Mapping Rural and Remote Early Childhood Intervention Therapy Services

Mapping Rural and Remote Early Childhood Intervention Therapy Services Report

  • Author(s): Maximiliane Hanft
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Services of Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH) & National Rural and Remote Support Services (NRRSS)

Abstract: Children with a disability or developmental delay growing up in rural and remote Australia face barriers to early childhood intervention (ECI) services that are directly related to their geographical location. This research paper illustrates that these barriers lead to a significantly different uptake by rural and urban children in allied health paediatric therapy services. Two federal Australian health programs were analysed. These programs, the Help for Children with Autism (HCWA) package and the Better Start for Children with a Disability (Better Start) initiative, both aim to facilitate the social inclusion of children with a disability by funding evidence-based, best practice therapy services. The current study strongly suggests, however, that inclusion of rural children with a disability is jeopardised because they are unable to access the same services that are available to their urban peers. This preliminary research project indicates a rural-urban service disparity. This research has explored two areas in which gaps in the provision of ECI services outside the major cities occur: 1. Physical gaps, which include barriers in obtaining a diagnosis, in accessing allied health professionals in country Australia and in engaging in eTherapy. 2. Best practice gaps, which include barriers in employing a caseworker, in the conducting of multidisciplinary meetings and in the incorporation of daily life activity goals in the provision of therapies. Utilising a survey of advisors to both early intervention programs, and on the basis of registration data for clients of HCWA and Better Start, this research project demonstrates that (i) rural children with a disability are up to 23% less likely to register with HCWA and Better Start and that they access up to 60% less of their funding than their urban peers; (ii) that there is a serious shortage of allied health professionals, especially of psychologists, in country Australia, and (iii) that the individual funding model that lies at the heart of HCWA and Better Start, which is based on the idea of choice and empowerment of clients, fails in rural Australia.

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Suggested Citation
Maximiliane Hanft, 2014, Mapping Rural and Remote Early Childhood Intervention Therapy Services, Report, viewed 17 July 2024,

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