We are pleased to present the Children and Young People Lens of the ACT Wellbeing Framework. It brings together data representing our understanding of the wellbeing of children and young people across our community. By highlighting key wellbeing measures we can better understand the needs of children and young people in their earliest years and make sure we have the right policies and programs in place to provide this support.
The Children and Young People Lens draws information from both publicly available sources as well as previously unreported Government data across 49 measures and represents these in 11 of the 12 existing wellbeing domains. Measures are represented using strengths-based language where possible, noting that some highlight areas where children and young people may have adverse experiences. Where possible, a disaggregation of data by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status is presented to acknowledge where there continues to be a gap in outcomes and to help better target services where they are needed to close this gap.
During the consultations to develop the ACT Wellbeing Framework and the Children and Young People Lens, young people told us we must recognise that they experience different challenges and barriers to adults. As a complement to the ACT Wellbeing Framework, the Children and Young People Lens provides the Government with the opportunity to assess these different experiences and develop insights on the specific needs of children and young people.
Since early 2020, the impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic have been felt across the entire community, with children and young people being particularly affected by the need to switch to remote learning for periods of time. The ACT Government and the community sector have worked to prioritise services and programs needed to support the safety and wellbeing of children and young people through the pandemic.
The pandemic has impacted the availability of some of the data that underpins measures in the Children and Young People Lens. Additionally, we know that some of the changes in the measures over this period reflect the impacts of lockdowns, restrictions and periods of remote learning.
We can see through the Identity and Belonging domain that our children and young people enjoyed returning to on-campus learning from the remote learning periods. The increased time face-to-face with peers correlates with a 10 per cent increase in school identification.
During the same period, the Access and Connectivity domain shows the restricted openings and reduced services across public places impacted access, including to our libraries. Services moved to offer more services online, supporting families to access early intervention and locally-based services during the pandemic. These have now returned to previous levels, with online service now part of mainstream delivery.
We know we have more work to do in supporting families with children in their early years. Data from the Australian Early Development Census shows the ACT has more children starting school who are developmentally vulnerable than ever before. However, we can see some improvements in service, with an increasing number of children entering early childhood education as part of the ACT Government’s commitment to funding high quality early learning for three-year-olds, starting with those experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability.
The Children and Young People Lens provides policy makers, communities, families and individuals with a robust evidence base to inform actions we can all take to improve outcomes for children and young people. It will be further developed over the coming years to mature our data story of how children and young people in the ACT are growing in wellbeing.
It is important we continue to work together to grow our understanding of Canberra’s children and young people and how we can better support them to become happy, healthy and engaged adults.
Minister Stephen-Smith, Minister for Families and Community Services
Minister Berry, Minister for Education and Youth Affairs