Transcript: Getting the Most Out of Your NDIS Plan Information Session 1

AFDO Getting the Most out of Your NDIS Plan – Part One

RAMONA: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the “Getting the most out of Your NDIS Information Session”. This is part 1 of two parts. My name is Ramona Mandy and I am the NDIS and special projects officer at the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations; and we say “AFDO” for short.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the various lands that we are meeting on today. I am here in Melbourne and I am on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I would like to pay my respects to the elders past and present of all the First Peoples’ nations that we are on today around Australia. I understand most of us are from Victoria, but not everyone today.

I would also like to acknowledge the disability advocates that have come before us and the work they have done and the achievements they have made; and I would also like to acknowledge the impact that this COVID 19 situation is having on people with disabilities around Australia; and to ensure that you know that AFDO is working really hard with our disability sector colleagues to try and improve the situation for people with lived experience of disability.

Just a little bit of housekeeping for today on this webinar. You are all muted. There are a lot of us, which is great; but we have you muted so we don’t hear things like noises of dogs barking in the background, et cetera.

I am joined by my colleagues assisting me today. Helen will be assisting with question time and we also have assistance from Darren and Justyn from MAV. Now, if you do have any technical questions, maybe you are having trouble getting on or getting audio, for example, not seeing the captioning if there’s any technical issues or you know of anyone else having technical issues, please ask them to phone or text Justyn, 0491 294 423.

We sent out an information pack or an email with a link to an information pack earlier this week. Hopefully you got it? If you didn’t get it, it may be in your junk folder. That email had the links for today but also how to get the information pack.

We also offered to send you the information pack in hard copy format or alternative format. Those will be sent out in the post but you won’t have gotten those yet; however, if you would like to get a hard copy version of the information pack, please reply to that email with your name and address; and we would be very happy to send it to you.

So what’s in that information pack? It’s a set of handouts with a lot more detail on the topics that I am going to be covering today. That’s just for later reference on things that you can look up and read at your own leisure.

A little bit of how questions will be taken today. I have got so much good information to share with you. Unfortunately, we won’t have a lot of time to get to questions. We might be able to take one/two throughout the session and we would ask that you put your question in the Q&A section, which is a button on your Zoom meeting platform. Please type your question and I will pause periodically to take questions which Helen will help read out for me.

However, if you are not able to write your question or if you are on the telephone, we will hopefully have time at the end to take a couple of verbal questions.

If we don’t get to your question today, please feel free to contact us by emailing your question; and that address is “disabilityloop@AFDO.org.au”, or you can phone us on 1800219969.

The session today will go for about one and a half hours and finishing at 12.30.

Can I have slide two, please?

So just an overview of today’s agenda in part 1. We will be looking at “understanding and managing your NDIS plan; how to find and work with service providers”.

In part 2, which is on Friday, we will probably touch off a little more on “working with service providers”; and we will then be having a guest speaker, looking at some options, if you have concerns; and then how to prepare for your next plan.

I would like to let you know that we are also assisted today by Chelsea and Kerry as the Auslan interpreters from Auslan services; and we are also being supported by Sandy from reporters ink doing the live captioning. So thank you to all of you.

Slide 3, please. What are the intended outcomes from today? I am hoping that by the end of today, you will have improved knowledge and skills in how to successfully use your plan; and how to achieve the best possible results for you or the person with disability that you are caring for.

Slide 4, please. A little bit of an introduction, first of all, about me. I have been working at AFDO for two years now on disability and NDIS issues. I am a person with a disability, myself. I am totally blind. I am reading braille notes; I use speech text technology; I have a Guide Dog; but I also have worked in the disability sector for decades now. I have worked on many advisory committees with cross disability. I have also been involved with a lot of selling of adaptive technology.

I am an NDIS participant, myself; onto my second plan; and I am also the nominee for my sister who is in the NDIS, too. She’s not blind; she has an intellectual disability and a psychosocial disability of schizophrenia; so I’m her nominee.

So what is AFDO? Well, AFDO is a disabled peoples organisation. We say “DPO”. That means that the majority of our members/management are people with disabilities. We are the national voice that represents people in Australia that have a disability.

Disability Loop is AFDO’s work that we do, that focuses on helping people find out about the NDIS. We have a Disability Loop website which is Disability Loop.org.au, we have Disability Loop media/Twitter and an email that you can sign up for on our website. And there’s a lot more information about AFDO and the Disability Loop in the handout on the information pack that you can access.

So what’s the purpose of today? Well, with the full roll out of the NDIS almost reached in Australia, and there being some changes in recent months, we are finding that people have got their plan. They have gone through the planning process but they don’t really know what steps to take next. Additionally, there are many components of the NDIS that are really quite difficult to understand for people; and that makes it hard to put your plan into action.

So we have developed this session with the purpose to help you as people with disabilities and families and carers, to better understand the processes/options, and how to increase your confidence in getting the benefits out of using your plan.

Next slide, please. What is the NDIS, first of all? Well, it stands for National Disability Insurance Scheme and it’s Australia’s first national scheme for people with disability. And it has quite a few different components. You may be aware that there’s about 4.3 million Australians who have a disability; and the NDIS will provide only about 10 per cent of those people with supports but those people are under age 65 who have a permanent and a significant disability. The NDIS is about giving those people support, funding for support that meets their needs that are related to their disability.

However, the NDIS can help all people with disabilities, with getting information and connections to services in their community; such as sporting clubs, support groups, libraries, schools, government services. So information that people might need for all of those services. That connection and information is mainly done through a thing called “information linkages and capacity building”. You might have heard of “ILC”; that’s what it stands for.

ILC includes also information from your local area coordinator, LACs. And some of you may be aware of what an LAC is. So they help you connect with your community as well.

