Is my child eligible?


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.

Children must meet the eligibility requirements in order to qualify for assistance.

General early intervention eligibility

Children must be under the age of six at the time of registration to be eligible for funding.

Both the parent/carer and the child must be living in Australia permanently as:

  • an Australian citizen
  • the holder of a permanent resident visa, or
  • a New Zealand citizen who was:
    • in Australia on 26 February 2001, or for 12 months in the two years immediately before that date, or,
    • assessed as "protected" before 26 February 2004.

Children must be diagnosed with an eligible disability (further information below in HCWA and Better Start). An acceptable form of diagnosis includes either:

  • a document on letterhead paper with the signature and position of diagnosing person
  • an email with ‘approved for transmission’ in the email by the appropriate diagnosing person.

Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) eligibility

A written conclusive diagnosis must be provided before entry into the program. A conclusive diagnosis can be made through any one of the following:

  • the HCWA Medicare items for diagnostic/assessment services as explained on the Department of Health website
  • a state/territory government or equivalent multidisciplinary assessment service
  • a private multidisciplinary team
  • paediatrician
  • psychiatrist.

A multidisciplinary assessment team must consist of a psychologist and speech therapist, but can include an occupational therapist.

Your child may be eligible if they are diagnosed with one (or more) of the following conditions:

  • Autism
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Autistic Disorder
  • Asperger’s Disorder/Syndrome
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start) eligibility

Your child may be eligible for Better Start if they are diagnosed with one of the following conditions:

  • sight impairment that results in vision of less than or equal to 6/18 vision or equivalent field loss in the better eye, with correction
  • hearing impairment that results in:
    • a permanent hearing loss of 40 decibels or greater in the better ear, across four frequencies (the four frequency average hearing loss represents the average of hearing thresholds at 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz and 4000 Hz) or
    • permanent conductive hearing loss and auditory neuropathy in both ears.
  • deafblindness
  • cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome, including mosaic Down syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome with full mutation, including those with mosaic Fragile X
  • Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Williams syndrome
  • Angelman syndrome
  • Kabuki syndrome
  • Smith-Magenis syndrome
  • CHARGE syndrome
  • cri du chat syndrome
  • Cornelia de Lange syndrome
  • microcephaly if a child has:
    • a head circumference less than the third percentile for age and sex and
    • a functional level at or below two standard deviations below the mean for age on a standard developmental test, or an IQ score of less than 70 on a standardised test of intelligence.
    • (“Standardised test of intelligence” refers to the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) or the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI). “Standard developmental test” refers to Baley Scales of Infant Development or the Griffiths Mental Development Scales. It is up to the clinical judgement of the diagnosing practitioner if other tests are appropriate to be used)
  • Rett’s disorder.

Access Payment eligibility – for remote locations

If you are eligible for early intervention funding and live in an outer regional or remote area, you are eligible for the Access Payment, a one-time payment of $2,000. The payment is intended to help meet the higher costs of accessing services.

Your eligibility is determined automatically during the registration process.

In exceptional circumstances, you may be eligible for the Access Payment without living in a remote area. To be deemed eligible you must demonstrate that you are experiencing multiple, significant barriers that directly impact your ability to access HCWA or Better Start Early Intervention services for your child. The criteria are available on the Access Payment guide.

To make an exceptional circumstances claim, contact the organisation who registered your child – your state Autism Advisors for HCWA, or the Registration and Information Service run by Carers Australia for Better Start.

Autism - Personal journey

Parents’ stories about finding help and support outside of your family

Video transcript [PDF 37KB]

Disability -Personal journey

Parents' stories about telling people about their children's diagnosis

Video transcript [PDF 40KB]

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