Early Childhood Intervention Services and Supports
The Department of Social Services (the department) has commenced delivering a new National Early Childhood Program to support children with disability or developmental concerns (the NECP). Services include:
- Support for children
- Support for parents and carers
- Online information and resources through the Raising Children Network.
The Department of Social Services is also leading the Early Childhood Targeted Action Plan (EC TAP) to support the new Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-31 (the Strategy).
Individualised support for children with disability or developmental delay may be available through the NDIS and you are encouraged to contact the NDIS, your Early Childhood partner or the NDIS National Call Centre on 1800 800 110.
Elements of the Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) and Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start) programs previously funded by the Department of Social Services have now ceased. More information on these previously funded programs is available here. Existing Australian Government programs that will assist children with disability, including autism, or developmental concerns include:
- Positive Partnerships
- Medicare Items supporting diagnosis and treatment of complex neurodevelopmental disorders (such as autism spectrum disorder) and eligible disabilities
National Early Childhood Program for Children with Disability and Developmental Concerns (the NECP)
The NECP is intended to support young children (aged 0-8 years) with disability or developmental concerns and their parents and carers.
On 23 August 2021, the Department of Social Services commissioned Whereto Research Based Consulting (Whereto) to conduct a co-design process with stakeholders to inform the program design of the NECP. Whereto engaged with around 600 stakeholders, including parents and carers of young children with disability or developmental concerns, and sector stakeholders including, peak bodies and service providers.
A summary of this co-design process can be accessed in the link below, along with an Easy Read version.
The department provides funding for the NECP, which consists of three components:
Support for children
Playconnect+, funded under the “Support and connection for young children with disability or developmental concerns” grant, provides regular, facilitated supports, including playgroups and music programs to young children (aged 0-8 years) with disability or developmental concerns in all states and territories across Australia. The grant aims to increase children’s readiness for educational environments and provide opportunities for children with disability or developmental concerns to socialise with peers and their siblings in a supported, and family-centred environment.
Playconnect+ delivers face-to-face sessions in a range of locations in all states and territories during school terms, in addition to specific online and face-to-face activities during school holidays.
Service delivery commenced in February 2023, with further dates and additional locations progressively added. For more information, visit www.playconnectplus.com.au or contact the project coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support for parents
The ENVISAGE-Families activity, funded under the “Support and connection for parents and carers of young children with disability or developmental concerns” grant, provides facilitated group workshops for parents and carers of young children aged 0-8 years with a newly identified disability or who have concerns regarding their child’s development. This activity provides opportunities for families early in their journey to learn from, and connect with, evidence-based information, family-focused strategies and peers with similar experiences, and runs over the course of five (5) facilitated workshops, accompanied by at-home modules. Each workshop is facilitated by an early child development professional and a parent with lived experience of raising a child with developmental concerns.
ENVISAGE-Families delivers face to face in a range of locations in all states and territories, in addition to the option of online workshops.
Online information and resources through the Raising Children Network
The Raising Children Network is funded under the NECP to provide disability-specific, such as autism and developmental concerns online information, resources and interactive functions to support parents, carers, professionals and the wider public in supporting young children with a disability or developmental concerns.
The website also provides information about services available for children with disability or developmental concerns and resources that can help families and carers navigate pathways, and maximise the day-to-day functioning of the family.
Disability-specific and developmental concerns content is available at: Raising Children Network.
The Australian Government Department of Education offers the Positive Partnerships initiative for school-aged children with autism.
Positive Partnerships hold workshops and information sessions for parents and carers of school-age students with autism. These workshops and information sessions can help parents and carers to work with their child’s teachers, school leaders and other staff.
Positive Partnerships also supports professional development for teachers, school leaders and other school staff to build their understanding, skills and expertise in working with children with autism.
The Positive Partnerships website has a range of resources including fact sheets, online learning modules and information on upcoming workshops.
Medicare Items supporting diagnosis and treatment of complex neurodevelopmental disorders (such as autism spectrum disorder) and eligible disabilities
Medicare items are available for the diagnosis, development of a treatment plan and treatment services for patients suspected or diagnosed with a complex neurodevelopmental disorder (such as autism spectrum disorder) or an eligible disability. From 1 March 2023, the age range of patients that can access these items will be expanded to under 25 years of age.
The services that can be rebated through Medicare include:
- MBS items 135 (consultant paediatrician) and 289 (consultant psychiatrist) and telehealth equivalents, following a confirmed diagnosis of a complex Neurodevelopmental Disorder
- MBS items 137 (specialists and consultant physicians) and 139 (GPs) and telehealth equivalents, following a confirmed diagnosis of an eligible disability
- Up to eight referred allied health assessment services to assist the referring medical practitioner with diagnosis, or to contribute to a child’s treatment and management plan.
- Up to twenty referred allied health treatment sessions (once a diagnosis has been made and a treatment and management plan is in place) with a range of allied health professionals including psychologists, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists).
More information, including specific Medicare item numbers can be found in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Online fact sheets via the link below: