Overview of Early Intervention Services and Supports


In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has extended the Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) and Better Start for Children with a Disability (Better Start) programs. 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.

Early Intervention Funding

The Australian Government provides early intervention funding through two programs:

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

Under these programs, children under the age of six with an eligible diagnosis can access early intervention funding of up to $12,000 (a maximum of $6,000 per financial year). The funding is for services and therapies from a panel of registered service providers.

Up to 35 per cent of this funding ($4,200, or $2,100 per financial year) can be used to buy resources recommended for your child by a registered service provider. This could include visual aids, communication boards, sound field systems or other equipment.

Funding must be spent by the child’s seventh birthday. If your child is over seven, visit ‘Children over seven years of age’ for information about other services you may be able to access.

HCWA and Better Start Medicare Items

Children under the age of thirteen can access HCWA and Better Start Medicare items available for assessment, diagnosis and the creation of a treatment and management plan. Once a treatment and management plan is in place, items are available for sessions with a range of allied health professionals including psychologists, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists.

The services include:

  • Up to four diagnostic / assessment services to assist the referring practitioner with diagnosis or to contribute to a child’s treatment and management plan (for a child under thirteen years of age).
  • Up to twenty treatment sessions (for a child under fifteen years of age, providing they have a treatment and management plan in place by thirteen).

You do not need to be registered with HCWA or Better Start to use these Medicare items.

More information, including specific Medicare item number can be found via the links below:

Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres (ASELCCs)

Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres (ASELCCs) provide early learning, day care and support for children with ASD. The centres are accredited long day child care centres and provide services based on best practice principles for working with children with ASD.

ASELCCs are located in:

  • South Western Sydney
  • Brisbane
  • Adelaide
  • North West Tasmania
  • Melbourne
  • Perth.

Some of your questions about ASELCCs can be found on the Frequently Asked Questions page or you can learn more about ASELCCs here.

Early Days Workshops

Early Days Workshops provide flexible and tailored support for parents and carers of children with disability including those from diverse cultural and Indigenous backgrounds, and those living in rural and remote areas. The workshops help parents and carers to:

  • better support their children
  • learn new coping skills
  • more effectively manage the pressures they face in raising their children
  • create links within their local community.

For more information about HCWA Workshops, please go to HCWA Early Days or contact the Autism Association in your state or territory.

For more information about Better Start Workshops, contact Carers Australia on 1800 242 636 or Ability First Australia via the Better Start Early Days website.

PlayConnect Playgroups

The PlayConnect Playgroups target children under the age of seven with ASD or ASD like symptoms. They usually meet weekly for two hours during school terms. During playgroup sessions, parents, carers and children participate in a variety of play activities and experiences specifically suited to the needs of children with ASD.

For more information contact Playgroup Australia by calling 1800 171 882 or
emailing info@playgroupaustralia.com.au

Playgroup Community Events (Better Start)

This program will close on 30 June 2020.

Child Age: 0 – 6

Target group: Families with children with disability

The Better Start Playgroup Community Events give families information on the developmental benefits of participation in playgroups for their children, and encourage social and support networks for parents.

For more information contact Playgroup Association by calling 1800 171 882 or emailing info@playgroupaustralia.com.au

Positive Partnerships

The Australian Government Department of Education offers a Positive Partnerships initiative for school-aged children with an ASD.

Positive Partnerships hold workshops and information sessions for parents and carers of school-age students with autism. These can help you to work with your child’s teachers, school leaders and other staff.

Positive Partnerships also supports the professional development for teachers, school leaders and other school staff to build their understanding, skills and expertise in working with children with ASD

The Positive Partnerships website has a range of resources including fact sheets, online learning modules and information on upcoming workshops.

Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS)

The TIS provides interpreting services for people who do not speak English and for organisations that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.

Members of the Early Intervention Service Provider Panel are able to access TIS services for use with HCWA and Better Start clients at no cost. Details about this arrangement are available from the Early Intervention Helpdesk by calling 1800 778 581 or emailing Early.Intervention@dss.gov.au..

For more information on TIS, please visit the Translating and Interpreting Service webpage or call 131 450.

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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