Background

On the 1 July 2011 the Australian Government released the Better Start for Children with Disability program. This initiative provides early intervention to children with vision impairment, hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome.

Two type of funding packages is available:

  • Funding is available for early intervention services for eligible children under the age of six through service panel providers.
  • Assessment Medicare items are available for the development of a treatment and management plan for eligible children under the age of 13 and treatment Medicare items (up to 20) for allied health services to eligible children under 15 years (provided the treatment and management plan is in place before the age of 13).

Eligibility criteria

Children with the following disabilities are eligible for services under this program:

  • Vision impairment (vision less than or equal to 6/18 or equivalent field loss in the better eye, with correction)
  • Hearing impairment that results in:
    • A hearing loss of 40 decibels or greater in the better ear, across four frequencies, or
    • Permanent conductive hearing loss and auditory neuropathy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome

 

From 1 January 2013 services will be extended to include children with the following conditions:

  • Prader Willi
  • Williams
  • Angelman
  • Kabuki Make Up
  • Smith-Magenis
  • CHARGE
  • Cornelia de Lange syndrome
  • Cri du Chat syndrome
  • microcephaly

See the attached fact sheet about the expansion of this initative.

 

Eligible health professionals include psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, optometrists, orthoptists, physiotherapists and audiologists.

Psychologists providing services as part of this initiative should be competent to deliver assessment and treatment services to children with at least one of the disabilities listed above and provide services only within their area(s) of competence. Providing psychological services to children with a disability is a highly specialised area of practice so it is vital that practitioners delivering services have the skills to work effectively with these children. The APS intends to replicate the support provided to psychologists and to members of the public under the Helping Children with Autism package by facilitating upskilling for psychologists and the identification of members demonstrating competence in providing services under the Better Start initiative.

Early intervention panels

Children under six years of age who have been diagnosed with one of the listed disabilities will be able to be registered to access early intervention funding of up to $12,000 (to a maximum of $6,000 per financial year). This funding will be available until the child turns seven.

As part of this component of the Better Start initiative a panel of allied health service providers will be established. Psychologists must apply to be part of the panel to be eligible to provide these services. In applying, psychologists must demonstrate experience in working with children with at least one of the listed disabilities. Application forms for membership of the panel are now available online

Medicare assessment and treatment services

Further information

For further information about the Better Start initiative, go to:

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) www.fahcsia.gov.au or email to Better.Start@fahcsia.gov.au

Department of health and Ageing www.health.gov.au

MBS online www.mbsonline.gov.au