The outside schools hours care (OSHC) Demonstration Program allows children and young people with disability to access appropriate OSHC services for free.
OSHC for those with disability
Children and young people with disability often require more intensive and different supports to participate fully in outside school hours care (OSHC) than their typically developing peers. This includes young people in their teens who need OSHC because of their disability, but cannot attend mainstream services, which are for primary aged children only. A survey found that 81% of Victorian parents and carers of children and young people with disability have experienced difficulties in finding appropriate OSHC services. Parents raised this issue with the Premier in 2017 during roundtable discussions, and the OSHC Demonstration Program was launched in response. The program was intended to pilot a model of service delivery to fill this gap and provide an evidence base to inform future provision of this service.
OSHC funding is included within the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector and is primarily a funding responsibility of the Commonwealth. Beginning in 2018, the Victorian Government has committed significant funding to deliver the OSHC Demonstration Program. This commitment will continue until December 2021 and is managed by the Department of Education and Training.
The OSHC Demonstration Program provides access to after school and holiday care at six government school sites. Participating schools include five specialist schools and one mainstream school.
- Jackson School – St Albans
- Yarrabah School – Aspendale
- Bendigo Special Developmental School – Kangaroo Flat
- Kalianna School – Bendigo
- Officer Specialist School – Officer
- Laurimar Primary School – Doreen
After school care and holiday programs are delivered by third party service providers, including TheirCare - a large mainstream OSHC provider,
Interchange Loddon-Mallee Region - a disability services provider and a school council managed service. Children and young people are involved in
a diverse range of activities, including incursions and excursions. They are given opportunities to practise a range of social and life skills with the support of higher staff to child ratios, with an average of one staff member for every two children or young people. Funding is available for providers to purchase specialised resources and deliver professional learning and training to educators, to ensure the services and supports meet the unique needs of each child and young person participating.
Initial findings from an evaluation undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting has found that inclusive OSHC programs provide a wide range of benefits to participating children and young people, their families, their schools and the community. These include:
- Parents and carers are able to increase their participation in work, training or study (48% of those surveyed agreed that the program had already enabled them to increase their participation, with a further 44% stating that they intended to if the program continued);
- An increase in family wellbeing, with parents/carers having more time to take care of themselves and/or their other children;
- Participating children and young people are exposed to a wide range of experiences they may not have been able to access otherwise, including opportunities to access and form connections within the community;
- Children and young people are able to build and embed social and life skills;
- Children and young people experience improved social and emotional wellbeing and positive educational outcomes:
- Victorian communities becoming more inclusive of all people living with disability.