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Benevolent Society Report recommends early years investment.

Posted by Kerrie Gottliebsen | 09/10/13

The Benevolent Society has released a report to mark its 200th Anniversary that sounds a serious warning about the wellbeing of Australia’s children, and unsustainable future costs to fix social problems which can be prevented by more investment in support for families during children’s early years.

The report, Acting Early, Changing Lives: How prevention and early action saves money and improves wellbeing was commissioned by The Benevolent Society, Australia’s first and longest running not-for-profit organisation, and prepared by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

“All the evidence shows us that investment in the early years of life is much more effective and brings greater economic returns to the community. This is when the foundations of mental and physical health and development are laid” said The Benevolent Society CEO Anne Hollonds  

The report lists worrying trends affecting many children in Australia today.  One in seven Australian children is affected by a behavioural or emotional problem and one in five Australian children are vulnerable in one or more developmental domains when they start school.  Children who experience these disadvantages are likely to suffer lifelong negative consequences.

The report shows how children who in their first five years have a home environment where they experience poverty, abuse, neglect, poor health and nutrition, mental health or behaviour problems, are at greater risk in later life of unemployment, low income, depression, anxiety, drug abuse and anti-social and criminal behaviour, leaving school early, emotional problems and ongoing health problems.

The report, which presents a compelling case for investment earlier in a range of supports for families shows that the solution is acting early, especially by providing parenting support and early learning for children under five.  It highlights solid benefits of the world’s most effective early intervention programs.  Children did better in school and employment, they grew up to have better mental and overall health and their parents had better parenting skills which created a more supportive nurturing home life.

Tweddle CEO Jacquie O’Brien praised the report, which reinforced the importance of supporting families in the early years “Tweddle works with vulnerable parents and their 0-5 year old children to help build upon a parents strengths and confidence where there has been distress and disruption in the infant-parent relationship.  Jacquie said “Our goal is to improve the outcomes for children and families by providing the education and skill development that underpins attachment, security and nurture”

The report Acting Early, Changing Lives: How prevention and early action saves money and improves wellbeing was launched by the Governor-General of Australia Her Excellency, the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO.   

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