadfastly and diligently to manage caseloads and continue to provide a relatively uninterrupted delivery of general therapy services.”