The Inclusion Support Program is designed to assist early childhood education and care (ECEC) services to include children with additional needs by providing support, in the form of practical and tailored advice and strategies on effective inclusive practice, from contracted Inclusion Agencies as well as funding to address more challenging inclusion barriers.
The program provides support for eligible ECEC services to build their capacity and capability to include children with additional needs in mainstream services; providing them with an opportunity to learn and develop alongside their typically developing peers.
Additional needs may arise for children who:
- have a disability or developmental delay
- are presenting with challenging behaviours
- have a serious medical or health condition, including mental health
- are presenting with trauma-related behaviours.
There are children who may require specific considerations or adaptations to participate fully in ECEC services and experience positive outcomes such as:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
- children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- children from a refugee or humanitarian background.
The Inclusion Support Program is delivered across the country by seven Inclusion Agencies contracted by the Australian Government. There is one Inclusion Agency contracted in each state and territory, except for New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, which are serviced by a single Inclusion Agency. Inclusion Agencies work with eligible ECEC services in their jurisdiction to build their capacity and capability to provide and embed inclusive practice and address barriers to inclusion experienced by children with additional needs.
The Inclusion Agency can provide assistance to ECEC services to develop their Strategic Inclusion Plan and identify the barriers that impact on the service capacity to include the child (or children) with additional needs and propose strategies to address those barriers to inclusion.
The Strategic Inclusion Plan is completed online through a web-based application called 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.
Services who believe they need extra assistance to include children with additional needs should contact the Inclusion Agency in their state or territory.
Specialist Equipment Library
Equipment available from the Specialist Equipment Library may include:
- Portable ramps to create access to the care environment
- Standing frames and full support swings to allow a child (or children) with high physical needs to participate in the daily program and activities
- 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
- Specialised inclusion toys such as sensory or switch toys
- Specialised furniture such as chairs, tables, desks and positioning equipment
- Communication cards or charts and Auslan dictionaries to enable the child and educators to communicate effectively
- Resources to support the inclusion of Indigenous children and children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, such as books in languages other than English.
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 Agency.
Inclusion Development Fund
The Inclusion Development Fund provides funding to assist eligible ECEC services to address barriers to inclusion that cannot be resolved by support provided by an Inclusion Agency or the Specialist Equipment Library.
The Australian Government has contracted an Inclusion Development Fund Manager organisation which assesses and, where appropriate, approves Inclusion Development Fund applications for all streams of funding from eligible ECEC services. This ensures a nationally consistent and equitable application of the Inclusion Development Fund eligibility requirements which are outlined in the ISP Guidelines.
There are four discrete streams of Inclusion Development Fund (IDF) support, which have the same broad application process, although there are slight variations to eligibility criteria, assessment and approved funding purposes. The four streams of support are:
- IDF Subsidy for an Additional Educator—per-hour funding to Centre Based Day Care and Outside School Hours Care services to subsidise the employment of an additional educator to increase the educator-to-child ratio in the care environment to support the inclusion of a child (or children) with high ongoing support needs alongside their typically developing peers.
- IDF Subsidy for Immediate/Time-Limited Support—enables Centre Based Day Care and Outside School Hours Care services to immediately engage an Additional Educator for a time-limited period while an alternative and more stable solution is being determined.
- IDF Family Day Care Top-Up—supports eligible Family Day Care services to include children with additional needs, with ongoing high support needs, by providing a top-up payment where including the child results in the educator being unable to enrol the maximum number of children allowed under the National Law.
- IDF Innovative Solutions Support— is available for Centre Based Day Care, Outside School Hours Care and Family Day Care services to fund innovative, flexible and responsive solutions to inclusion where barriers have been identified and cannot be addressed by the support provided by the service’s Inclusion Agency. IDF Innovative Solutions Support can also be considered for relevant organisations (including ECEC peak bodies, inclusion specialists, disability organisations and other inclusion entities) for the purposes of developing and implementing collaborative and strategic projects that promote high-level innovation and support for inclusive practice.
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 and the approval of any application made under any stream of the Inclusion Development Fund 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, see the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.