01 May 2013: First Voice releases 2012 annual report
It has been a busy and an enormously gratifying year for First Voice and the annual report
provides an informative update of our many projects and activities over the past year to improve the lives of young hearing impaired children throughout the region. Read the full announcement
16 October 2012: New First Voice Chair Appointed
First Voice is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Jim Hungerford as its new Board Chair. Mr Hungerford takes over from Associate Professor Dimity Dornan AM, who has held the position for the past 18 months. Mr Hungerford is the Chief Executive Officer of The Shepherd Centre, an early intervention centre based in Sydney which has outreach centres in metropolitan Sydney and Canberra. He brings more than 30 years' experience in health sciences and senior management to the position of First Voice Chair. Read the full announcement
17 May 2012: First Voice centres selected to deliver national rural and regional hearing program
First Voice centres and Vision Australia have been selected by the Australian Government to deliver remote hearing and vision services to children in rural and remote areas under a new $4.1M government telehealth program
. Specialist services will be delivered to hearing and/or vision impaired Australians aged 0 to 18 years via video conferencing using laptops and iPads.
31 January 2012: First Voice releases annual report
First Voice has released its annual report on its first year as the national voice for listening and spoken language member organisations. First Voice has exerted a high level of influence in its first year of operation, and continues to demonstrate thought, policy, research and clinical leadership on all matters related to early childhood deafness.
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Funding of Hearing Services
All babies born in Australia after December 2010 are now screened for hearing loss at birth under the Australian Government’s Universal Newborn Hearing Screening program. Those who receive a "refer" result from their screening (or detected later) will go onto a diagnostic service and then if a hearing loss is diagnosed, attend Australian Hearing and/or a Cochlear Implant service for further assessment. These processes are funded by state and federal governments (however access to cochlear implants needs further review).
Research evidence shows that children who have hearing aids or cochlear implants, or both, make better progress if they receive early intervention services to assist their language development.
However early intervention programs to enhance communication in infants and young children prior to school, are in the main, inadequately funded by governments and are predominantly funded by the not for profit sector.
New Federal Funding
In July 2010, following across the board representation from the early intervention sector, the Gillard Labor Government announced a new funding package, known as A Better Start for Children with Disability. The package is designed to ensure that children with disabilities that affect their development have access to intensive early intervention therapies and treatments.
Children diagnosed with sight and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome benefit under the program. Children under six with a diagnosis of a listed disability are now eligible to receive up to $12,000 for early intervention services. A maximum of $6,000 can be spent in any financial year. Families will have up to their child’s seventh birthday to use the funding.
A number of new Medicare funded diagnosis and treatment services are also available for children diagnosed before the age of 13 years with these conditions.
Families can access the treatment items up to their child’s fifteenth birthday.
First Voice is working closely with the Australian Government and other leading agencies in the early intervention sector to assist in the implementation and oversight of this new funding package.
Additional information on the Better Start for Children with Disability can be found here . First Voice’s response to the initial funding announcement can be found here.
Other funding sources
While the Australian Government’s funding commitment has been warmly welcomed across the sector, First Voice member organisations are still reliant upon State and Territory Government funding and the generosity of charitable donors to make up the short fall in the cost of delivering high quality early intervention services to children and families in need.