Better Start for Children with Disability initiative

Information for Parents

Are you looking for a Better Start Early Intervention Service Provider

Information for Service Providers

Information about the Early Intervention Service Provider Panel application process is available elsewhere on this site.

What does the Better Start initiative include?

The Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start) initiative includes:

  • up to $12,000 in funding for early intervention services and treatments for eligible children
  • additional assistance for eligible children who live in outer-regional, rural or remote locations to help with the costs of accessing services
  • a Medicare rebate for the development of a treatment and management plan for eligible children up to the age of 13
  • Medicare rebates for up to four allied health diagnostic/assessment services for eligible children under the age of 13, the results of which contribute to the development of the treatment and management plan, and
  • Medicare rebates for up to 20 relevant allied health services in total for each eligible child under the age of 15 provided the treatment and management plan is in place before the age of 13.

More information on early intervention services is available below.

More information on the Medicare rebates is available elsewhere on this site.

You can view questions and answers about the early intervention transition to the NDIS

Who is eligible to receive support under Better Start?

Eligible children who are aged under six years and have been diagnosed with:

  • Down syndrome
  • cerebral palsy
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • a moderate or greater vision or hearing impairment, including deafblindness
  • Prader Willi syndrome
  • Williams syndrome
  • Angelman syndrome
  • Kabuki syndrome
  • Smith-Magenis syndrome
  • CHARGE syndrome
  • Cornelia de Lange syndrome
  • ‘Cri du Chat syndrome
  • Microcephaly or
  • Rett’s Disorder*

Children with one of the listed disabilities are also able to access Medicare rebates under Better Start.

*From 1 February 2014, children aged under six years who have been diagnosed with Rett’s Disorder are eligible for Better Start early intervention funding. These children have access to Medicare rebates under Better Start from 1 March 2014. (Note: these children were previously eligible for early intervention funding under the Department’s Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) programme.)

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How can I register my child?

Parents or carers of eligible children will need to register their child for the Better Start early intervention funding before the child turns six years of age.

Registration of eligible children is managed by the dedicated Registration and Information Service (RIS), which is operated by Carers Australia.

To register a child for the Better Start early intervention funding parents and carers must call the RIS on 1800 242 636.

To successfully register a child for the early intervention funding, parents or carers must be able to provide the RIS with evidence of:

  • the child's age (e.g. the child’s birth certificate or passport)
  • the child’s residential address (e.g. a recent utilities bill or rates notice)
  • the child’s diagnosis (details provided via the link below)
  • residential status (if applicable- details provided via the link below), and
  • the child's Centrelink generated Customer Reference Number (CRN).

Further information on the registration process is available elsewhere on this site.

The RIS employs suitably qualified and experienced front line staff to provide assistance to eligible children, their parents and carers, including those living in regional and remote areas and those from Indigenous or culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. The RIS are able to assist with:

  • confirming a child’s eligibility, including confirming evidence of age, diagnosis and residential address
  • registering each eligible child on the FaHCSIA Online Funding Management System (FOFMS)
  • providing information to parents and carers of eligible children about the components of Better Start, including information about the Better Start Early Intervention Service Provider Panel, and
  • where appropriate, referring parents and carers to other services or assistance that may be available beyond Better Start.

More information about early intervention funding

Eligible children can be registered to access early intervention funding of up to $12,000 (up to a maximum of $6,000 in any one financial year).

The increased access to targeted early intervention in the pre-school years is intended to complement existing Commonwealth and State and Territory government services and to assist these children to have the best possible preparation for the transition to school.

The funding can be used to pay for early intervention services provided by a range of early intervention professionals who are members of the Better Start Early Intervention Service Provider Panel.

The professionals on the panel include:

  • speech pathologists,
  • audiologists,
  • occupational therapists,
  • physiotherapists,
  • psychologists,
  • orthoptists,
  • teachers of the deaf,
  • optometrists and
  • others.

Eligible children must be registered before their sixth birthday and families will have until their child turns seven to use the early intervention funding.

Can some of the funding be used to buy items for my child?

Up to 35% of a child’s early intervention funding can be used for the purchase of resources. This means that up to $4,200 in total out of the $12,000 can be used for resources, up to a total of $2,100 in any one financial year.

Resources that are purchased with Better Start funds must:

  • be recommended by the child’s Better Start service provider, and
  • be directly linked with the early intervention services being delivered to the child, and/or
  • provide support for the delivery of interventions at home.

If deemed suitable by the child’s Better Start service provider, parents may use some of their child’s resource funding to pay for accredited Auslan courses delivered by a registered training organisation. Certificates II and III level courses for parents are in scope under Better Start.

Please note: the Better Start resources component of the early intervention funding cannot be used to pay for

  • items or interventions that are out of scope for Better Start, such as swimming lessons.
  • items or services that are provided through other schemes or funding arrangements, such as incontinence aids or reading glasses.

What support is there for those families who find it difficult to access early intervention services?

Families who reside in an outer regional or remote area may be eligible for a one-off payment of $2,000 per eligible child, to cover the additional expenses associated with accessing early intervention services. Eligibility for this payment is based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia + (ARIA+) classification.

In exceptional circumstances, families who experience significant and multiple barriers to accessing early intervention services, including location, financial and personal circumstances may also be eligible for the Access Payment. The information guide and application form providing further details of exceptional circumstances are available below and from the Registration and Information Service.

Please note that any exceptional circumstances claims need to be submitted via the Registration and Information Service (1800 242 636).
The information guide and application form.

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Fact sheets and further information

Other contacts

If you require further information about the Better Start initiative, you are welcome to contact the Better Start Helpline on 1800 778 581. This helpline operates from 9:30am – 12:30pm and 1:30pm – 5:00pm Monday to Fridays (excluding public holidays).

Specific enquiries can also be emailed to Better.Start@dss.gov.au

Other support

Please note that Better Start is not intended to replace or reduce disability support services that are provided in each jurisdiction.

State and Territory governments are the main providers of specialist disability services, including early intervention services for children with disability. Families and carers of children with disability are encouraged to contact their relevant State or Territory government disability service for further information about the types of assistance to which they may be entitled.

Victoria

Call Disability Services (Victorian Government) on 1800 783 783

New South Wales

Call Ageing, Disability and Home Care (New South Wales Government) on 02 8270 2000

South Australia

Call Community and Home Support SA – Disability Services on 1300 786 117

Queensland

Call Disability and Community Care Services (Queensland Government) on 1800 177 120

Western Australia

Call Disability WA (Western Australian Government) on 1800 998 214

Australian Capital Territory

Call Disability ACT (Australian Capital Territory Government) on 133 427

Northern Territory

Call The Office of Disability (Northern Territory Government) on 1800 139 656

Tasmania

Call Disability and Community Services (Tasmanian Government) on 1300 135 513

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