Early in my Podiatry career whilst undertaking a locum community health service role I was confronted with a dilemma. A child I was consulting needed orthotic devices to manage their foot pain, however, their parents were unable to afford the expense.
I liaised with my line manager who consented for the organisation to provide the devices pro bono. However, in a subsequent meeting the senior manager disapproved of this action. The dilemma created an intriguing discussion a bout roles, responsibilities and the appropriate course of action for all parties.
Currently in Victorian public hospitals and community health centres it is generally expected that the parents/guardians of children prescribed orthotic devices will attend to expenses associated with the direct manufacture of devices. Whilst such costs are significantly less than orthotic devices purchased in a private setting the monetary outlay required by financially disadvantaged households may still prove considerable. Furthermore, given a child’s feet are constantly growing there may be a need to purchase new, larger devices at regular intervals.
There are alternate pathways available for Podiatrists to dispense orthotic devices for children of financially disadvantaged households unable to afford associated costs. For example, Podiatrists practising in Victorian public hospitals and community health centres are somewhat familiar with the Department of Health and Human Services ‘Victorian Aids and Equipment Program’. This program provides people with a permanent or long-term disability with subsidised aids equipment, home and vehicle modifications.
Upon establishing Footscape I was determined that our Podiatry charity could provide an effective pathway to fund orthotic devices for disadvantaged children in a timely manner. Indeed, I’m proud to report that since 2013 the Children’s Orthotic Project has funded over three hundred orthotic devices for Victorian children encountering foot pathology attending affiliate organisations. In addition, during the past three years recipient children have been concurrently eligible to receive new footwear to aid their schooling and recreation. Sonia Lancaster, Podiatrist at Sunraysia Community Health Services, highlighted the benefits of the project to the Mildura region:
‘Since 2018 the Footscape Children’s Orthotic Project has enabled Sunraysia Community Health Services to fast-track provision of orthotics and footwear to eligible children who otherwise would struggle to afford. We have forged closer links with the wider multi-disciplinary team, having a number of referrals from within Sunraysia Community Health Services and externally from Private Podiatrists.’
Footscape has welcomed the amazing support of Orthotech Laboratory to ensure sustainability of the Children’s Orthotic Project. The Footscape team are now endeavouring to expand this project throughout Australia.
Chief Executive Officer