A Senate committee has reported major flaws in how attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is being treated in Australia.
In its final report, the committee found Australians with ADHD were facing disadvantages in schools, workplaces, and when seeking medical help.
The report’s 15 recommendations include overhauling ADHD services to make them more affordable and accessible for the estimated one million Australians with ADHD.
ADHD in Australia
ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder, impacts around 1 in 20 Australians. It can make it difficult to concentrate or control impulses.
ADHD usually begins in childhood and is more commonly diagnosed in boys.
Diagnosis requires a thorough behavioural assessment. In most cases, medication is only prescribed by psychiatrists or paediatricians (who specialise in children’s medicine).
The committee began investigating ADHD support services in March. Before handing down its final report on Monday, it received over 700 submissions detailing the experiences of Australians with ADHD.
The committee found unnecessary barriers were limiting people with ADHD from accessing an assessment or adequate healthcare services. This included the out-of-pocket costs associated with ADHD diagnosis and treatment.
The committee recommended the Government increase Medicare subsidies for ADHD support and improve access to treatment.
This included suggesting the Government add more ADHD medications to the PBS — a Federal Government scheme that subsidises some medicines.
It also recommended the Government work with advocacy groups and people with lived experience to develop a national ADHD framework.
What else did it suggest?
The committee heard that misunderstandings of ADHD in the community “added to the trauma experienced by people with ADHD”.
It recommended several measures to reduce stigma, including a public health campaign to improve national awareness about ADHD.
It also said more work was needed to understand the impacts of ADHD stigma in the healthcare and education industries.
ADHD at Australian schools and workplaces
The committee suggested classrooms and workplaces adopt improvements to better accommodate people with ADHD.
This included more flexible learning and working options, for example, or specialised strategies to help concentration, focus and memory.
The report also floated minimum standards of neurodiversity training for educators and employers.
Coalition Senators gave initial support to the report’s recommendations. However, they raised additional concerns, including access to ADHD treatment in regional Australia.
Greens Senators proposed 12 extra recommendations to strengthen the report’s proposals. This included appointing a Disability Minister to coordinate issues of disability, and ADHD training programs for educators.
The Government has three months to respond to the report.