2024 Inclusive Environments Funding Guidelines

Inclusive Environments Funding was previously Minor Capital Works Funding.

Key updates

  • The NSW Disability and Inclusion Program Minor Capital Works (MCW) funding program is now called Inclusive Environments (IE).
  • In 2024, there are two streams of IE funding: child-based funding and service-based inclusion readiness funding.
  • To be eligible for child-based funding, the child/children need to have constant and ongoing support needs and require significant adjustments to enable them to engage with the educational program on the same basis as their peers or a temporary illness or injury that requires short term adjustment to enable participation in the educational program on the same basis as their peers, and may require access to specialised equipment. It is no longer a requirement for the child/children to have an application approved for High Learning Support Needs (HLSN) funding. This change recognises that some preschools can include children with constant and ongoing support needs with environmental adjustments and may not need funding for an additional educator.
  • In 2024, the department is trialling a stream of service-based inclusion readiness funding. Eligibility and total funding provision for this stream will be limited. To be eligible for service-based inclusion readiness funding, the community preschool must not have previously received HLSN or MCW funding and it must not have any children with disability recorded as attending the service in the 2023 Annual Preschool Census. Eligible community preschools can apply to improve their capacity to include children with disability or additional needs in the future. Up to $5,000 (ex GST) per community preschool per year is available for specialised equipment/furniture or minor environmental modifications. Arrangements in 2024 will be considered for any continuation or adjustment in future years.

1. Aim

This document provides an overview of the 2024 Inclusive Environments (IE) Funding Program (Program Guidelines). This program was formerly known as the Minor Capital Works (MCW) funding program. This document forms part of the 2024 Funding Agreement with Approved Funded Providers (providers).

This document may be amended or replaced by the Department of Education (the department) from time to time. Providers are required to comply with the current program guidelines, available on the department’s website.

IE funding promotes access and improves the educational opportunities, learning outcomes and personal development of children with disability and additional needs in community preschools.

Funding is available for minor environmental modifications and specialised equipment or furniture that will enable children with disability and additional needs to participate in the educational program on the same basis as their peers.

2. Funding

There are two types of IE funding:

  • Child-based funding for a community preschool to support individual children with constant and ongoing support needs currently attending their service.
    • Up to $5,000 (ex GST) per child per year is available for specialised equipment/furniture.
    • Up to $20,000 (ex GST) per child per year is available for minor construction projects.

It is no longer a requirement for the child/children to have an application approved for HLSN funding. This change recognises that some preschools can include children with constant and ongoing support needs with environmental adjustments and may not need funding for an additional educator.

Please note: Council approvals may be required for minor construction projects. Consultation with local government is recommended prior to application for minor construction projects through the Disability and Inclusion Program.

  • Service-based inclusion readiness funding for a community preschool to improve their capacity to include children with disability or additional needs in the future.
    • Up to $5,000 (ex GST) per community preschool per year is available for specialised equipment/furniture or minor environmental modifications.

This funding does not need to be associated with an individual child, but can support inclusion readiness for the service.

Please note: Due to budget constraints, applications for this funding can only be accepted until the budget allocation is exhausted.

Information provided as part of funding applications may be used by the department for the purpose of assessing the eligibility of a community preschool and/or child for IE funding in future years, for example where a service has already received funding for an item or related activity or identifies future opportunities to support inclusion.

3. Service eligibility criteria

This funding is available only for community preschools (including mobile preschools) receiving NSW Start Strong for Community Preschools funding.

In addition, to be eligible for the service-based inclusion readiness funding, the community preschool must not have previously received HLSN or MCW funding and it must not have any children with disability recorded as attending the service in the 2023 Annual Preschool Census.

4. Child eligibility criteria

For child-based IE funding, the child/children need to have constant and ongoing support needs and require significant adjustments to enable them to engage with the educational program on the same basis as their peers, or a temporary illness or injury that requires short term adjustment to enable participation in the educational program on the same basis as their peers, and may require access to specialised equipment.

Applications are specific to individual or multiple children. An application can include inclusive environment requirements for multiple children, where the environment adjustment/equipment/furniture relates to more than one child.