Another part of NDIS is early intervention support. That can be either for children that have developmental delays or it can be for children or adults to give them support early, to help them not deteriorate in their disability as quickly. So help them with their functionality.

For example, if someone uses crutches for mobility and they are given the supports they need, they may not need to progress to a wheelchair as early as if they didn’t have that support. But the biggest part of the NDIS is providing funding that is sometimes called individualised funding packages; but it’s more commonly called plans. And that’s the bit that we are going to be focussing on today.

So what isn’t the NDIS? It’s not a welfare system; it’s not designed to give people with disabilities funding so they can pay for food and rent. And it’s about giving them access to quality supports that they need because of their disability. And really to sum up the NDIS, I would like to think of it in three parts. It’s about independence, about social and economic participation, and about developing skills. What do I mean by “social participation”? That’s about getting out, having friends, going and watching a local football game; it might be about joining a soap making society, book reading; anything to do with social activities.

What about “economic participation”? That could be anything about getting a job, even voluntary paid work; it could be about learning how to handle money, pay bills; it could even be just buying that morning coffee. That’s economic participation.

Slide 6, please. We are going to look at some terms because there’s a lot of phrases/expressions used when you are reading about the NDIS or discussing it. Some of it could be quite confusing. So I just want to let you know some terms that you might come across. There is a longer list of terms, a glossary, in the information pack; but I will give you a few now. And the list that’s in your information pack is part of a longer list that’s on the NDIS website.

I will give you the website address for NDIS now because I will be referring to it a few times. The web address is: www.NDIS.gov.au.

The first term is “participant”. That’s what you are when you get into the NDIS. You are not a client/member, you are a participant. The next one is choice and control. That’s about having the right to make your decisions about what you want, what’s important to you and who you get services from.

The next one is community engagement. That is all the different ways you can be involved in your wider community, such as your neighbourhood, sporting/hobby groups, your school; other activities like churches or other activities that you are involved with.

The “NDIA” stands for National Disability Insurance Agency; that is the Commonwealth Government organisation that runs the NDIS; and we sometimes just call them “the agency”, which I will probably do. Today NDIA/agency, I mean the same thing.

What about “a planner”? Planners are people that work at the NDIA; that approve the plans; and sometimes they will work with people to help them develop their plans; particularly if you have got complex needs. Maybe you are homeless or maybe you live in a group home, you are more likely to have your plan developed by a planner.

NDIS Act is the national law that says what can be/can’t be done under the NDIA and the scheme. The NDIS guidelines: they are a group of documents; they are a little bit more detailed and they help people working in the NDIA to know more about how they make decisions.

Then there’s this term “LAC”. Well, it stands for local area coordination but it also stands for “local area coordinators”. So the LAC organisations are community based organisations that help the NDIA do their work because the NDIA can’t be everywhere. So they have partner organisations. In my area, where I live, the LAC organisation is Brotherhood of St Laurence. It will be different for some of you because you live in a different part of Australia. And the people that work for them are LACs, local area coordinators. They help you to draft your plans; and they meet with you and help you put your plan into action as well.

Another partner is called “early childhood early intervention”, ECEI partners. And they are partners that work with people, children under 7 and their families to help them get the links/plans that they need because of course their needs. So you might be working with an LAC or an ECEI but it’s always the planners that approve your plan.

“Mainstream” is the next term. That just refers to government services or community services that are run in your area; like transport, health, mental health, education, justice, housing, employment; all of those mainstream services.

“Nominee”, someone appointed with making decisions around the NDIS. If you are a guardian/parent you can do the same thing but if someone needs someone to help them in the NDIS but they don’t have a parent, then they will have a nominee; like I am for my sister.

So what is a “provider”? It is also called a “service provider”. That is just a business; it could be a big business; it could be a small or even a single person business, that helps you with the supports you need; like, a product/service that you need to get.

And sometimes you will hear the term “registered providers”. They are providers that have signed off on a couple of different standards that they have to meet. They have to meet certain requirements to be registered by the government.

And the last term is “supplier”. They are organisations that will either rent or sell your equipment, whether it is a wheelchair or a mattress or special technology.

So I hope those are some terms that make it clearer for you.

Slide 7, please. What is this plan that we are talking about putting into action? Let’s look at a plan. Now, that you have got it, the first thing is to understand it.

You can get help from your LAC to help you better understand your plan; and if you have got it, you can also get your support coordinator to help you understand it. It’s an official document that includes all of the reasonable and necessary supports. And we will be talking about what “reasonable and necessary” means in a moment. But the document is official and it includes all of the supports that NDIA will fund.

So the NDIS provides this funding for you to purchase the supports, but they don’t give you the money into your bank account all as a lump sum and say, “Here, Ramona, here’s some funds,” and then Ramona goes on a holiday instead. That’s not what they do. They set the funding aside for me to use when I am ready to buy the supports.

Generally, they will have money provided for you, that you can access when you are ready to buy the supports. When you are having the planning meeting with your NDIA rep, or afterwards, once your plan is approved, you can ask for your plan to be provided in an accessible format, like braille or electronic text, large print; and you can also ask for that plan to be put into another language, if you prefer.

Once you have got the plan approved, it will be posted out to you in the mail; and you will also be able to access it about 24 hours later on what is called “the MyPlace participant portal”. Let’s look at the next slide and look at “MyPlace portal”.

It is an online site. It is secure. It is run by the Australian Government. And you have to set up an account through the myGov website. You have to set up a myGov account and then you can set up a MyPlace account for accessing your plan.

And anyone like a parent or a nominee can access information about your NDIS plan. Anyone’s welcomed to have a MyPlace participant portal account but you don’t need it; unless you are doing what they call “self management”.

And we will talk about the different plan types in a moment.

To set up the MyPlace account, you do need a code that the NDIA will give you; but it only lasts for ten days. If you haven’t had time to use it, you can just contact the contact centre or your LAC or ECEI, and they will give you a new code.

