From 1 July this year, families of eligible children diagnosed with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, Fragile X syndrome, or a moderate or greater vision or hearing impairment, including deaf blindness, will have access to early intervention funding and new Medicare items under the Australian Governments’s Better Start for Children with Disability initiative.
Eligible children will be able to be registered to access early intervention funding of up to $12,000 (to a maximum of $6,000 per financial year).The funding will be able to be used to pay for early intervention services including speech pathology, audiology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychology and orthoptics.
In NSW, Carers NSW will deliver a dedicated Better Start Registration and Information Service, to provide the eligible families and carers with information about eligibility, entitlement to supports and services in their local area.
Note that the initiative provides funding for early intervention and other services – recipients then choose how and where to spend the funding, with registered providers. If your child already receives an early intervention service, you should still register to receive Better Start for Children with Disability funding.
The Australian Government has made clear to Down Syndrome Australia that this is new funding which can be used to purchase services on top of those parents are currently receiving. Where parents are currently accessing free or subsidised services they will be able to continue to do so.
Down Syndrome NSW CEO Steve Clarke commented that the Association’s members are looking forward to the start of Better Start, and are keen to ensure it delivers real results for families.
‘Following the introduction of the ‘Helping Children with Autism’ package three years ago this is a program Down Syndrome NSW and our members have been pushing hard for. Former Disabilities Secretary Bill Shorten, Minister Jenny Macklin and Prime Minister Gillard are to be commended for delivering on this election promise.”
‘Down Syndrome Australia and the other national disability-specific bodies representing families of children eligible for Better Start have joined together under the banner ‘First Step Alliance’ .
First Step Alliance has and will continue to act as a voice for eligible families. DSA’s Catherine McAlpine is also acting as a voice and an ear to the Australian Government as a member of the Better Start Expert Reference Group.’
Through these avenues, Down Syndrome NSW will be working to ensure this new program fulfills its obvious potential.”
From 1 July 2011, parents and carers will be able to contact Carers NSW to register their child for Better Start funding via Freecall 1800 242 636.
However, Down Syndrome NSW has been informed that with an estimated 6000 families eligible from 1st July delays are to be expected. Initially, it is likely priority will be given to older children eg 4 yrs+ , and those with an urgent need for services – families with younger children already accessing early intervention are advised to wait until the initial rush has passed.
If you have any general questions or comments about Better Start you can forward these to the Parent Support Team at Down Syndrome NSW (on firstname.lastname@example.org or ph 9841 4401) who will collate inquiries, get responses, and inform families of those responses.