It is no longer a requirement for the child/children to have an application approved for HLSN funding. This change recognises that some preschools can include children with constant and ongoing support needs with environmental adjustments and may not need an additional educator.

5. How to apply

Both types of applications are made in the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS).

Child-based applications for funding to support the child/children currently attending the service must include:

  • a description of the child/children’s educational needs and any disability
  • a description of the essential minor environmental modifications, specialised equipment/furniture that are required to enable the child/ children to access, and participate in, the educational program
  • if applying for specialised equipment/furniture, supporting evidence from specialised professionals recommending the specialised equipment/furniture
  • a description of how the minor environmental modifications, specialised equipment/furniture are linked to/will deliver outcomes specified in the child/children’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP)
  • an itemised quote/s clearly indicating the breakdown of costs excluding GST. Where GST is not clearly indicated, the department will assume that GST is included in the cost and will subtract this amount from the total amount
  • if applying for specialised equipment or furniture
    • photocopies or sample pictures from catalogues to support your application
    • a declaration confirming sufficient space for equipment/furniture to be installed and used safely.

Service-based applications for funding to enable a community preschool to improve their capacity to include children with disability or additional needs in the future must include:

  • a description of specialised equipment/furniture or minor environmental modifications that would enable a child/children with disability or additional needs to access, and participate in, the educational program
  • an itemised quote/s clearly indicating the breakdown of costs excluding GST. Where GST is not clearly indicated, the department will assume that GST is included in the cost and will subtract this amount from the total amount
  • photocopies or sample pictures from catalogues to support your application
  • a declaration confirming sufficient space for equipment/furniture to be installed and used safely.

Where applications are submitted that exceed the available grant amount, applicants are required to confirm that they can fund the difference.

If circumstances change, and a preschool cannot fund the difference, they must notify the department. In such circumstances, the grant must be returned to the department in full, unless expenditure is otherwise agreed by both parties and approved by the department. These decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

6. Application and payment dates

Child-based IE application cut off dates Notification of Outcome and Payment
Submitted by 5.00pm
Friday 8 December 2023
Quarter 1 - February 2024
Submitted by 5.00pm
Friday 8 March 2024
Quarter 2 - May 2024
Submitted by 5.00pm
Friday 24 May 2024
Quarter 3 - July 2024
Submitted by 5.00pm
Friday 16 August 2024
Quarter 4 - October 2024
Submitted by 5.00pm
Friday 11 October 2024
Final adjustments - December 2024*


*Funding for eligible applications will be paid in December and must be spent within the calendar year.


Inclusion Readiness IE application cut off date Notification of Outcome and Payment
Submitted by 5.00pm
Friday 8 March
May 2024

Application cut-off dates are subject to change. The department will notify preschools via email of any changes to these dates. Payments can also be made on an ad hoc basis as determined by the department, and according to budget availability.

7. Assessment and feedback

The department will assess all IE applications and determine funding. Where required, the department may seek further information from preschools about their applications.

All IE applications will be individually assessed and in accordance with overall budget availability.

When assessing child-based IE applications, a range of factors are considered. Factors include:

  • the degree to which the proposed project will support or improve the educational participation and outcomes of the child/children identified in the application
  • the extent to which the proposed project is the most economical and effective way to meet the educational needs of the child/children identified in the application
  • whether relevant authorities and the community have been consulted where required.

When assessing Inclusion Readiness IE applications, a range of factors are considered. Factors include:

  • the community preschool not previously receiving HLSN or MCW funding and not having any children with disability recorded as attending the service in the 2023 Annual Preschool Census
  • the degree to which the proposed project will support or improve the service’s capacity to increase access and participation of children with disability or additional needs in the future
  • the extent to which the proposed project is the most economical and effective way to improve the service’s capacity to include children with disability or additional needs in the future.

Feedback on the outcome of a funding application is provided via email to all community preschools that submit an application. Further feedback can be sought from the assessment team by emailing ecec.funding@det.nsw.edu.au and providing the following information:

  • IE application ID
  • preschool name
  • contact person at the preschool and contact phone number
  • the question/s you have about the application.

