How do I get ORS funding for my child?

Education 7 min read , June 27, 2022

Everything you need to know about the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme or ORS funding scheme....

The Ongoing Resourcing Scheme is funding for supporting children in New Zealand’s education system with ongoing support needs. Once a child qualifies for ORS funding, the funding stays with them throughout their time at school.

Children who qualify will have significant difficulties with or a need for significant support in:

  • learning
  • hearing
  • vision
  • mobility
  • language use
  • social communication.

What is ORS funding for?

ORS funding requires a current individual education plan (IEP) setting out a child’s support needs. What the funding can be spent on depends on the specifics of the IEP, so the plan needs to identify exactly what support is required. You can access more info about IEPs here.

The funding can be used for support from specialist therapists including speech-language, occupational or physio. It can be used to fund additional or specialist teachers who work with the classroom teacher to manage your child’s learning programme, or for a teacher aide to support that programme in the classroom, so your kid can be more involved in class programmes and activities.

The funding ought to also cover “Consumables”, the wee extras that are needed day to day. This can include software, particular stationery such as extra-size pens and pen grips, disposable gloves, and other specialised items. This means that you do not to have to supply this stuff yourself! If your child qualifies for ORS funding, the school receives the money to buy these items for them.

How to apply for ORS funding

Applying for ORS funding is done by the school, usually by whoever holds the role of supporting special education within the school. They’re usually known as the Special Needs Education Coordinator or SENCO. This could be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s one less thing for parents to manage, which is always a relief, especially as the application process and forms are quite technical and so leaving them to the people familiar with the system makes sense. On the other hand, it has the disadvantage of keeping you at arm’s length from the application process and finding out what’s going on if there is a delay may be more difficult.

It’s important to acknowledge that most people who have the responsibility to make applications for ORS will likely approach their job with good faith and a true intention to support your child. It’s also important to acknowledge that accidents happen, life does not always run smoothly, and so there may be a hiccup or two along the way, especially if the school is understaffed like so many are these days.

You will likely have to provide significant information to the school to support your child’s application. This might include letters from your family GP or any specialists involved in your child’s care. A diagnosis is not required for access to ORS funding, but it is a useful tool, concrete evidence of your child’s needs, and so likely to be valuable if it is available. However, an official diagnosis is not the be-all and end-all of your child or their support needs. Not having a particular piece of paper doesn’t change the fact that a child has particular support needs every day. Your child can still qualify for ORS funding even if they do not have a particular diagnosis.

You are entitled to be kept informed about the application process and to see what information is on your child’s application. If you have been waiting for an update on your child’s application and it’s overdue, then email the school, call them, pop into the office just before pickup. You are not making a fuss, you are advocating for your child and asking the school to do their job.

What to do after your child’s ORS funding is approved

Once a child’s ORS funding is made available, someone at the school (probably the SENCO) will be in charge of coordinating the management of the resources allocated to your child. You likely already know who this person is. This will be an ongoing relationship to manage; the support your child receives is most likely to be useful and successful if everyone on your child’s support team are on the same page.

If you are unhappy with how ongoing support is being managed for your child, then you will need to address this with the school in the first instance. Try not to assume this will be an adversarial process – you and the school are on the same team, trying to support your child, and it may be that the school is just as frustrated as you are. Your child’s needs might have changed, or the funding granted might be insufficient to meet those needs. If this is the case, you and the school can work together to request a review of your child’s funding.

What to do if your ORS funding application is Unsuccessful or Partially Successful

The process of assessing and verifying a funding application is quite complex, with a significant number of people involved and a very particular process followed. Detailed information about the process can be found here. You may be asked to provide further information if the team assessing the application request it.

As the funding is limited to a small number of students, applications may be unsuccessful or only partially successful.

  • Partially Successful: your child’s application was approved but for less funding than you hoped.
  • Unsuccessful: your child’s application was declined, and no funding is available.

Once a decision has been made regarding your child’s application, a letter is sent to the school and to parents. If a child’s circumstances change, or there is new information relating to a child’s eligibility (for example a new diagnosis), then the application can be reviewed or a new application made. Reviews can be requested within six months of receiving the decision letter, but if it has been longer than six months, the school will need to make a new application.

Can you appeal an ORS funding decision?

If you have been through the review process and all the available information about your child has been provided and still the application was declined, then there is one final appeal process you can go through under section 47 of the Education and Training Act 2020. You will need to speak to someone at the Ministry of Education to see if this appeal process is appropriate for your child’s situation.

This appeal is managed independently of the verification team and will be run by an independent arbitrator. Unlike the rest of the process up until now, these appeals are not made by the school. Only caregivers or whānau of the child in question can make them, but as always, being on the same page as the school, where they support the application, may be useful.

If you think you need to make a section 47 appeal, consider what support is available to you. Arbitration processes can be intimidating and so it’s good to know what to expect. Consider approaching anyone in your whānau or community with experience in advocacy work or see if anyone at the school has dealt with such an appeal before or can put you in touch with other parents who have. Reach out to all the support networks and communities you are part of, including Awhi, to see if you can find other parents who can share their experiences.

What do I do if my child’s funding application is declined

If your child’s application is declined or is only partially successful, you are probably gonna be pretty disappointed. You may need to give yourself some time to deal with the feelings of frustration or exhaustion before deciding where to go from there. What you feel able to do will depend on your energy levels, what support is available from whānau and community, what other demands there are on your time. You might decide to accept the decision and just move on for now. This is legit, especially if you are exhausted or burnt out.

Alternatively, you might decide on exactly what you are willing to do before allowing yourself to stop. For example, you might have just enough energy to write an email requesting a review, and then give yourself permission to take break.

A declined application also does not have to be the end of the process. Further information about your child’s needs can be used to support a review or a new application. You might go through the application with members of your child’s support team such as specialist therapists or your GP or the school and decide together where to put your energy in finding new information to support a future application.

Be kind to yourself.

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