Labor urged to provide Critical Speech Therapy for Children with Cleft Lip and Palate Conditions


The Australian Greens, in collaboration with the Australian Cleft Lip and Palate Community, are proposing amendments to the Health Insurance Amendment (Prescribed Dental Patients and Other Measures) Bill 2023. If supported, it will grant children with Cleft Lip and Palate  access to crucial speech therapy services under Medicare's Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Scheme

The community has been advocating for improved access to speech pathology services for more than 13 years. Affordable access to speech therapy plays a pivotal role in the lives of children with cleft lip and palate conditions; boosting their self-esteem, and enhancing their overall quality of life. 

The current exclusion of speech therapy services from the Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Scheme places an unjust financial burden on families.

Senator Jordon Steele-John, Greens spokesperson for Health and Disability has said: 

“It’s beyond time for the Medicare Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Scheme to incorporate a greater number of speech pathology sessions for individuals with cleft lip and palate. The current provision of only five speech pathology sessions per year falls short. Today, the Greens are proposing amendments to expand the Medicare Cleft Scheme to encompass 26 sessions over a 12-month period.” 

“I have personally heard from parents of children with cleft lip and palate who have expressed that the current allowance of five speech pathology sessions per year is inadequate. The absence of additional Medicare-covered sessions forces them to incur thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. This puts them in the difficult position of choosing between providing their child with life-changing support, or meeting basic necessities such as rent and food. 

“The Australian Community is rallying behind this change. A petition addressing the issue has immense public support, with over 14,000 signatures.

Statements from The Cleft Palate and Lip Society (ClefPALS) Community Advocates: 

Jessica Beckman, the campaign manager for CleftPALS and a mother of a three-year-old with cleft lip and palate vividly portrays the challenges faced by these families. 

"There are too many children suffering from developmental delays from not having access to speech therapy, which leads to other mental anguish. Australian kids shouldn’t be getting bullied at school for not being able to talk properly."

“In 2009, CleftPals wrote to the then Parliamentary Secretary for Health, and now Minister for Health, Mark Butler, asking for speech therapy support. That request was ignored. Now is the time for Minister Butler to act; he should commit to providing fair and equitable access to speech therapy services for our cleft kids”.

Timothy Delivin, President of CleftPALS NSW, whose kindergarten-aged son Joshua struggles with clear speech, underscored the "significant financial burden that is placed on families with a cleft kid with sessions with a specialist costing up to $190 per hour!”