Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Applications open to providers to help deliver government’s new early intervention program

Early intervention service providers across the country are invited to apply to join the Better Start Early Intervention Service Provider Panel to help deliver a new Australian Government program that will provide tailored early intervention services to children with disabilities.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, today announced applications were open for suitably qualified service providers to join the Panel.

The Better Start initiative is aimed at helping children aged under six years who have been diagnosed with either Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, Fragile X syndrome or moderate or greater vision or hearing impairments, including deafblindness.

Senator McLucas said the Panel will provide access to a range of early intervention services for eligible children, as well as choice and flexibility in accessing early intervention services.

Under the program, from 1 July eligible children will be able to register to access early intervention funding of up to $12,000 (up to a maximum of $6,000 each financial year) for services and therapies provided by members of the Better Start Early Intervention Service Provider Panel.

The funding will help parents pay for early intervention services and therapies including speech pathology, audiology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychology, orthoptics, specialist education services and others.

“Early intervention can make a huge difference to these children’s quality of life,” Senator McLucas said.

“This targeted early intervention during a child’s pre-school years will help to ensure the best possible preparation for transition to school, as well as providing a network of support for parents and carers.”

The Better Start program builds on the Australian Government’s $190 million Helping Children with Autism package which is providing early intervention services to children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since its introduction in October 2008, more than 12,000 children have accessed early intervention services through the package.

The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is establishing the Better Start Early Intervention Service Provider Panel and will accept and assess online applications from potential service providers from today.

The role of service providers will be to deliver evidence-based early interventions and therapies for eligible children focussed on contributing to the child’s ability to transition to school.

Providers will be expected to be able to demonstrate experience in working with children who have at least one of the listed disabilities.

Round one applications will close on Wednesday 18 May 2011.

Further information about the application process, including the application form and all supporting documentation is available at