The Inclusion Support Program (ISP) was introduced in July 2016 as an element of the Child Care Package. The program has a number of antecedents stretching back to the early 1980s. Some changes - a 'refresh' of the guidelines - were made to the program in March 2020.

The objective of the program is to promote and support inclusive child care, addressing potential barriers to the full participation of children with additional needs with their peers. The program recognises that additional needs can result from a range of factors, including disability, which has been the historic focus of inclusion.

The ISP comprises a series of specific subsidies and support, managed by a contracted Inclusion Development Fund Manager and contracted state-based Inclusion Agencies which employ Inclusion Professionals who support services.

Overall, the evaluation found that the program was supportive of inclusion of children with additional needs and is supported by stakeholders, although there are a number of aspects of the program which do require review, as does its broader context and focus.

Key recommendations:

  • Attention should be given to the introduction of more flexibility in the hours per week of support for the additional educator and Immediate/Time Limited Support to reflect different patterns of child care usage, and the rationale for the subsidy rate needs review.
  • The processes for submitting Innovative Solutions Support proposals should be reviewed and simplified. The Department should more actively monitor the program including the balance of projects within and between states.
  • The approach to Inclusion Agency tendering should be reviewed, potentially moving to 5-year contract periods, with decisions on the next contract being made a year before the expiry of the former.
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