More children with disability to get a better start to life
From 1 January, hundreds more eligible children under the age of six will be able to receive critical early intervention services and therapies under the Australian Government’s expanded Better Start for Children with Disability initiative.
Through a $13.4 million boost, the eligibility criteria for the successful Better Start initiative is being expanded to include nine additional disabilities – Prader Willi, Williams, Angelman, Kabuki, Smith-Magenis, CHARGE, Cornelia de Lange and Cri du Chat syndromes and microcephaly.
The Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, encouraged parents and carers to register their newly eligible children for Better Start.
“Our government’s investment means about 1,200 extra children can access crucial early intervention support,” Ms Macklin said.
“From next week, the families of these newly eligible children can register to access early intervention funding of up to $12,000.”
Eligible children up to the age of six will receive a maximum of $6,000 per financial year to spend on early intervention services.
“We are extending these services to children diagnosed with other disabilities where there is strong evidence of the benefits of early intervention, so they can also get the best start in life,” Ms Macklin said.
Better Start provides families with funding to access therapies such as speech therapy, audiology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, optometry, psychology, orthoptics and services of teachers of the deaf.
The Government sought expert advice on evidence on the effectiveness of early intervention in July 2011, resulting in a report from KPMG which recommended the expansion of the Better Start program to include these additional nine conditions.
More than 5,500 children across Australia have been registered for Better Start and have accessed more than 66,800 early intervention services since the initiative started in July 2011.
Senator McLucas said it was fantastic to see so many children benefiting from Better Start.
“Better Start gives parents the financial assistance they need to access services that can make a real difference in their children’s lives,” Senator McLucas said.
“We know that investing in early intervention for children with disabilities before they get to school gives them the best chance of reaching their full potential.”
Under Better Start, children with the listed disabilities will also be eligible for Medicare rebates up to the age of 15, providing there is a treatment and management plan in place before the age of 13.
Medicare rebates are available for up to four allied health diagnostic services and for 20 allied health services (in total) per eligible child.
Senator McLucas said the Better Start initiative will help inform the approach to early intervention services for children with disability as the Government works towards the start of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“Our government is investing $1 billion to launch the first stage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme from the middle of 2013-a year ahead of the timetable set out by the Productivity Commission,” Senator McLucas said.
The first stage will start in the Hunter in NSW, the Barwon area of Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT.
“From July 2013, around 20,000 people with disability, their families and carers will start to benefit from the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”
Parents and carers of newly eligible children can register their child for Better Start by contacting the Better Start Registration and Information Service delivered by Carers Australia on 1800 242 636.