What is Better Start?
The Australian Government’s Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start) initiative provides funding for early intervention services. Children can get up to $6000 per financial year, and up to $12 000 overall.
Your child can get this funding if she’s under six years and diagnosed with one of the following disabilities:
- Angelman syndrome
- cerebral palsy
- CHARGE syndrome
- Cornelia de Lange syndrome
- Cri du Chat syndrome
- Down syndrome
- Fragile X syndrome
- Kabuki syndrome
- moderate or greater vision impairments or hearing impairments, including deafblindness
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Rett syndrome
- Smith-Magenis syndrome
- Williams syndrome.
If you live in an outer regional or remote area, you might also be able to get a one-off payment of $2000. This is because it’s probably harder for you to get services. Extra money can help you with expenses like travel and home visits.
Using Better Start funding
You have until your child turns seven to use your Better Start funding.
You can use Better Start funding to pay for a wide range of early intervention services and therapies, such as speech pathology, audiology, occupational therapy, orthoptics, physiotherapy or psychology. You do have to go to professionals who are members of the Better Start Early Intervention Service Provider Panel.
You can also use up to 35% of your child’s Better Start funding to buy resources that your child’s Better Start service provider has recommended. This means you can spend up to $2100 on resources in any one financial year, up to $4200 in total.
The only thing to note is that the resources you buy must be directly linked with the early intervention service, or able to help you or your child’s other carers do the interventions at home.
Support for families with older children
Better Start funding is for children six years and under. But you can get help for your older child under the Medicare component of Better Start.
If your older child has been diagnosed with one of the disabilities above, she might be able to get:
- 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, as long as your child is referred by a specialist, consultant physician or GP. These services are for children up to 15 years, as long as a treatment and management plan is in place before they turn 13.
Registering for Better Start funding
To register your child for Better Start funding, you should call the Carers Australia Registration and Information Service on 1800 242 636 to arrange an appointment.
When you go for your appointment, make sure you’ve got the following things with you:
- your child’s Centrelink Customer Reference Number (CRN)
- proof of your child’s age – for example, birth certificate or passport
- proof of your child’s residential address – for example, a recent electricity, gas or water bill
- a written diagnosis from a paediatrician, a relevant medical specialist, a GP, a multidisciplinary assessment service or Australian Hearing.
Your child doesn’t need to register with Better Start to get the Medicare component of the funding. You should talk to your child’s GP about this part of the program. Your GP should be able to give you more information about the Medicare rebates and refer your child to the right specialists.