What can you do on the MyPlace participant portal? You can see your plan; even your past plans. You can check out what details they have for you. You can read government messages about NDIA. Most importantly, you can create payment claims; so you can get payment to buy those services. And you can do a whole range of other things.

The NDIA has some information on their website about how to use that portal; and I recommend it to you. And there’s also lots of good YouTube videos showing you how to use the portal in different ways. And they are short; they are easy. I would recommend those to you.

Now, before I go further, I do want to mention that today I am talking generally about NDIA/NDIS. I’m not going to be going into too much detail about measures that they have put in place to cover this COVID 19 situation. There’s a lot of good things they have been doing and I would recommend that you either look at the Disability Loop website that is disabilityloop.org.au. You are welcome to contact us 1800219969 to discuss it; or the NDIS website has lots of good things, if you search for “Coronavirus” or “COVID 19” information, you can get specific information that they are doing temporarily for COVID 19. But because there’s a lot of general information I would like to share, we won’t be going into detail about that today. But keep in mind there are things like codes to get online shopping priority, how to get support coordination if you haven’t got it through COVID 19; and a lot of other COVID 19 related information is out there. So I do recommend that if you feel your needs have changed because of COVID 19.

Can we go to the next slide, please? So let’s break down this plan that we have got. First of all, you will get a cover letter with your NDIS plan…and then the plan, itself, starts with your NDIS reference number; your NDIS contact name and number for contacting them; and I will say also the NDIS can be reached at inquiries@NDIS.gov.au or by phone. It’s a good number to learn off by heart: 1800800110, is the contact centre number.

Your plan has your start date and your end date. And it’s really good to familiarise yourself with all of those details because you will often be asked, “What is your reference number?”, when you ring up the contact centre. You will be asked, “What is your start date/end date?”, if you deal with a service provider. So good to be familiar with those.

So then the NDIS plan has different sections. Let’s look at those briefly.

The first section is called “Information About Me”. That is a section that includes basic information about your disability, what you do on a day-to-day basis; where you live, who you live with and other things. So, for example, it says about me “I live with my partner John, I have three dogs; I work part time; and I like to go out with friends”. So just a brief outline of what you do, where you live, that sort of thing.

The second thing is called “My Family and Friends”; and that is a section that includes information about the support you get from families and friends that is not paid for. So, for example, in my plan it says, “My partner helps me do the supermarket shopping and may take me to health appointments.” It just talks about things that you get. It may be in your plan that your plan says that your family help you do personal care or helps you make lunch; or whatever the support is that you get from family and friends.

The next section is called “My Services and Community Involvement”. That section includes information about the services and support that is funded and delivered by community or government. So it could be things like health groups. It could be libraries that you access. For example, in my plan it talks about how I have a GP; I have a physio; and I access a strength training gym; all of those things.

The next section is called “My Goals”. It is good to be familiar with your goals. You would have made the goals in your meeting; and the section details your goals there.

There should be some short term goals and some medium to long term goals that have been identified by you. And setting goals is a really important part of this whole NDIS scheme; and we will come back to goals later on.

Then the next section is the best part, it is the “Funded Support Information”. It starts off firstly with information about explaining what some terms are, definitions. What is meant by “stated supports, in-kind supports and quote required” so it gives you the definition.

It then tells you what funding you have been allocated in each of your support categories; and what the funding is for.

The funding categories in your plan will depend on what your individual needs are. So the categories I have may not be the same as yours. And you don’t always get the same funding as what you asked for in your plan. So it’s good to be familiar with what you have got.

And at the end of the plan, there’s just information about the booklets that the NDIS create; they have three booklets called “participant booklets”; and they particularly mention booklet 3, which is “understanding your plan”. I think it is a really good booklet. I think all three booklets are very good; so I do recommend, if you can, to download those as well.

And then finally, there’s information about what to do if there’s important changes in your life; and how to reach the NDIS.

As I said, we may not have time to have a lot of questions today. But if we don’t get to your questions today, we will try to capture those from the Q&A section today; and get back to you in some format. We will also take questions by email to Disability Loop at AFDO..org later on, but at this stage I will see from Helen if there’s any questions around terminology of what a plan is. Are there any questions from the Q&A.

HELEN: There is a question from Ben. He wanted to know what is meant by “SDA”?

RAMONA: Thanks, Helen. Hi, Ben, thanks for your question. Yes “SDA” stands for Specialist Disability Accommodation. That is accommodation that is housing usually that’s been made accessible for people with disabilities. It might be, they have wider corridors, lower benches, ramps into the doors, that sort of thing. Sometimes, people can confuse it with what they call home modifications. I know I used to.

What is the difference between SDA and home mods? Well, SDA is the bricks and mortar that you might be moving into. So it’s accommodation that has been built to accommodate your needs; whereas home modifications might be that you have applied to have a ramp put in or doors widened or benches lowered or a rail put into your house. So that’s home modifications, whereas SDA is like that, purpose-built.

I think we will move on to slide 10, please. And looking at this term “supports” because we hear it all the time. “Support” in the NDIS means a service from someone or it could be a thing that helps you to do the things that are harder for you to do because of your disability.

So it could be assistance from a support worker; it could be a therapy from a professional therapist; it could be a piece of technology or it could be a modification like I have just mentioned. So what are some of the types of supports that the NDIS will fund?

Well, there’s quite a few of them. I will just go through a few. It could be: help with daily personal activities, like bathing, dressing, eating, meal prep/delivery. It could be transport to get to the activities that you like to take part in. It could be help to keep a job or find employment in open employment or in a supported workplace.

It could be therapy, speech therapy, behavioural therapy, occupational therapy; so they are some examples. It could be help with household tasks, such as cleaning or gardening.

