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8 Support funding and programs

Inclusion Support Program

This program is designed to assist early learning and child care services to include children with additional needs by providing tailored inclusion advice and support from contracted Inclusion Agencies, as well as funding to address more challenging inclusion barriers.

It funds providers to build their ability to include children with additional needs in mainstream services, so these children can learn and develop alongside their peers.

Children with additional needs may include (but are not limited to):

  1. children with disability including those undergoing assessment for disability
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  3. children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  4. children from a refugee or humanitarian background
  5. children with serious medical condition/s
  6. children presenting with language and speech delays
  7. children presenting with disruptive behaviour.

Inclusion Agencies

The Inclusion Support Program is delivered across the country by seven Inclusion Agencies (one for each state and territory, except for NSW and the ACT which are serviced by a single Inclusion Agency). Agencies work with eligible early childhood and care services to help them to include children with additional needs.

Providers who believe they need extra assistance to include children with additional needs, should contact the Inclusion Agency for their state or territory.

The Inclusion Agency will help providers to identify the barriers that limit their service’s ability to include children with additional needs, and develop a Strategic Inclusion Plan to address those barriers.

Working with the Inclusion Agencies, providers will complete a Strategic Inclusion Plan online through a web-based application called the Inclusion Support Portal. A paper-based option is available for services that do not have the IT infrastructure to access the Inclusion Support Portal.

Where additional resources are identified in a Strategic Inclusion Plan that cannot be accessed through the local community, the Inclusion Agency may refer the provider to the Specialist Equipment Library, or recommend that an application be made to the Inclusion Development Fund.

Specialist Equipment Library

Equipment available from the Specialist Equipment Library may include (but is not limited to):

  1. portable ramps to improve access
  2. standing frames and full support swings to allow a child with high physical needs to participate in activities
  3. hoists, slings, harnesses, change tables, toilet sets or steps, potty chairs, mobile stools and seating or posture aids for educators to assist them to lift and transfer children safely when carrying out basic care functions such as changing or going to the toilet
  4. specialised inclusion toys such as switch toys
  5. specialised furniture such as chairs, tables, desks and positioning equipment
  6. communication cards or charts, and Auslan dictionaries to enable the child and educators to communicate effectively.

A service’s need for specialist equipment must be identified in a Strategic Inclusion Plan, or recommended by a relevant professional, such as an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, and endorsed by the Inclusion Agencies.

Inclusion Development Fund

This Fund provides funding to assist eligible services to address barrier/s to inclusion that cannot be resolved by support provided by an Inclusion Agency or the Specialist Equipment Library.

A national manager assesses, and where appropriate, approves Inclusion Development Fund applications for all streams of funding from eligible services. This ensures a nationally consistent and equitable application of the Inclusion Development Fund eligibility requirements which are outlined in the fund’s guidelines.

There are four discrete streams of Inclusion Development Fund support, which have different eligibility criteria, application processes and approved funding purposes. The four streams of support are:

  1. Subsidy for an Additional Educator - per hour funding to centre based services to subsidise the employment of an Additional Educator, to increase the educator-to-child ratio to support the inclusion of a child (or children) with disability
  2. Subsidy for Immediate/Time-Limited Support - enables centre based services to immediately engage an additional educator for a time limited period, while an alternative and more stable solution is being determined
  3. Family Day Care Top-Up - supports eligible Family Day Care services to include children with disability with ongoing high support needs, by providing a fee top-up payment where including the child results in the educator being unable to enrol the maximum number of children usually allowed
  4. Innovative Solutions - funds innovative and flexible solutions to inclusion, where a barrier or barriers have been identified and cannot be addressed by the support provided by its Inclusion Agency.

Applications for the Inclusion Development Fund funding can be made at any time during the program to provide   responsive support to services as they enrol children with additional needs. Applications will be considered on their merits. There are caps on Inclusion Development Fund funding, and the approval of any application is contingent on the availability of funding.

For guidelines and more information about the Inclusion Support Program, including how to contact Inclusion Agencies or the Inclusion Development Fund Manager (www.education.gov.au).