Once you have provided this following information, a member of the assessment team will contact you within 7-10 business days to discuss your application.

8. Spending rules

For child-based applications, up to $20,000 (ex GST) per child per year can be used for, but is not limited to the erection, alteration or extension of buildings or other facilities including outside developments. This includes conversion of buildings or facilities to alternative uses or their upgrading to modern standards, but does not include maintenance work. Examples of projects funded previously include:

For child-based and service-based inclusion readiness applications, up to $5,000 (ex GST) per child per year OR per community preschool per year can be used for, but is not limited to the provision of specialised equipment or specialised furniture or minor environmental modifications. That is, equipment or furniture or minor environmental modifications that supports the child’s attendance in an early childhood setting only. Examples of projects that may be considered include:

Funds are not available for:

  • retrospective assistance. In this instance, an application is considered to be retrospective if the organisation enters into a commitment (e.g. signs a contract) prior to applying
  • general refurbishment
  • projects where the purpose is satisfying government requirements for children’s services
  • the modification of space to create segregated playrooms or therapy rooms
  • generic early childhood equipment, non-specialised gross motor equipment, and therapy and sensory equipment
  • teachers’ resources.
  • the establishment or upgrade of an equipment loaning service
  • digital cameras, video cameras, computers and IT equipment
  • photocopiers, fax machines and office equipment
  • segregated bathrooms and change areas for children with disability and additional needs
  • segregated playground areas and equipment.

IE funding allocations must be expended in the calendar year in which funding was allocated.

Please note all equipment and furniture funded under this program is required to be maintained in accordance with Regulation 103 of the Education and Care National Regulations.

9. Financial accountabilities and funding compliance

In accordance with the Terms and Conditions, a provider must submit a financial accountability statement for each individual service which has received funding, to provide assurance that public funds have been expended for their intended purpose.

Financial accountability is completed through ECCMS and providers will be notified when this is due. Further information is available in the Financial Accountability Return Guide and on the Financial Accountability - Information for Services page.

Surplus and Refunds

Providers are required to expend all IE funding in accordance with the spending rules during the relevant program period. The department understands that some providers may have a surplus at the end of their reporting period which needs to be returned to the department according to the terms and conditions. The department will identify and validate surpluses through the annual financial accountability process.

The financial accountability process for any funding allocation will be undertaken in the following year after the reporting year is finished. The process involves completing a financial accountability statement to report to the department how funding has been spent in accordance with the spending rules of the program guidelines. Financial accountability statement is completed at service level and for any surplus funds an invoice may be raised by the department requesting repayment of funds.

Providers that have a surplus above $5,000 are required to return the surplus amount above the threshold.

The department will review these guidelines and surplus thresholds annually to ensure alignment with program funding objectives.

Record keeping

The department periodically conducts reviews of preschool services and funding distributed to providers. For this purpose, the department may request that providers supply supporting documentation to the department and its representatives.

Preschools may be audited to confirm the accuracy of data provided in their performance and financial accountability statements, which includes ensuring that the funding provided has been used to support the achievement of educational outcomes for children with disability in accordance with these guidelines.

Relevant records must be retained by providers for the purpose of the department undertaking funding compliance reviews. Examples of relevant records may include:

  • proof of expenditure in line with spending rules
  • parent/legal guardian declaration forms
  • enrolment and consent forms
  • documentary evidence of the child’s disability and/or additional needs
  • Individual Learning Plans (ILP) for children with disability or additional needs working towards 600 hours per year.

10. Further information

For further information about early childhood education programs, please contact the department by:

11. Application support

Under the Disability and Inclusion Program, Sector Capacity Building (SCB) providers are available to all community preschools to support the delivery of inclusive education practices and enhance inclusion readiness.

SCB providers can help preschool staff apply for IE funding. Preschools are encouraged to contact their SCB provider for support or to contact the department if they do not have the contact details of their SCB provider.

Category:

  • Early childhood education

Business Unit:

  • Early Childhood Outcomes
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