Now, a support could also be assessment set up and training of aids and equipment that you might need. You might need training in using a piece of technology. It could be home modifications like I talked about; or even getting an assessment for some home mods.

It could be a mobility or a communication equipment. So I use a special braille android tablet to take to meetings, that I can write braille on; that’s a piece of high cost technology that I use. That is a type of device that is a support recognised. It could be a wheelchair; or any other sort of communication or mobility device like a wheelchair; or even a bed that will turn someone over in the middle of the night automatically. And it could be modifications to a vehicle.

So every plan is different; and the funding will always be based on the individual circumstances. So even two people with cerebral palsy who have a similar condition may get different supports based on their needs. I will just briefly mention, there are also as of October, some health-related disability needs. So they tend to be grouped into different categories; and these supports could be people once again making plans/monitoring; or it could be things like incontinence aids.

So briefly those groupings of health-related supports are: incontinence, diabetic management, dysphagia which is swallowing disorders, epilepsy, nutrition, podiatry, respiratory and wound and pressure care.

In the information pack there’s a handout with examples of what a support worker can do for you. And there’s also a document from RIAC, the Rights Information and Advocacy Centre.

They have provided a letter well, not a letter but an outline that you can show to your therapist who might be writing a letter for you to make recommendations to the NDIS about what supports you need. So you can show that to your therapist and they can use it to better know how to write up a report that they can then give to the NDIA, that includes what your needs are. So that’s a good thing to look at as well.

Can we have the next slide, please? Slide 11, we will look at “reasonable and necessary”. It’s used though often some people say “R & N”. It is a principle that the NDIS have about what will be funded and they look at many different areas of life, including education, employment, social participation, independence, living, transport, health and well being. So all different areas of life; but they will only fund supports that are reasonable and necessary and that will help you to live an ordinary life.

It’s not a bad thing to live an ordinary life; if you want to be an extraordinary artist/athlete, that’s up to you. But an ordinary life is what we’re all entitled to live. That is, a life that other people without disabilities live. They go to work; they can get dressed; they can have friends; do activities. So an ordinary life, whether you have a disability or you don’t have a disability, is what we’re aiming for with our supports.

So what does it mean that these supports have to be reasonable and necessary? Well, here’s a brief outline. Generally, if you think of “reasonable”, it means fair; and “necessary” means disability-related.

So firstly it has to be related to your disability. So if I don’t speak very good English and I need an interpreter, that’s nothing related to my blindness. It is a need, just like eating is a need. They are both necessary but they are not disability-related. Those things can be met by other means but NDIS is not there to meet my needs for disability.

Next, “reasonable and necessary” means the support has to assist me to pursue my goals. It has to help increase my independence and to take part in social and economic activities. It has to represent value for money. So it doesn’t have to be the cheapest, but it has to be worth the money.

So I talked about a bed that can automatically turn people over, so that they don’t get pressure sores. That might be expensive but in the long run it’s going to be worth it, rather than paying for a support worker to come and help people turn all the time. So it’s about it being worthwhile putting that money in. It has to be likely to help you and be effective; recognise what is good practice these days. There might be practice that happened 60 years ago that practitioners don’t think is a good practice anymore.

It should also take into account what family naturally would do; so naturally parents would walk their children to school, maybe. It would be quite normal for couples to do supermarket shopping. So they probably wouldn’t fund support for me to do supermarket shopping because my partner and I do that together. But if I was living alone, as a blind person, they may fund that.

So it’s all about what would be “normally” expected. And they take into account, finally, what supports you get from mainstream services. So if you are in education, they might provide access support; same as in health. They won’t fund what has to be funded by those other sectors.

As I said, what’s reasonable and necessary for one person isn’t the same for another; and don’t expect your NDIS rep to fully understand your needs. I would strongly recommend you be prepared to go in and represent yourself and discuss and help them understand why a support is reasonable and necessary for you.

Next slide, please. Now we are going to look at: NDIS won’t fund anything that is likely to cause you harm; not related to your disability; so they won’t pay for a course. If everyone else in the community has to pay for it, they won’t pay for that as well.

They won’t, as I said, pay for things that are duplicated by other places. And more information on “reasonable and necessary” is in the handout in the information pack.

Can we have slide 13, please? Let’s get down to more understanding of what your plan funding is; because when you get your plan, a good idea is to understand what supports you have got, how much you have been given including money and hours. As I said, you don’t always get what you asked for.

In order to help you understand the funding part of the plan, I would like to introduce it by showing you a video now. The video is called “how your NDIS support budgets work”. It’s by the NDIS. It only goes for about four minutes. So I will ask Darren to play that now and then we will come back and discuss a little bit more. Thanks.

Video played: how your NDIS support budgets works. Every NDIS participant has different needs. Your NDIS funding is there to help you meet your short and medium to long term goals in your NDIS plan. There are three types of support budgets that may be funded in your NDIS plan; core supports, capacity building supports, capital supports.

Your funding is based on what is reasonable and necessary to achieve your goals in addition to the support provided by family, friends and other community in government services.

Core supports help you with activities related to daily living. For example, support with your everyday needs. Your core budget is the most flexible part of your funding. The amount of flexibility will depend on how you have chosen to manage each of the categories in your budget. You may choose to either self manage your supports, ask the National Disability Insurance Agency to pay on your behalf, or ask a third party to make payments for you, otherwise known as a plan manager.

The budget categories within core supports are: one, consumables, for purchasing everyday items such as continence aids, low risk assistive technology and equipment; two, daily activities for assistance with self care, such as showering or supermarket shopping; three, social and community participation, such as supports to enable you to engage in social or recreational activities.

If transport is considered reasonable and necessary for you, it can also be included in core supports. You may have this part of your support budget paid into your nominated bank account on a fortnightly basis.

