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Working together: what does the NDIS mean for educators, children and families?

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Guest writer Emma Pierce is this week joined by her colleague Enis Jusufspahic, from Early Childhood Intervention Australia.  Although Emma and Enis are from ECIA ACT/NSW, the advice they share about the National Disability Insurance Scheme may be applicable around Australia.  They have provided links for additional support ant information at the end of their article, as well as a case study showing possible pathways that can be followed when early years educators have concerns about a child’s development.

The NDIS represents the biggest social reform in Australia since Medicare was introduced

Does the NDIS really relate to me as an educator?

You may have already heard about the NDIS; many educators assume it doesn’t affect them, as it isn’t direct funding to early learning services. There are, however, significant flow on effects for services and for any children with developmental delay or disability.

The changes are incredibly substantial on a practical and philosophical level. The NDIS represents the biggest social reform in Australia since Medicare was introduced. With any change as major as this, some challenges and teething issues are inevitable along the way.

Choice and control

The main premise of the NDIS is to give choice and control to families and people with disability. Just as in early childhood pedagogy, where we focus on ensuring that children have their own agency, it seems logical that the same should apply when it comes to big decisions sitting with parents about how and what specialist services look like around their own child with developmental delay or disability.

Previously early childhood intervention (ECI) services were government grant-funded, and ECIs had more control around how they delivered intervention. Over time, ECIs will no longer receive that ‘block-funding’. Instead families choose how to spend funding in their plan to purchase their services from ECIs.

What changes you might notice

In the past, you might have had existing relationships with one or two local early childhood intervention providers or therapists and you may have got used to the referral pathways for these services. If you work in an area where the NDIS has already rolled out, you may have noticed an increase in the number of specialists seeking to visit your setting to work with children with disability. Conversely, you may be noticing it takes some time for families to get direct help. Your early childhood education and care service is an important part of the initial support a family has while waiting for a decision on whether their child aged between birth and 6 years needs an individually funded plan.

  1. If the ECEI provider in their professional opinion determines that the child needs longer term supports in more than one area of major life activity the ECEI provider will start the NDIS planning process with the child’s family and/or legal guardian.
  2. The National Disability Insurance Australia (NDIA) formally determines eligibility for an NDIS plan.

What can be funded under NDIS?

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will only provide funding for reasonable and necessary supports. Every NDIS plan is individualised to suit the needs of each person with disability and their own particular situation, therefore the amount of funding provided will differ from one child’s funding package to another.

NDIA will not duplicate funding services which are deemed to be the responsibility of another government agency such as medical needs or educational supports such as additional workers in early learning settings.

NDIS is all about inclusion

Many families will want some of their NDIS services to be provided within the ECEC context if this is where they are spending a good amount of their week. Any supports provided through NDIS funding should be working towards specific outcomes of priority to a family.

So much learning and development occurs within ECEC, we know that children learn with and through the people and in the contexts where they spend the most time (natural environments). It is possible that, if specialist early childhood intervention services are delivered in a collaborative inclusive manner, the outcomes can be significant. Early childhood intervention in an ECEC context should focus upon supporting a child to participate meaningfully in learning experiences with their peers.

In the next blog, we will share important information about making the most of collaboration and how to use a Working Together Agreement to work collaboratively and inclusively with the ECIs.

How do we tap families into the NDIS?

The first point of call is for the family to make contact with an Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) Transition Provider (not necessarily the same organisations as the ECI services) in their local area who will be able to talk with the family provide initial supports, connect the family with supports and assistance and, if needed, help them to develop their first NDIS plan.

To find the ECEI providers for your local area see:

https://ndis.gov.au/about-us/locations.html

What can we do if it takes some time for a family to access NDIS assistance?

Keep on talking with the family and letting them know what you are doing to support their child to participate in your setting. As educators, you have an ongoing relationship with children and families. If you work for a federally funded service, such as a long day care, family day care or out of school hours service, you can contact access assistance to support inclusion across your whole service through the Inclusion Support Program.

Click here to find the details of your local Inclusion Agency. For community based preschools in NSW, the Preschool Disability Support Program (PDSP) can support children with some additional needs. For more information about PDSP eligibility click here. In other states and territories, education departments can confirm contact details for the relevant provider of funding support to community based preschools.

For more general information on the ECEI approach see:

https://ndis.gov.au/ecei

What is ECEI? Booklet for Families

https://ndis.gov.au/html/sites/default/files/Early-childhood-Early-Intervention.pdf

Content: ECIA (NSW/ACT)
Graphic: CELA

 

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About the authors

Emma Pierce, ECIA

Emma Pierce is currently employed as inclusion coordinator at early Childhood Intervention Australia (NSW/ACT). Emma  trained as a special education teacher and has worked with children with disabilities and their families for the last 19 years in the UK and NSW, primarily in the area of early childhood intervention.  Emma developed ECIA NSW/ACT’s Working Together Agreement in consultation with a range of stakeholders and was the main author of ECIA NSW/ACT’s Transition to School Resource (2014). She has developed and facilitated training with parents, carers and professionals across NSW and has also co-authored a number of other practical resources for professionals and families. Emma is also a sessional academic at Western Sydney University and was previously the manager of early Intervention at Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).

Enis Jusufspahic, ECIA

 

 

Enis Jusufspahic is an experienced sector support and development professional with a proven track record in the tertiary and higher education, child protection, ageing and disability sectors. Before joining ECIA NSW/ACT in February 2017, Enis was a Sector Support & Development Officer working with ageing and disability service providers in Eastern Sydney. Enis has a Masters in Law & Legal Practice from Sydney University and a Bachelor of Arts from UTS.

Emma Pierce

Emma Pierce is currently employed as inclusion coordinator at early Childhood Intervention Australia (NSW/ACT). Emma trained as a special education teacher and has worked with children with disabilities and their families for the last 19 years in the UK and NSW, primarily in the area of early childhood intervention. Emma developed ECIA NSW/ACT’s Working Together Agreement in consultation with a range of stakeholders and was the main author of ECIA NSW/ACT’s Transition to School Resource (2014). She has developed and facilitated training with parents, carers and professionals across NSW and has also co-authored a number of other practical resources for professionals and families. Emma is also a sessional academic at Western Sydney University and was previously the manager of Early Intervention at Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).

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