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The Inclusion Support Program

The Inclusion Support Program (ISP) is a national program that is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment. It is a key component of the government’s Child Care Safety Net.

The program provides support for eligible early childhood education and care (ECEC) services to build their capacity and capability to include children with additional needs, alongside their typically developing peers, so all children have genuine opportunities to access, participate and achieve positive learning outcomes.

The program assists services to implement quality, inclusive and equitable practice under the National Quality Framework (NQF) and in accordance with the National Quality Standard (NQS) and Approved Learning Frameworks.

Support options

The program provides tailored inclusion advice and support for early childhood education and care (ECEC) services from state or territory based Inclusion Agencies. The ISP also provides funding to address inclusion barriers and specialist equipment where required.

Support available through the Inclusion Support Program for early childhood and child care services includes:

  • Support from an Inclusion Agency (IA) – IAs employ skilled Inclusion Professionals who provide tailored support to eligible ECEC services to address inclusion barriers and develop their inclusion capacity and capability.
  • Specialist Equipment Library (SEL) – A service can borrow equipment to facilitate and support the inclusion of a child with additional needs. The Inclusion Agency can assist the service to access equipment through the Specialist Equipment Library.
  • Funding from the Inclusion Development Fund – ECEC services can access funding to address barriers to inclusion that cannot be resolved through support from an Inclusion Agency or the Specialist Equipment Library.

Children with additional needs

The Inclusion Support Program (ISP) supports educators to address access and participation barriers and to support the inclusion of children with additional needs, with their typically developing peers.

While there is no national definition of ‘additional needs’, there are children who may need or require special considerations or adaptations to participate fully in ECEC services (although not all children with additional needs will require support).

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.

Meeting the needs and requirements of:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • children from refugee or humanitarian backgrounds

may also require specific considerations, such as cultural support, to ensure that these children are able to participate fully in ECEC services and experience positive outcomes.

Extract from: Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Inclusion Support Program Guidelines, Version 2.3, July 2021.

Inclusion Development Fund (IDF)

Participation in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services offers children with additional needs the opportunity to be engaged in play based learning environments and programs with their typically developing peers, as per Approved Learning Frameworks including the Early Years Learning Framework and My Time, Our Place – Framework for School Age Care in Australia. This opportunity will complement other supports and experiences children may access elsewhere, such as early intervention therapy.

Funding may be required by a service to assist in addressing the barriers to inclusion to ensure all children can participate. Your service and the Inclusion Agency will determine the most suitable funding stream based on the services’ identified barriers to inclusion.

There are four streams of IDF support. Each stream has eligibility criteria, application requirements and approved funding purposes.

  • IDF Subsidy for an Additional Educator
  • IDF Subsidy for Immediate/Time Limited Support
  • IDF Subsidy – Family Day Care Top Up
  • IDF Innovative Solutions Support

The IDF Manager assesses and determines an outcome for applications against the eligibility criteria for the IDF support stream outlined in the ISP Guidelines.