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

UPDATE

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has extended the HCWA and Better Start program. This extension ensures families continue to receive support through the challenges that the pandemic has presented.

HCWA and Better Start programs will no longer be ending on 30 June 2020 for existing clients. Instead, they are now ending on 31 March 2021.

The HCWA and Better Start programs are not reopening to new children.

Funding for these programs is transitioning to the NDIS. It is important that you test your child’s eligibility for the NDIS as soon as possible so you do not experience a gap in services. To start the process of testing your child’s ability to access the NDIS, contact your Early Childhood partner or the NDIS National Call Centre on 1800 800 110 as soon as possible.

To understand how the NDIS is operating during the pandemic, visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and support section of the NDIS website.

For parents and carers

While the individualised funding for children under the HCWA and Better Start programs is transitioning to the NDIS, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has extended the HCWA and Better Start program.

HCWA and Better Start programs will no longer be ending on 30 June 2020 for existing clients.

Instead, your child’s HCWA or Better Start eligibility will now end when whichever of the below happens first:

  • your child turns seven; or
  • all funding has been spent; or
  • your child has an NDIS plan in place; or
  • 31 March 2021.

It is important that you test your child’s eligibility for the NDIS as soon as possible so you do not experience a gap in services.

To start the process of testing your child’s ability to access the NDIS, contact your Early Childhood partner or the NDIS National Call Centre on 1800 800 110 as soon as possible.

To understand how the NDIS is operating during the pandemic, visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and support section of the NDIS website.

Early Childhood Partners (Early Childhood Partners) are the first point of contact for families/carers with a child aged under 7 years who may have concerns about their child’s development. They are part of the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) approach. Further information about the NDIS ECEI approach is available at www.NDIS.gov.au/ecei.

EC Partners are experienced in providing early childhood intervention and have a strong local knowledge and understanding of the needs of children aged under 7 years and their families and carers.

EC Partners are equipped to assess a child’s needs and will help you work out the types of supports that might be of most benefit to your child. They offer a tailored approach to each child’s individual needs and circumstances and are able to connect you with supports in your area, provide short-term early intervention where appropriate, and help request NDIS access if your child requires longer-term early childhood intervention. If your child becomes an NDIS participant, the EC Partner will work with your family to develop an NDIS plan.

You don’t need assessments or reports to make contact with an EC Partner.

If you have not already been contacted by an EC Partner or by the NDIA, you are encouraged to contact the National Call Centre (NCC) (1800 800 110) for more information.

Continuity of Support

If your child is not eligible for the NDIS, they may be eligible for the Government’s Continuity of Support (CoS) arrangement from 1 April 2021. Until then, your child will be supported through HCWA or Better Start, as long as they remain eligible.

CoS is intended to support clients of existing Commonwealth programs to access similar supports and services to those under HCWA or Better Start.

If your child not eligible for the NDIS, you can continue to receive HCWA or Better Start funding until whichever of the following happens first:

  • your child has turned seven; or
  • all funding has been spent; or
  • 31 March 2021.

For providers

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Australian Government has made the decision to extend some Department of Social Services programs.  These programs include HCWA or Better Start which were due to end on 30 June 2020.  Instead, they are now ending on 31 March 2021.

This decision was made to minimise disruption to community services that millions of Australians rely on and to support the disability support sector during the pandemic.

This is not a pause in transition, nor are the HCWA and Better Start programs reopening.

Delivery of services may be limited due to coronavirus restrictions and families may be more vulnerable and in need of support.

Your funding agreement for the Early Intervention Service Provider Panel (the Panel) will be extended to 31 March 2021 and you will be able to continue delivering services under HCWA or Better Start until then.

If you have not already done so, you are encouraged to register as an NDIS provider as soon as possible.

For information on how to apply to become an NDIS provider, visit the NDIS Provider website at www.ndis.gov.au/providers.

To understand the changes to how the NDIS is operating, you are encouraged to visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and support section on the NDIS website.

Other relevant links

Early Intervention Service Provider Panel - Operational Guidelines

Early Intervention Helpdesk

Tel: 1800 778 581

Email: early.intervention@dss.gov.au

Helpdesk opening hours

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

  • Monday - Friday 11.30am to 3.00pm and 4.00pm to 7.00pm (AEDST)
  • Monday – Friday 10.30am to 2.00pm and 3.00pm to 6.00pm (AEST)
  • Monday - Friday 8:30am to 12:00pm and 1pm to 4pm (WA)

*For a faster response please have your child’s Customer Reference Number (CRN) ready before your call. If leaving a voicemail, leave the child’s name, CRN and reason for the call.

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

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