In 2020, the number of funding applications assessed by the IDFM Team was 11,294 which was 11% (1,136) higher than 2019.

As the Inclusion Development Fund Manager (IDFM), in partnership with Include Me, KU is responsible for the equitable and consistent assessment of Inclusion Development Fund applications, in line with the Inclusion Support Program (ISP) Guidelines for all Commonwealth funded early learning programs.

In March 2020, the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment updated the ISP Guidelines, resulting in significant changes within the IDFM and to the support it provided. The update to the ISP Guidelines expanded the opportunities for early childhood education and care services across Australia to access funded support through the program. This included the expansion of child eligibility to include children with additional needs such as children presenting with challenging behaviours or trauma related behaviours, and increasing the Inclusion Development Fund limits in relation to Immediate/Time Limited Support, to allow services to access more support to address an immediate barrier to a child’s inclusion.

The update also clarified the options available under Innovative Solutions Support to provide flexible funding for innovative and responsive solutions to facilitate inclusion and build educator skills, knowledge and confidence.

These changes required the IDFM to update all internal processes, as well as ensuring communications with early childhood education and care services, Inclusion Professionals, families and other stakeholders across Australia, reflected these changes. The changes to the guidelines, combined with the impacts of COVID-19, resulted in a surge in the number of applications submitted and queries received by the IDFM throughout 2020. There was an increase in the uptake of Innovative Solutions Support as the IDFM and Inclusion Agencies supported services and educators to design and implement unique projects that targeted the specific barriers to inclusion and outcomes sought to include children with additional needs at the service level.

The changes to the ISP Guidelines enabled the IDFM to respond to the impacts of traumatic events on children, including COVID-19, by providing more services, as well as allowing educators access to resources and supports that they needed at this time to effectively scale up to meet demand.