The Howard Government has today announced a $190.7 million package to support children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD,) their parents and carers.
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, said the package announced by the Prime Minister included an early intervention program to assist children with autism, worth $116 million over five years.
"I am delighted that under this early intervention initiative, children up to six years of age and their families affected by this devastating condition will now have access to significantly better support and services," Mr Brough said.
"Over the five years of this part of the package, up to 15,000 families, carers and children will gain access to a range of education, support and early intervention services.
"Eligible families and carers will be able to access up to $8,000 in services at no cost to them, over two years, through direct funding to service providers, contributing to costs incurred through accessing approved early intervention services.
"Importantly, eligible families and carers supporting children with the most profound needs will be able to access up to $10,000 in services, for up to two years, (to a total of $20,000).
"Also, 20 Childhood Autism Advisors will be located across Australia to provide a gateway to services for children with ASD.
"Prior to the appointment of the autism advisors, existing autism stakeholder groups will be provided with support funding to build their capacity to provide support to families.
"The Howard Government is committed to supporting these children across a range of policy areas. The total package will be implemented across three portfolios, including Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Health and Ageing, and Education, Science and Training.
"Funding will also be spent over five years to establish up to 200 playgroups in a range of locations."
Minister Brough said a separate $30 million component of the overall package within his portfolio would be provided to help families and carers better support their children with ASD in the post diagnosis stages.
The Minister said this cross portfolio approach reflects the extent of the need with data showing that ASD affects between 1 in 100 and 1 in 150 children aged 0 to six years.
"General assistance for disability has been provided through the Commonwealth State Disability Agreements to support States who have primary responsibility in this area of policy delivery. However, the Howard Government wanted to do more and we recently announced an additional $1.8 billion in the Disability Assistance Package," Minister Brough said.
"This included $23.6 million for a small number of childrens' services as part of that package. Today's announcement represents a substantial increase on that amount.
"Given the research that shows positive results for early intervention in the autism area, this comprehensive assistance package has been developed on the back of strong economic and budget management that provides a better ability to respond.
"This is certainly a huge step in meeting an important community need that affects many Australian families and another demonstration of the Howard Government's future plan to lock in the gains of strong economic management to ensure even more Australians can share the benefits of our prosperity," Mr Brough said.
The support services will be provided from July 2008.
For further information call: 1800 289 177 or 1800 260 402 (TTY) or visit FaCSIA website