Welcome to the third installment of ‘Navigating the Funding Maze’. Today I hope to give alittle more insight into the Heling Children with Autism Package (HCWA) … where it came form .. what it includes … and how you can make the most of it.
Helping Children with Autism Package
Where did I (HCWA) come from?
In 2006, the Department of Health and Ageing faced with data that demonstrated that children with autism traditionally missed on many essentials services advised the community (politicians,
bureaucrats, clinicians, service providers, families and carers) in 2006 that each child with autism needs
a minimum 20 hours per week (1000 hours per year) of intense autism-specific early intervention for
at least two years (Roberts, J. M. A., & Prior, M. (2006). A review of the research to identify the most effective models of practice in early intervention of children with autism spectrum disorders. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Australia.)
Just before the 2007 election, John Howard announced the Helping Children with Autism package. John
Howard said this package was just a beginning for people with autism. Kevin Rudd also committed to
implement the package and subsequently rolled it out through its 2007-2010 term of Government.
What does the package include?
The package includes:
- Autism Advisors Program and early intervention funding
- Funding for diagnosis and early intervention services (Medicare Items)
- Early Days family workshops*
- PlayConnect Playgroups*
- Raising Children Network – Autism Subsite
- Positive Partnerships Workshops
* Access to PlayConnect Playgroups and Early Days workshops is also available to children with ASD like symptoms
Autism Advisor Program
The program offers families and carers the following
- evidence based information to support the making of informed decisions about a range of early intervention options that meet the needs of the child and the family
- information on all components of the HCWA package
- application for the HCWA early intervention funding package of up to $12,000 (up to $6,000 in any financial year)
- determination of child’s eligibility for the HCWA $2,00 regional and remote payment
The program is available for families and carers of children who:
- are aged 0-7 years of age (must register pior to their 6th birthday)
- have a conclusive diagnosis of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (see below)
- are citizens, permanent residents of Australia
A conclusive diagnosis is require of one f the following conditions listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM IV) under Pervasive Developmental Disorders
- Autism disorder
- Aspergers disorder (Aspergers syndrome)
- Rett’s Disorder
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
The child will need a written Australian diagnosis made viaone of these options:
- State of territory multidisciplinary diagnosis
- Private multidisciplinary diagnosis (a multidisciplinary diagnosis must include a psychologist, speech therapist and occupational therapist with autism expertise)
- State/territory Autism Association
This is really important. When we got our diagnosis … well we actually got 2 sets. We could only use 1 of them for the application for funding as it included a Pediatrician. The diagnosis we received from the psychologist working alone would have been insufficient to be able to meet this requirement.
Application Steps (NSW)
1. Call the Autism Advisor Program 1300 978 611. You may need to leave a message but they are pretty good and getting back to you. They can send you a application form or you can get it from the website here)
2. Register by completing an application form and consent form
Ensure that the forms are returned to the Autism Advisor Program with the following documents
- copy of diagnosis
- copy of treatment plan (if available)
- proof of your child’s birth date (ie birth certificate or passport)
- proof of child’s residential address (eg ultities or rates notice)
- proof of your child’s centrelin reference number (this is your child’s CRN. Do not confuse it with your own. Contact Centrelink if you are unsure)
- any parenting plans or court orders
2. Have an appointment with an Autism Advisor
- The Autism Advisor who works with families in your area will read your application and will asssist in determining the child’s eligibility for the program.
- They will make contact with you to book an appointment if your child is deemed eligible. You can the option of a face to face or phone appointment.
- At the meeting you will be given information about lots of different services registered with this program.
3. Recieve letter of introduction by mail or email
- This is the important one. This is the letter to say that you have been approved to receive the funding. You will need to bring this to your provider to be able to acces the funding.
- Treat this letter like gold.
Funding for Medicare Items
Helping Children with Autism (Treatment)
- Helping Children with Autism Package includes Medicare items for the diagnosis of Autism.
- Helping Children with Autism Diagnosis Plan can be prepared by Pediatrician (Item 110-131) or Psychiatrist (Item 296-370)
- Your Pediatrician (Item 110-131) or Psychiatrist can get collaboration (up to 4 visits) from Allied Health Professionals with with the diagnosis and development of a treatment and management plan – Psychologists (Item 82000), speech pathologists (Item 82005), occupational therapists (Item 82010), audiologists (Item 82030), optometrists (Item 82030), orthoptists (Item 82030), and physiotherapists (Item 82030).
- Eligibility – The child must be aged under 13 years on referral from a general practitioner (GP).