Capacity building supports help you to build your longer term independence and skills. For example, you could undertake development and training to increase your skills in order to find a job or learn to do new things like catch public transport.

Capital supports include higher cost items like assistive technology and equipment for mobility, communication and recreational inclusion such as wheelchairs or modifications to your car.

It can also be used for home modifications such as the installation such as handrail in a bathroom or disability accommodation.

Funds within the capital supports budgets can only be used for the specific purpose in the participant’s plan and cannot be used to pay for anything else.

Where you see “quote required” in your plan, additional information such as quotes or specialists’ reports will be needed before funding can be made available for a certain item.

You may also have stated supports or in-kind supports listed in your plans. Any services listed as “stated supports” are not flexible. This means funding has been allocated for a specific service; and you can’t use this funding or swap stated supports for any other service or support. If there are supports in your plan that are listed as “in-kind”, it means the service has already been paid for by the State, Territory or Federal Government. This means you cannot choose a provider for that service. You must use the prepaid provider as they have already received payment and will provide all services that are booked.

Your NDIS supports need to demonstrate they are helping you to achieve your goals listed in your NDIS plan. Your support budget is there to ensure you achieve outcomes which are directly linked to community and/or workplace participation and living a more independent life.

For more information visit NDIS.gov.au or phone 1800800110.

RAMONA: Great, thank you. I hope that’s given you some explanation. I will re cap on a couple of those points and elaborate a little bit. If we could have slide 14, please?

The mention of the different budgets was I will just go through that a little bit. The NDIS arranges things in those big groups. So they talk about officially they are called “support purposes”, but usually called “support budgets”; and then they are also called “support areas”. We will call them “budgets”; and three top levels. In each of those budgets there are categories which is where your funding gets allocated.

Can we have slide 15, please? There are three types of budgets as was mentioned; the core, capital and the capacity building which they talked about. As was mentioned in the video, there are different rules. The core is the most flexible and certainly people are using core very flexibly at the moment during COVID 19 time. But capacity building is really all about improving your skills and training up is another way of looking at it.

The support categories in each of them are where you get your money. So they don’t say, “You have this amount for core.” They will give you a total but the funding is at the category level. And there’s 15 categories all-up but you won’t have all 15 of them because it depends on your needs.

Slide 16, please. So just briefly under “core” there’s four categories: assistance with daily life, transport, consumables, and assistance with social and community participation.

So consumables are all those little things like: it could be incontinence aids, a new cane, a new part for your wheelchair; it even covers things like dog food for my Guide Dog and vet bills, et cetera. So depending on your needs, you will have different consumable items.

Slide 17, please. The supports under “capital”, there is only two of them: assistive technology which we have talked about, the big ticket items; and home modification or that SDA that we were talking about before.

Slide 18, please. This will show us that most of these support categories are under capacity building. I will just briefly go through them. Support coordination, improved living arrangements, increased social and community participation, finding and keeping a job, improved relationships, improved health and well being, improved learning, improved life choices and improved daily living skills.

Slide 19, please. Under our categories, we have got support items; and they are the specific supports. So whether it is training on how to use a piece of technology or a certain therapy, that’s where you get the specific items. They won’t always be on your plan but you talk about the specific items with your provider, once you are ready to get that support from the provider.

NDIS support catalogue has a full list of the supports that are available from the NDIS. And you can get the support catalogue from the NDIS website; and there’s a list of some supports that I have drawn up in a handout under each category in the information pack. Just a tip: I think it’s really good to be familiar with what you have got, how many dollars and hours you have got for each support; so you don’t have to go ploughing through your plan to say, “Oh, yeah, I have got this amount of community hours.” So make a summary.

Slide 20, please. That was those terminology that we saw in the video about stated, quote required and in-kind. I won’t go into those because they were covered in the video; but you may see some or all of those in your plan.

Slide 21, please. So what can you spend your funding on? Well, we are going to have a look at another video now. It’s called, “What can you spend your funding on?”, which makes sense; it is a video, only a couple of minutes. And this also covers booklet 3, which is a booklet that I recommend that you get; it can be very helpful.

Video played: what can you spend your NDIS funding on? Consider the following things when deciding what to buy with your NDIS funding.

Number 1, will the support or service help you to achieve the goals in your NDIS plan? 2, is the cost of the support or service reasonably priced and is it good value for money, compared to other supports? 3, can you afford the support or service within your approved NDIS budget? Remember, your funding needs to last the entire period of your plan. 4, will the support or service help you to improve how you connect to your local community and improve the relationships you have with family and friends? It should not replace supports that would usually be provided by family, friends and within your community. 5, is the support or service something that should be funded by other government services instead? For example, dental, health or hospital services, education, housing and public transport are all provided to other government services. Remember, all communities should have facilities/activities that are inclusive and accessible to people with disability.

6, will the support or service help you to participate in activities with friends and other members of your community; or help you to find or keep a job? 7, is it safe? Your supports and services should not cause you any harm or put other people at risk.

You can find more helpful information in a participant booklet 3 using your NDIS plan, on the website. For more information visit NDIS.gov.au or phone 1800800110.

RAMONA: Thank you. In terms of the supports that you have and there are certain rules. Remember, I mentioned the NDIS operational guidelines? They determine what level of Transport, for example, you have; whether you have level 2/3, for example. There are different rules around whether you need quotes for technology under a certain amount.

So it is always good to be familiar with those things. You can ask your LAC or your support coordinator to give you help on those things as well. So there are different rules around different things. As I said, things have been made a bit more flexible at the moment with spending your core funding.

We may have time to pause now for, say, one more question from the Q&A section. Helen, any questions around “understanding the plan and the plan supports”?

HELEN: Ramona, there is a question: if you don’t spend all of your funding in this plan, will we not be entitled to get it in the next plan?

