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Government response to the ADHD inquiry is two months overdue

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A report recommended sweeping changes to the way ADHD is diagnosed and treated in Australia. Five months on, the Government hasn't responded.
The Government's response to the ADHD inquiry has been delayed by more than two months

The Government has not provided a response to a Senate report following an inquiry looking at support services for people with ADHD two months after it was meant to.

It received more than 700 submissions and heard from nearly 80 witnesses before handing down a report in November.

It made 15 recommendations to improve the lives of people with ADHD in Australia. The Government was given three months to hand down a formal response to the findings.

Five months later, it’s yet to do so.

ADHD

ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder, impacts around one in 20 Australians. It can make it difficult to concentrate or control impulses.

ADHD symptoms usually present in childhood and the condition is currently more commonly diagnosed in boys.

Diagnosis requires a thorough behavioural assessment. In most cases, medication is only prescribed by psychiatrists and paediatricians.

Inquiry

Last year, the Senate launched an inquiry into the treatment and diagnosis of ADHD in Australia.

Its final report found there were multiple barriers to Australians receiving adequate care for ADHD: limited healthcare services, high treatment costs, and inconsistent prescription guidelines.

It noted “thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket expenses” can bar young people from accessing diagnosis and treatment.

Recommendations

The inquiry had several recommendations to improve testing and treatment for ADHD.

It suggested the government put more ADHD medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which makes medicines cheaper through government subsidies.

It also recommended a public health campaign to reduce stigma and improve awareness.

Government response

The government is typically required to respond to inquiries within three months of a final report. For example, the government’s formal response to the ADHD inquiry was due on 6 February.

However, before an official response is submitted, a relevant government department will consider an inquiry’s findings and prepare a draft response for the Minister.

In this case, the ADHD inquiry fell under the Department of Health — MP Mark Butler’s portfolio.

In February, the Department confirmed it had presented its draft to the Health Minister.

TDA asked Butler why he hadn’t responded. He didn’t directly address TDA’s questions, but said the government is “considering its recommendations and will respond in due course.”

This ADHD inquiry was overseen by the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee. The Albanese Government has not responded to any of this committee’s inquiries on time.

Opposition

Liberal Senator Maria Kovacic, who was on the Community Affairs Committee, said it’s not “unusual” for governments to take longer than three months to respond to an inquiry.

However, she said the government should have prioritised its response due to the high level of interest.

“[The government] is very late on the homework,” Kovacic said.

“Unfortunately that means people who are waiting for the outcome of this ADHD inquiry have a lot longer to wait”.

Greens

Greens Disability spokesperson Jordon Steele-John called the delay “unacceptable”.

“The ADHD community in Australia put so much energy and work into the inquiry [and] engaged with it earnestly, in good faith.

“The federal government, with all of its resources, all of its supports, couldn’t get its response in on time, while ADHDers actually did do the work to do that,” he added.

Advocates

National ADHD support helpline, the ADHD Foundation, said: “Delays protract the suffering of those within the ADHD community”.

It said Australians with ADHD will “continue to face the burden of lack of access to cost-effective diagnosis and treatment”.

The Foundation noted that while it was disappointed in the delays, it would rather wait for a “well-delivered” and “sustainable” response.

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