Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Better start for children with disability

Joint Media Release with:

  • Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
  • Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing

Children with disability affecting their development will have access to intensive early intervention services through the $147 million Better Start for Children with Disability initiative.

This election commitment will help reduce the financial burden on parents and carers of children with disability and make vital early intervention services more affordable and accessible.

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.

Early intervention can make a huge difference to a child with disability’s development and lifelong learning, and access to these services will help better prepare them for school.

Over four years, around 9,000 children up to seven years of age who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome, and sight or hearing impairments, are expected to be eligible for services under the program.

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.

Families will be able to choose how to use their funding by selecting service providers from a panel of professionals. They will also have until their child’s seventh birthday to use the funding.

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.

In addition, about 20,000 children with these disabilities under the age of 15 will be able to access new Medicare services for diagnosis and allied health treatment under this program.

A Medicare rebate for the development of a treatment and management plan will also be available for children under the age of 13.

Medicare rebates will be available for up to four allied health diagnostic services and for up to 20 allied health treatment services per child in total. Treatment items can be used by children up to the age of 15 provided they receive a treatment and management plan before they were 13 years of age.

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

In this Budget, the Government will also provide 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.

This will assist more families with the costs of caring for children with Autism and ensure essential funding is available for early intervention for children in the most critical period of their development.

Since its introduction in October 2008, more than 12,000 children have accessed early intervention services through the Helping Children with Autism package.