Samantha Maiden, April 24, 2011
FAMILIES caring for disabled children have won access to as much as $30,000 a year in the May Budget to help with early intervention and support.
The $130 million boost to early intervention will also include new support for autism and deliver on an election pledge to offer a $6000-a-year Better Start for Children with Disability Payment from July.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that 9000 extra families will now be able to secure up to $30,000 a year in assistance under the changes.
The Better Start payment will help eligible children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hearing and vision loss, fragile X syndrome, deafness and blindness.
The total support will now include up to $19,290 a year in carer payments, $2900 in carer allowances, $1200 in carer supplements and $1000 in carer disability-assistance payments, plus the new Better Start for Children Disability payment of up to $12,000, capped at $6,000 a year.
"Bringing up kids is hard enough, without the added challenges that can come with a disability," Treasurer Wayne Swan told The Sunday Telegraph. "Caring for a disabled child puts a lot of strain on family budgets, so we're determined to provide as much help as possible.
"This is a perfect example of why we need to keep building a strong economy so we can make sure these brave young Aussies aren't left behind." Programs for autism will also be expanded, after more children registered for the Helping Children with Autism package offered in previous federal budgets.
The scheme, launched in 2008, provides eligible children with up to $12,000 to secure early intervention services, including speech pathology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychology. While 9000 children are expected to benefit, more than 12,000 families have now secured support, with the government boosting funding by $30 million for this program to help meet the cost.
The additional funding will support 3500 children in accessing early-learning programs, including PlayConnect playgroups for those with autism spectrum disorders.
Families Minister Jenny Macklin said that while early intervention was critical for children with disabilities, "costs are often a barrier for many families on low and middle incomes".
Meanwhile, an angry backlash from mothers over Budget plans to means-test child-care rebates has prompted the government to dump the proposal.
The Sunday Telegraph revealed last week options on the table were a means test on income between $150,000 and $200,000 or a work test to limit stay-at-home mums claiming the 50 per cent rebate.The revelations prompted tearful calls to MPs' offices and warnings from business groups it would stop some women returning to work after having children.
see also Budget boost for disabled children