This report of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee inquiry into barriers to consistent, timely and best practice assessment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and support services for people with ADHD draws on 700 submissions, and the evidence of 79 witnesses attending three days of public hearings across Australia.
The committee thanks all those who made contributions to our deliberations. The committee has been moved by the personal experiences and openness of the hundreds of submitters and witnesses who have shared their ADHD experiences. It appreciates the time invested by the ADHD community and notes the ways the health, education, employment and justice systems have let people down.
Over one million—or an estimated one in 20—Australians have ADHD. The committee has heard the experiences of many people with ADHD who have not been able to access the healthcare and supports that they need. This has had lifelong impacts on them and their families, including on their self-esteem, health, relationships, education, employment and financial situation.
The committee notes that not all people with ADHD define their experience through medical models of understanding and acknowledges that understandings of ADHD are constantly evolving. The committee further acknowledges that identity in the ADHD community is a varied and deeply personal experience. People with ADHD may or may not identify with their diagnosis, as members of the disability community, or as neurodivergent people.
Over the course of the inquiry, the committee found that barriers to people with ADHD accessing assessment, diagnosis and support services include:
Lack of services—limited availability and long wait times for healthcare professionals to diagnose, and provided medication and other supports to people with ADHD, lack of services in the public health system, especially for adults with ADHD and insufficient services in rural, regional and remote areas.
High costs of services—including insufficient coverage under Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS).
Poor consumer experiences—caused by lack of reliable information about ADHD, overly bureaucratic processes, fragmented care, inconsistent prescribing regulations, and stigma and variable quality of healthcare associated with ADHD, as well as use of stimulants.
Lack of supports in schools, out-of-home care and correctional facilities.
Specific challenges for key groups including girls, women and gender‑diverse people, First Nations peoples and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Having considered the considerable and varied evidence provided, the committee is of the view that more can be done to remove barriers for people with ADHD so that they can receive the assessments, healthcare and support they need. The costs of the current system are too high, given the costs to the healthcare, education and justice systems, as well as to employers. However, above all these costs are the significant personal health, wellbeing and financial costs to people with ADHD and their families and carers.
Overwhelmingly, people with ADHD want more accessible support to help them thrive and reach their best potential—in their relationships, in their studies and in their work. The committee has made its recommendations to the Senate and looks forward to receiving the government response to the concerns raised during this inquiry.
The committee recognises that the content in this report, particularly in Chapter 2, may be distressing to some readers. If you need support, you can contact these free services:
ADHD National Helpline (ADHD Foundation) – support, information and referrals to the community
1300 39 39 19adhdfoundation.org.au
ADHD support groups (ADHD Foundation) – a list of state-specific organisations and support groups
Lifeline – National crisis support and suicide prevention service
13 11 14lifeline.org.au
13 YARN – National crisis support for mob
12 92 7613yarn.org.au
Beyond Blue – National crisis support
1300 22 4636beyondblue.org.au
Kids Helpline – counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25 years
1800 55 1800kidshelpline.com.au
QLife – LGBTQIA+ peer support and referral service
1800 184 527qlife.org.au
HeadSpace – mental health support service for young people aged 12 to 25 years and their families
1800 650 890headspace.org.au