Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) and Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start)

UPDATE: Funding for the Helping Children With Autism (HCWA) and Better Start For Children with Disability (Better Start) programs is transitioning to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the programs will close on 30 June 2020. Registrations for the HCWA and Better Start programs have progressively closed in states where the NDIS Early Childhood Partners are established. From 15 February 2020, registrations for these programs will be closed nationally. If you are seeking support or information for a child, please contact your local Early Childhood Partner or the NDIA on 1800 800 110.

Transitioning program

This program is transitioning into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Please read below for more information about receiving future supports.

The Department of Social Services manages two early childhood disability intervention programs - HCWA and Better Start. These programs provide supports to help make sure children with disability have the same choices, opportunities and experiences as other children.

Throughout Australia, more than 3,500 service providers have registered to provide Better Start services and 3,800 to provide HCWA services.

Transitioning to the NDIS

HCWA and Better Start are transitioning to the NDIS. As the NDIS is rolled out across Australia, the programs will be progressively phased out. New registrations for HCWA and Better Start close when the NDIS becomes available in a location.

HCWA or Better Start clients will need to test their eligibility for the NDIS to continue to receive services. HCWA and Better Start clients will be contacted by an Early Childhood Partner once the NDIS is available in their area. Registration for HCWA and Better Start generally closes one month after an Early Childhood Partner commences in a community.

The Early Childhood Partner helps families to make an access request to the NDIS and, if eligible, assist with the development of an NDIS plan. When HCWA and Better Start clients have an NDIS approved plan, their access to HCWA or Better Start funding will cease as they will now be eligible to access supports under the NDIS. HCWA and Better Start clients will continue to be supported through their program until they have an NDIS plan in place.

The NDIS provides support that can continue through to adulthood, and support is based on each child’s individual needs.

Find out more about Early Childhood Early Intervention and Early Childhood Early Intervention Supports in the NDIS.

For parents and carers

All children who have access to HCWA and Better Start will be referred to the Early Childhood Partner in their local area to start the NDIS process.

The Early Childhood Partner also helps children who are not currently accessing HCWA or Better Start to test their eligibility for the NDIS.

The Early Childhood Partner works with your family to discuss the most appropriate supports for your child. Understanding that every child is different, they make sure supports meet your child and family’s individual needs and circumstances. They will also identify children who require urgent assistance and provide information and referral to other support services or organisations.

Early Intervention for children - Helpdesk

Tel: 1800 778 581


The Early Intervention helpdesk is located in Perth and is open during these times:

  • Monday – Friday: 8:30am to 12:00pm and 1pm to 4pm WST.

For other languages, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50 and ask them to contact the Helpdesk for you.

Continuity of Support

Once the rollout of the NDIS has been completed, families receiving HCWA or Better Start funding who are assessed as ineligible for the NDIS, will receive Continuity of Support (CoS) through the CoS Fund (the Fund), announced in the 2018-19 Budget. The Fund, administered by the Department of Social Services, will support existing clients of these programs to continue to receive similar supports.

Details about how support will be delivered through the Fund will be made available once long-term arrangements have been finalised.

For providers

All HCWA and Better Start service providers are encouraged to register with the NDIS.

As the NDIS comes into place in your location, you must register as an NDIS provider to continue delivering services to children who have an NDIS plan.

It is important to check with parents whether their child has an approved NDIS plan in place before delivering services to a child. 

Download and share stories and resources

The following stories and videos from the NDIS website help to explain the types of supports available in Early Childhood Early Intervention for children with disability under the NDIS.

Case study: Georgia’s Early Childhood Early Intervention Journey


HCWA and Better Start have helped over 77,000 children, and their families and carers, to access over 3.2 million services they need, to a value of almost $661 million.

Children with disability have the right to participate fully in their community and to have the same choices, opportunities and experiences as other children. Research shows that support during the early years of childhood improves outcomes for children with disability. The early childhood years lay the foundation for all future development.

These early years are also critical for the whole family. This is when families start learning how to support and nurture their child, how to meet their child's needs, and how to adapt positively to having a child with a disability or a developmental delay.

Other relevant links

Early Intervention Service Provider Panel - Operational Guidelines

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