On 6 August 2013 the Commonwealth Government released its response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Inquiry into the prevention, diagnosis and management of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD Inquiry) final report FASD: The Hidden Harm. The response has been released as the ‘Australian Government Action Plan to reduce the impact of FASD 2013-14 to 2016-17: A Commonwealth Action Plan’ (Action Plan).
A $20 million commitment has been attributed to the Action Plan, which has five key priorities:
1. Enhancing efforts to prevent FASD in the community – $5.0 million
2. Secondary prevention targeting women with alcohol dependency – $4.8 million
3. Better diagnosis and management of FASD – $0.5 million
4. Targeted measures to prevent and manage FASD within Indigenous communities and families in areas of social disadvantage – $5.9 million
5. National coordination, research and workforce support – $4.0 million
The Action Plan acknowledges that that a whole of government response is needed to address FASD, and that this response should address the “prevention and diagnosis, builds capacity of the workforce, targets groups at greatest risk and support national leadership on FASD.”
Highlights from the Action Plan include:
However, the Action Plan falls well short in addressing the recommendations from the FASD Inquiry, and the actions outlined in the Australian FASD Action Plan released by FARE last year.
The three main areas of concern with the Action Plan are outlined below:
Overall, the Action Plan is a step in the right direction for progressing FASD policy in Australia. The recognition of prevention as being of critical importance is welcomed as is the acknowledgment that national coordination is needed.
It is also pleasing that services, practical support and compassionate interventions have been identified as important for pregnant women who are alcohol dependent.
However, the omission of specific support programs for people with FASD, their parents and carers is concerning and does not alleviate the stress currently being placed on these people.