RAMONA: Now, that is a common misconception. No, it’s not about, if you don’t spend it all in plan, you won’t get it next time; because each plan is based on your needs at the time. There may be very good reasons why you were not able to spend your funding. You maybe were in lockdown and couldn’t do as much social participation; or there may be other reasons why you could not put all your funding to use. They do not base funding on what you spend and didn’t spend last time. They will have a discussion with you about what worked, what didn’t work; but each plan is based on your needs at the time.

Okay, I will move on. But just to note that it is a good idea to make a summary or get your LAC to help you with knowing a little summary of what’s in your plan in terms of the amounts of dollars and hours.

Okay, let’s now go to looking at plan management and budgeting. That’s all about the money side of it. So could we have slide 22 and we will talk about plan management, please?

That involves budgeting, keeping records, paying your providers; making sure that you keep records. It’s basically the money side of things. There’s four different options you can choose, or you would have chosen now that you have your plan.

There is agency managed also called “NDIA managed”; that’s where providers will get the money directly from the NDIA, once they have given you the service.

Plan managed means that an intermediary source will organise the invoicing and payment for you on your behalf.

Self managed, which is what I am, means that you are the person responsible for making sure records are kept and bills are paid.

And then you can do a combination of any of those. So you might have some that is plan managed, some that is self managed.

There is a few things to note. You have the right to choose which plan management you want. So in your plan meeting, you have the right to choose which option you want. And they will be discussed with you at your planning meeting.

Where your supports are agency managed, you can only use registered providers. But if you are plan managed, or self managed, you can use registered and non registered providers; but your plan manager has to be registered.

When you are self managed, as I said, you are responsible for keeping all the records yourself; you need to keep them for five years in case you are audited. So plan managed might be good for someone who isn’t confident managing their plan. It is a bit like having a book keeper for you and the NDIA will pay for that.

Could we have slide 23, please? And we are looking at budgeting. Well, if you are doing your own budgeting, good to divide your funding into smaller amounts; smaller chunks, so you know what you have got to spend each month, even each week sometimes. Because you might not use the same funding all the time. You might use more funding when you are on holidays. So keep records of what you have bought, what you have paid for, et cetera, as well..

One way you can do this is with an Excel spreadsheet. That’s how I do it. There’s a lot of tools online to help you budget and keep track; and your plan manager can help you do that as well. So there’s tools out there; and there’s a handout in the information pack with more about budgeting and planning and fund management.

Slide 24, please.

So you know what your supports are now; what supports should you put in place first? You have got all these supports; what do I do first? Here’s a few tips of what I think should be priorities.

If you have got a support coordinator, they can help you understand your plan and get other services. So good idea to get on to getting a support coordinator in place first. If you have got a plan manager, same thing; they can help you budget; so put them into place first as well.

You also need to get on to daily supports. So you can get the essential care that you need. If you need personal care or help with communication really good idea to get those supports in place, so you can be safe and have your basic needs met.

If you need an assessment done by an allied health, like an OT, for example, I suggest requesting this early because service providers can have really long waiting lists sometimes. And they have high workloads; and they can take a long time to get to you sometimes. So a good idea to get on that waiting list early.

Same if you are wanting to get training on technology/public transport training, whatever the training is; get in early because, one, you could be waiting a little while but also they may have to write up a report; and they can take a while once they have given the service, so you want to get onto that quickly.

The NDIA can also take a long time to approve things. Now, their waiting lists are coming down. They have been working hard about that, but it is still it can take weeks; sometimes even months for them to approve, say, a technology quote that you have put in. So you want to get those quotes put to them early in your plan period.

Slide 25, please. Just briefly, want to talk about this term “support coordination”. It is different from “plan manager”. If you have got support coordination in your plan and I think it is a good idea to ask for support coordination for at least your first plan because they can help you to understand your plan, help you link with those different providers.

There’s three types of support coordination. There’s one called “support connection”; they just help you connect with the supports in your area. “Support coordination” is also known as “coordination of support”. Sometimes the terminology is tricky or there’s two ways of saying the same thing. But those support coordinators are there to help you build your skills as well as connect. And then there is “special support coordination” for people that have higher levels of need; maybe they have a lot of challenges in the Justice system or Health sector, they are homeless; there’s a range of needs and challenges that people have, where they might need complex support coordination.

Now, another thing that I would like to let you know that’s in the information pack is a document that’s been written by Valid, “what to expect from your support coordinator”. It’s easy to read and it gives you a really clear role of what your support coordinator does and what’s not in their role.

Helen, any questions around supports?

HELEN: Ramona, we have a couple of questions. There was one who asked for, but did not get support coordination in their plan, what can they do; and also another asking, “Where do I find my LAC to contact him/her?”

RAMONA: Okay, the first question, if you didn’t get support coordination, at the moment, if you feel you really need a support coordinator because of COVID 19, you can use core supports. There are some items now under the “core support” category where you can get some support coordination; and I would ask you to work with your LAC to find that, or the contact centre may be able to help you as well.

The second question about finding your LAC: it could be that you could contact the contact centre and say, “I live in this suburb. Who is my nearest LAC?” They will probably be the person that did the planning meeting with you, if you have gone through that process. Otherwise, you can type in “local area coordination” and your suburb in a Google search and that should reveal it for you as well. I hope that’s answered your question.

We will move on because I am conscious of time. Could we have slide 26, please? Looking at finding service providers.

Finding the right service provider that best meets your needs, really involves shopping around. The information pack has a handout on this topic which gives you a few ideas on how to find service providers; but I would like to share a couple of them with you now.

First of all, start by thinking, “What might be some things that you want from a service provider?”, because what you/I want may be different things. You may have different needs of what supports are. You may want them to be local to where you live. You may want to have the choice of the gender of the person helping you, or the particular person helping you. You may want to know whether the services are delivered in the Centre, at home, in a group or on a one-to-one basis.