- Medicare rebate of $69-79 per service, with out-of-pocket costs counting towards the extended Medicare Safety Net. You get more back if you have already reached your safety net
Helping Children with Autism (Treatment)
- Helping Children with Autism Package separate to the $12,000 funding (discussed above)
- Helping Children with Autism Treatment Plan can be prepared by Pediatrician (Item 135) or Psychiatrist (Item 135)
- Maximum of 20 sessions in total (not per year) to be used for the child from 0-15 years
- Helping Children with Autism Treatment Plan can be used by Pediatricians and Psychiatrists to refer to Allied Professionals – Psychological Sessions (Item 82015), Speech Therapy (Item 82020) and OT (Item 82025)
- Eligibility – The child must be aged under 15 years .
- Medicare rebate of $69-75 per service, with out-of-pocket costs counting towards the extended Medicare Safety Net. You get more back if you have already reached your safety net
Early Days Workshops
The Early Days online workshops provide information on various topics related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They also help you build a personal plan that you can put into practice at home with your own child and family. The workshops have been developed to provide the latest evidence-based information about ASD and equip participants with some skills needed to promote their child’s early development.
You participate in an online workshop individually, in your own time. If you need to leave the workshop at any time, you can come back to where you left off.
Online workshop topics
- Building your resilience to stress
- Managing stress
- Supporting siblings
- Video modelling
You can get started with an Early Days workshop at the Parenting Research Centre’s online learning centre.
PlayConnect Playgroups areplaygroups for families with children with Autism. Families that have a child aged from 0-6 years with ASd or ASD liky symptoms are welcome to join PlayConnect Playgroups. You don’t need a diagnosis to join.
PlayConnect Playgroups meet weekly for 2 hous. During playgroup session, caregivers and children particpate in a viarty of play activities suited to the needs of children with Autism.
Sessions are initally run by a Development Worker for betweeen 6-24 months until they become community, parent-run playgroups.
Helping Children With Autism funding helps families access PlayConnect during the first two years of operation. Some PlayConnect Playgroups may decide to undertake certain activities that are not covered by the funding so families may be asked to make a contribution.
To find a PlayConnect Playgroup near you .. visit www.playconnect.com.au or call 1800 171 882.
Raising Children Network – Autism Site
The Raising Children Network (RCN) ASD website provides information, online resources and interactive functions to support parents, families, carers and professionals. The RCN is an Australian Government funded site providing information to parents of children from birth to school age. The RCN ASD website provides:
- Impartial and evidence based information about ASDs and early intervention approaches
- Information on diagnosis and assessment
- A guide to navigating the service system
- Locations and contact details of the advisory services and approved early intervention services
- Links to other websites and information
- Film clips
- A ‘My Neighbourhood’ mapping tool that will identify services in the local neighbourhood
- Parent forums.
Positive Partnerships Workshops
Positive Partnerships delivers the two components of the Helping Children with Autism package implemented by the deparment of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).
The aim of both components is to improve the educational outcomes for school aged children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
The two components are:
- Professional Development Component is for teachers and other school staff who are working with students with ASD; and
- Parent/Carer Component provides workshops and information sessions for parents/carers of school aged children with ASD.
Both components are delivered nationally by the Australian Education and Training Consortium (AAETC).
Well … Phew. That is alot of information. Congratulations if you have read everything and got this far.
What do I think .. Hmm. Well I guess for most people the Helping Children with Autism Package really just comes down to the funding. I am sure that there are many parents who do not know about all the other aspects. The $12, 000 funding is the core element of the package and this is also where it falls down.
How can I say that? $12, 000 is alot of money … right? Well no. Let’s look at it as a percentage of the direct cost of therapy. If you look at it that way it is not much at all. How do I work this? The $12,000 has to be spent on with on therapy delivered directly from Specified or Qualified Personnel. A scan of FaHCSIA’s list shows panel providers cost $120+ per hour, so the cost of 1000 hours (recommended as part of the Government’s Best Practice Recommendations) of early intervention from these people exceeds $120,000 … so in FaHCSIA’s existing model $6,000 per year from the HCWA package provides under 5% of a child’s early intervention need. Now if this was for another other health condition there would be an outcry. But for some reason it is OK for children with Autism.
So in my opinion it really should be called … the ‘Making a Token Gesture to So You Can Have A Answer for Press Conferences & Appears to Do Something But Really Makes No Significant Difference’ Package.
What have your experience been of the Helping Children with Autism Package? Do you have any lessons/scars?
Please feel free to add links to more relevant information you have found useful in the comments below.