Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

A better start for children with disability in Darwin

Joint Media Release with:

  • Senator Trish Crossin, Senator for Northern Territory

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers Senator Jan McLucas and Senator Trish Crossin today met with local children with disabilities and their families that will benefit from improved access to targeted early intervention services.

The Australian Government will invest $146.5 million over four years in the Better Start for Children with Disability.

Senator McLucas said 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.

“Evidence shows that young children diagnosed with disabilities that affect their development benefit from early intervention to give them the best possible start in life,” Senator McLucas said.

“Access to high quality services early in childhood is critical for helping these children to better participate in everyday life and attend school.”

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

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.

Children in outer regional, rural and remote areas will be eligible for an additional one-off payment of $2,000 to help meet the costs of accessing services such as travel and home visits.

“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.”

Senator Trish Crossin said “For Indigenous children in the Territory, a higher rate of hearing loss has been well documented, especially in rural and remote areas.”

“Moderate or greater hearing impairment in infancy affects language development and comprehension, and if untreated, can affect a child’s participation levels at school.”

“Access to the Better Start funding for eligible children will contribute to their development and to their successful transition to school.”

In addition to delivering financial support to children with disability in the Territory, 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.