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Tuesday, 6 March 1984
Page: 443


Senator ROBERTSON —I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. It refers to programs of early intervention for intellectually and emotionally handicapped children. Is the Minister aware of the education program for infants and children-EPIC-in Victoria which has been a successful early intervention program for some years? Is it the intention of his Department to continue to assist the organisation operating this program?


Senator GRIMES —I am aware of the education program for infants and children which is called EPIC and which is conducted at the Phillip Institute of Technology at Bundoora in Victoria. It is an early intervention program for intellectually handicapped children. The Department of Social Security funds several such programs. We have been considering how far this sort of program is related to child care and how far it is related to education. It is most likely, I think, that the Commonwealth Schools Commission will take a major interest in programs which have an education focus, although it will probably not take responsibility for them until some time in 1985, if then. My colleague Senator Ryan may have something to say about that. In the meantime, we are continuing to support the program at the Phillip Institute of Technology through the Office of Child Care. In the next 12 months the grant will increase from $106,000 per annum to $151,700 per annum. EPIC has a very impressive record. Its success rate in the integration of its children into regular services has been remarkable in that 75 per cent of all EPIC graduates and 95 per cent of Down's syndrome children from this institute have gone on to make use of regular children's services in schools. I went to the centre a couple of years ago. I have seen its work. I have seen its early training videos. The encouragement the children are given to develop the full stretch of their physical and intellectual capacities is very impressive. I hope that the enthusiasm of the teachers, the researchers and the parents at this important centre continues. They will certainly have the support of this Government.