One place you can start looking at is the service providers you used before. So, for example, over the years, I have used Vision Australia, Guide Dogs Victoria. So they are service providers I have used pre-NDIS and I am using them again during NDIS.

You can also ask other people, people that you meet in your groups like peer support groups, schools, friends, other communities; and get their opinion.

There’s also a number of Facebook groups that you can join and ask people’s opinions. “Does anyone know an OT in the Frankston area?”, for example. And get people’s suggestions/opinions of organisations.

The website also has well, the NDIS website has a list of providers that are registered providers; and you can also access that list through the participant portal that I talked about, the MyPlace. It’s good to use that because in that there’s a tool called “provider finder”. It’s a good tool because you can narrow it and say, “Well, I’m looking for a speech therapist at this location.” So put in your post code, the need you want like, for example, “speech therapist” and then the Provider Finder will do the search for you.

That’s a good tool. And the NDIS has a video on YouTube that shows you how to use the Provider Finder tool. That is called “how do I find NDIS providers in my area”.

Also, online if you use the Internet, there’s Base Services for finding disability service providers; they are like directories. So you can do an Internet search for some of them; and they are like a directory where you can do a similar search. They will have often registered and non registered providers.

Also, on those websites, you can do things like read reviews from other people. There’s a lot of them but just some examples: businesses like Clickability, MyCareSpace and Disability Support Guide. As I said, those services are much more than just a directory. They can often offer you information like events coming up or blogs, reviews. It is a very good source.

Then there’s providers that are actually online. So you sign up to them and you put in what your needs are and what you are looking for in a service provider. They sort of help you find the service providers that you want; a bit like online dating but online disability support provision instead; and there’s a few of those around as well. Some examples are CareSeekers, Hireup and Mable. So, for example, I use Hireup and Mable but there’s quite a few out there.

And there’s a lot of service providers popping up as the NDIS develops. More and more businesses are setting up. However, I know that it’s not currently easy if you are in a sector area where it’s, say, more remote areas of Australia. It can be hard to have a lot of choice at this stage, until we get more providers.

In those cases, I would suggest seeking out providers that might do teleservices, teleconferencing; and we are getting used to it in these COVID 19 days where services are provided through the phone or Zoom link, for example.

You could also, if you are in that case, ask providers in your area that do another type of service, like aged care, whether they would be prepared to give you services. Or you could also arrange with providers, if they come up to your town, would they do that if they are prepared to see a number of people at once?

Could we have slide 27, please?

People might say, “Why do research?” Why not just go with one?” Well, it’s the case that NDIS providers have to compete with each other. They want your business. They want you to come to them because they need to survive. But people have different needs and preferences and they will make different choices. It doesn’t mean that what I choose is better than what you choose or the other way around, but it’s good to shop around.

But just be aware of conflict of interest. That’s where a provider recommends you use them or buy their product just because they want your business; when it mightn’t be the best one for you. Now, I’m not saying providers are all like that. Most of them are not. Most of them have your needs and best interests at heart. But like any big sector, there will be some people that will just try and convince you to come to them because they want your business. So that’s called “conflict of interest”.

So work out what you want; research widely and what providers might be available; gather as much opinion as possible; and discuss it widely; weigh up all the pros and cons; because even though it is quite tiring, it’s better than being influenced just by what one person says. If you get a lot of opinions, then you are more likely to get better quality services.

Slide 28, please. So once you have got service providers or some in mind, I think there’s a good list of questions that you might want to ask them, to help you choose.

So it’s good to have a chat with them; and tell them that you are considering using them. But talk to them about your goals and what your needs are. Use it like a mini interview. Some of the questions you might want to ask: “are you an NDIS registered provider?”, if you need that. “How will you help me achieve my goals? How much does your service cost?” Remember, you don’t always have to pay the price limit; particularly if you are self managed or plan managed. You don’t have to pay the price limit; you might negotiate.

“How long is it before you can commence with me?” I often ask them that, “Is there a waiting list?”, because that’s important to me. You might ask, “How can I choose the stuff that I want?”, or, “Will I get” I work with a woman because that’s important to me. “Can I have the same person each time?”

Another important one is can I have the service at the time I want. If you want someone to come and clean for you on a Monday morning and your service provider can only give you Tuesday afternoon, then you might look elsewhere. So it depends on what you want. It’s all about choice and control. Another good question is, “How can complaints be resolved?”

Helen, are there any questions around that topic of service providers?

HELEN: Ramona, there is a question: what if you are not confident in asking providers questions, all these questions?

RAMONA: Yes, yeah, look, it’s a good thing. Not everyone has that confidence. You can always take a friend along. Your support coordinator is there to help you with negotiating for you or with you and supporting you; but you can also take a friend. It can also help to write down some questions that you want. And I think it’s also important to tell those service providers that this is new for you and you are not very confident; and they will understand then. So mostly service providers want to help you; so they will work with you. But it is about knowing that you have the right to get the best support you need.

Are there any other questions on the Q&A, Helen?

HELEN: We do have a couple of other questions. Dianne’s asked: “I have a support coordinator. Can I use an LAC?”.

RAMONA: What they usually do: the NDIS rules usually are: if you have a support coordinators LACs will do a handover with the support coordinators. If you found a support coordinator, I would recommend if you are in the early days of your plan, to meet with them and the LAC, to do a handover, so the support coordinator gets a better idea of your plan. However, the support coordinator may be experienced enough just to look at your plan and work with you, without needing to meet with the LAC. It really depends on your needs; and you can have that discussion with your LAC to say, “Should I just work directly with the support coordinator? Or is my situation complex and I bring the LAC and we have a three way meeting?” All that connection with the community, the LAC is checked to do much more of that if you don’t have a support coordinator. Otherwise the support coordinator steps in.

