Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

A better start for children with hearing impairment

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers Senator Jan McLucas today visited Brisbane’s Hear and Say Centre to meet with local children with disabilities and their families who will benefit from improved access to targeted early intervention services.

Since 1992, the Hear and Say Centre has been teaching children who are deaf or hearing impaired to listen and speak.

The Centre aims for its children to achieve speech and language in the normal range for their age by six years of age giving them the opportunity for a mainstream education, employment of choice and social integration with the hearing world.

“Hearing impairment in young children affects language development and comprehension. Left untreated, it can have a major impact on a child’s ability to participate fully at school and in everyday life.

“Early intervention is making a huge difference to the quality of life for children with developmental disabilities.

Senator McLucas said eligible children with moderate or greater hearing impairment will have access to intensive early intervention services through the new Better Start for Children with Disability initiative.

In the recent Federal Budget, the Australian Government committed $146.5 million over four years to deliver Better Start.

From 1 July this year, eligible children will be able to access a range of early intervention service providers including speech pathologists and audiologists.

Eligible children will have access to a total of $12,000 in flexible funding for early intervention services and will be able to use up to $6,000 in any one financial year.

The Better Start initiative is expected to help more than 9,000 children aged under six years who have been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, Fragile X syndrome, and moderate or severe vision or hearing impairments, including deafblindness.

“The new Better Start package will help reduce the financial burden on parents and carers of children with a disability, making vital early intervention services more affordable and accessible.”

In addition to delivering financial support to children with disability, families will also be able to access information about a range of services and support available to them through the Registration and Information Service.

Carers Australia will act as an entry point for parents to register eligible children over the phone or in person at Registration and Information Service offices based in every capital city and in regional centres across Australia.

More information is also available by calling the Better Start helpline on 1800 989 530 between 8:30am and 5:00pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

Senator McLucas said “The Better Start for Children with Disability initiative is part of the Australian Government’s continued committed to supporting parents of children with disability right across the country.”

“Better Start builds on the success of the Australian Government’s Helping Children with Autism package.”

In the recent Federal Budget, the Government is providing an additional $29 million to meet increased demand in 2010-11 and 2011-12 for early intervention services for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.