Report identifies systemic issues

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Students of the Fiji Society of the Blind singing in unison during the visit by the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande at the school in Vatuwaqa, Suva on Friday, 06-03-2020. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

Opportunities are being missed for the early identification and referral of children with developmental delays and disabilities in Fiji, states a research published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

“The Early Identification and Intervention for Children with Disabilities in Fiji” was authored by Fleur Smith and Manjula Marella from the Nossal Institute for Global Health in Melbourne and Sureni Perera from Frank Hilton Organisation in Fiji.

The researchers found once needs are identified, lack of services and workforce, ad hoc referral systems, and family financial constraints lead to unmet support needs, impacting child and family wellbeing.

“Addressing these issues needs a cross-sector approach,” state the authors of the research.

“Our study identified systemic issues of lack of funding and prioritisation by government, and a lack of workforce and training opportunities as contributing to the limited growth and capacity of both universal services and disability-specific services in Fiji to respond to the needs of children with disabilities.

“Addressing these systemic issues will require the relevant sectors to work together.

“Pleasingly, there are already examples in Fiji of service providers across sectors working to improve referral pathways, which may be supported and strengthened by collaboration at the ministry levels to establish formal agreements and guidelines on service provision for children with disabilities.

“Early identification of developmental delay or disability and access to early intervention improves outcomes for children with disabilities and their families.

“The earlier children with, or at risk of, developmental disabilities are identified and receive timely, co-ordinated support and intervention, the better their outcomes and those of their family are likely to be.”

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