By Raising Children Network
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Mother and daughter with Down Syndrome
 

Disability therapies and services can cost a lot of money, but there are also many sources of disability funding and financial support for you and your child. Here’s an overview of what you can get and how you apply for it.

People living in National Disability Insurance Scheme trial areas have different financial support options from people outside the trial areas. It’s worth checking out your options under the NDIS. 

Getting financial support for children with disability

If you have a child with disability, you and your family have rights to different kinds of financial support, often called disability funding entitlements. 

You have to apply for funding entitlements – you don’t get them automatically when your child is diagnosed with disability. It helps to be prepared to spend time on the phone, filling in forms and making appointments.

Some funding entitlements require only proof of your child’s diagnosis. Others will ask you to explain why you or your child needs extra help. Some entitlements or services have only a limited amount of funding available, so you might be put on a waiting list.

When you’re successful in getting funding entitlements, they might be:

  • paid directly to you, either as income support or as medical or health rebates. For example, you might qualify for the Carer Allowance or Medicare rebates 
  • allocated to your child and administered by a government officer or case manager. This might be done to fund a specific purpose, such as equipment, changes to your home or certain therapy costs
  • allocated to your child and paid to a service provider for services you use. Examples of this include the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative, the Helping Children with Autism package and Preschool Inclusion Support funding
  • paid to a service provider without being specifically allocated to you or your child – this is sometimes called a ‘direct service’. For example, an early intervention program might be given money to offer children in your community places in their service
  • offered as concession rates on certain goods and services. For example, concessions are provided to Health Care Card holders for prescription medicines and certain utility bills.
In some cases, you might not get the funding you applied for. If you feel the decision made about your application is unfair, you have the right to ask for an explanation or review of the decision.

Applying for financial support and disability funding: tips from other parents

Applying for disability funding can be a complex process, so it’s really important to get organised. Parents of children with disability say the following strategies help:

  • Keep all your documents – including letters, reports and copies of forms – in one folder or box.
  • Start a notebook with details from all your phone conversations – including notes on when you contacted each organisation, who you spoke to and what they told you.
  • Keep receipts, and make a note of all your expenses. This includes therapy and equipment charges, special clothing, household modifications, medical costs and program fees – anything you think is more than the usual costs of raising a young child. 

These records will be a big help when it’s time to do income tax returns, lodge Medicare claims, and demonstrate what you need to case managers and government officers. Perhaps you could use a simple budget planner or spreadsheet.

When it’s hard
Applying for disability funding and getting approval isn’t always straightforward. Sometimes you’ll be faced with a delay, a waiting list or the need to go back a step before moving forward again. It can be disappointing or frustrating when this happens, especially if you need an answer about support as soon as possible.

The key is to prepare for the process as well as you can. When faced with challenges, try to stay positive, keep asking questions and focus on what you can do next to help things along.

Other parents in similar situations can be a great source of support and advice. You could start with our parents of children with disability forum.

Australian Government disability funding entitlements: before and during diagnosis

Better Start for Children with Disability early intervention services funding
If your child is under six and has been diagnosed with one of the following disabilities she might be able to get early intervention funding of up to $12 000 ($6000 per financial year):

You can use up to 35% of the funding to buy recommended resources.

If you live in an outer regional or remote area, you might be able to get a one-off support payment of $2000 per eligible child to help with expenses for travel and home visits.

Better Start for Children with Disability Medicare items
You can get money back from Medicare for:

  • up to four diagnostic or assessment services from psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, audiologists, physiotherapists, optometrists and orthoptists. These services are for children under 13 years
  • a treatment and management plan put together by a specialist, consultant physician or GP. These services are for children under 13 years
  • up to 20 early intervention treatment services from psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, audiologists, physiotherapists, optometrists and orthoptists, so long as they’re referred by a specialist, consultant physician or GP. These services are available for children up to 15 years, as long as a treatment and management plan is in place before they turn 13.
You can read more about the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative or phone the Early Intervention Helpdesk on 1800 778 581 for more information.

Department of Health Medicare Safety Net (MSN)
The MSN helps with high out-of-pocket costs for certain Medicare services. Once you’ve spent a certain amount on approved services in a calendar year, you might be able to get extra Medicare payments for the rest of the year.

Read more about the Medicare Safety Net.

Department of Health Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres 
These centres provide free and confidential information on respite and support services in your area.

You can phone 1800 052 222 for more information about centres in your area.

State and territory government disability funding entitlements: before and during diagnosis

Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS)
ECIS is the general term for a range of government-funded early intervention services. ECIS offer assessment, family support and guidance. Funding is paid to these services directly, and you’ll usually work with a case manager to get the service. 

You can find out more about ECIS using our Disability Services Pathfinder.

Australian government disability funding entitlements: after diagnosis

Centrelink Carer Allowance (non means-tested)
You can get the Carer Allowance if you care for children with disability at home. The application form asks you and a medical professional to each complete a section. The payment starts from the date you put the form in, not the date your child is diagnosed, so it’s a good idea to apply as soon as possible.

Carer payment (means-tested)
Carer Payment gives you money if you can’t support yourself because you’re caring for a child with disability.

Both the carer allowance and the carer payment are fortnightly cash payments. The Government also announces extra one-off payments from time to time.

Health Care Card
Your child gets a Health Care Card automatically when you get the Carer Allowance. It means your child pays less for prescription medicines.

You get a Health Care Card automatically if you get the Carer Payment. It means you pay less for prescription medicines.

Department of Social Services Inclusion Support Subsidy
The Inclusion Support Subsidy is paid to approved child care services to help them include all children in their programs, including children with high support needs.

Your child care service will need to apply through its Inclusion Support Facilitator.

Department of Health Continence Aids Payments Scheme (CAPS)
The Continence Aids Payments Scheme helps your family with the cost of continence products for children aged over five years who have permanent and severe incontinence caused by:

  • an eligible neurological condition
  • another eligible condition, provided they have a valid Centrelink Concession Card.

State and territory government disability funding entitlements: after diagnosis

Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS)
ECIS is the general term for a range of government-funded early intervention services. Funding is paid to these services directly. Some governments might also offer flexible support packages to fund specific needs, as determined your child’s support plan.

You can find out more about ECIS using our Disability Services Pathfinder.

Home and community care (HACC)
HACC funding helps councils provide in-home respite care and other forms of home help. You usually have to pay a part of the cost.

You can find out more by contacting your local council or shire office. You can find contact details through our My Neighbourhood tool.

Preschool Inclusion Support
Your child’s preschool or kindergarten can apply for Inclusion Support funding for extra resources to help the preschool or kindergarten include all children in its programs.

Ask your preschool or kindergarten director about planning and applying for Inclusion Support.

Concession schemes
Your child might be able to get concessions for utility costs, public transport and taxi fares. But the types of concessions and who can get them vary a lot from state to state. Most concessions will apply only to the child who is the Health Care Card holder.

You can find more information by searching your state or territory government websites using the keywords ‘concessions’ or ‘subsidies’.

Companion Cards
Eligible people with a lifelong disability can get a free Companion Card for their companion to attend participating attractions.

Aids and equipment
Aids and equipment programs provide aids, equipment, home or vehicle modifications to people with a lifelong or long-term disability. This helps people to live and be part of their community. 

Search your state or territory government websites using the keywords ‘aids’ and ‘equipment services’.

 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 13-11-2015
  • Acknowledgements

    This article was developed in collaboration with Fiona Gullifer, Association for Children with a Disability, with funding from the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, and developed in collaboration with the Better Start initiative.