As I said at the beginning, a lot of this is theory. In most cases, it does work. I don’t want to pretend that all is roses. There are teething problems. Some people do have problems. And just like any support, you can change your support coordinator if you are not happy with them. But, yeah, overall in theory and in most working cases, your LAC will hand over to your support coordinator. It doesn’t mean you can no longer contact the LAC; you can, if you have some general questions. But usually most is handed over to the support coordinator.

Are there any other questions on the Q&A, Helen?

HELEN: Yes, there is. We have a question: “at what age you can take control of your NDIS program, like parent to adolescent?”

RAMONA: Goodness. Well, I don’t think there’s an official age. There may be. I’m not completely familiar with if that’s specified in the operational guidelines. I think it may be I think there’s something along those lines; uhm, maybe 15? But I would have to research that.

If you want to text/contact me, I can look into that, if you are not able to find that answer through your LAC/support coordinator. But I think it may be 15 oh? Yes, that’s all I can really say at this stage on that question. Helen, what we might do is go to any verbal questions, for those that are not able to write their questions; or if you are on the telephone.

We will ask you to raise your hand and then Justyn will unmute you. You may also need to unmute yourself, if the unmuting doesn’t work from our end. So to raise your hand, if you are not able to find the “raised hand” button it’s “alt Y” with a screen reader on windows or “options Y” on the Mac. If you are on the telephone, it is “Star 9” to raise your hand.

I will just ask and give time for Helen or Justyn, to see if there’s any raised hand questions.

….

HELEN: If there are no raised hands, I do have one/two other questions no, Justyn has told me that there are no raised hands at the moment. Would you like to take another question?

RAMONA: Yes, absolutely.

HELEN: Okay. “Can you explain SILS and its relation to SDA; who qualifies for SILS?”

RAMONA: It is usually referred to “SIL”. It may be with an S on the end. But Supported Independent Living: that is the support that you would get to it is not the bricks an mortar of the SDA, it is the actual support that you get. Maybe someone helps you with meal preparation or prompts you for your personal care. It’s the support that you get to live independently. And it can come in different forms of people sort of doing overnight stays or living in the accommodation or prompting you in different ways.

So Supported Independent Living is the support that you get. Now, there are other accommodation options which the NDIA now recognise and MyCareSpace recently did a very good webinar on that. I recommend that you look at MyCareSpace to look at the different accommodation options because SIL is the best known one but it’s not the only one now.

And, yeah, that’s very different from having the actual SDA which is just the modified building that you need; whether it is automatic lighting or lowered benches or automatic technology to help you live. I hope that’s answered the question?

Are there any others?

HELEN: Yes, we also have Jolene asking: do service providers have to have an ABN for their plan management; or for plan managed?

RAMONA: If you are now, I’m not sure if I understand the question correctly but I think you are asking: does your plan manager have to have an ABN? I think they would because they have to be a registered provider that can then claim money from the NDIA.

So, yes, the registered the NDIA sorry, the NDIS plan manager will have to have an ABN as part of being a registered provider. If you are asking as a plan managed person, need to have supports provided by ABN providers, then I think that may also be the case. Something that I want to look into more; because, for example, if you are plan managed but you want to buy a support, like an item from overseas, like a specialised product, then that American company, for example, may not have an ABN. So the plan manager may not be able to claim for you. It is a question that I would be very happy to look into because I want to know the answer as well. Once again, as I said, I think if you have questions that we haven’t got to today, we will be trying to compile the questions from the Q&A; and respond as soon as possible.

The other thing is, as I said, you are welcomed to contact us at DisabilityLoop@AFDO.org.au or phone us at 1800219969. But we do have a little bit of time for a couple more questions.

Are there any raised hand questions now, Justyn? As I said, alt Y or options Y or * 9 will raise your hand. Otherwise I am happy to take a couple more questions from the Q&A section. .

….

RAMONA: I might just give time for Justyn to communicate .

HELEN: No, it looks like we don’t have any raised hands at the moment, Ramona.

RAMONA: Okay.

HELEN: So we do have another question: participants need to be very smart when developing their plan or your plan will only be as good as your LAC is?

RAMONA: Yeah, look, I think certainly, yes, I understand where that person is coming from and I do agree that this is why the purposes of these sessions are here; and hopefully the information pack will give you more information. It is about helping you helping you to educate the LAC. The LACs is getting better. Of lots of them may have had better experiences; worked in mental health but never met a blind person or they have different experiences. They can’t have different experiences…but they are getting more training. This is why I am saying be prepared to go in there and teach them what’s reasonable and necessary for you, based on your goals and on Friday, part 2, we will be talking more about goals. But, yes, your LAC is collaborating with you. It shouldn’t be a combative situation. They should be there to help you and you help them to know.

Now, if you have lived with disability for a long time and you are used to the services, you know what you have got, you know the systems around, that is a lot easier. But if you are in a situation where you have never used a support provider before, you don’t know what’s out there. And that’s why talking with your LAC can help you but also talking widely with other people, getting networked, getting information as much as possible can help you; because you may not know that there are beds that can turn you or you may not know that there’s special therapy for people with autism, like a sensory therapy for example.

Yes, getting prepared, it is a lot of work, but once you have got that work, you have got the plan then the hard bit is over and it’s time to put your plan into action. Hopefully that should be the easier/fun bit once you have gone through the prep. I hope that makes sense?

Are there any other questions, Helen?

HELEN: Yes, there’s one question from Dawn: do you have to use the same SIL as the SDA House?

RAMONA: Usually, the provider of the SIL is the provider of the SDA but not in every case. And I think that may have come up on the MyCareSpace webinar that they did last week. I don’t think the answer strictly is, “Yes, you do”. I don’t think you do have to but it would just depend on the circumstances. So it all depends on who is providing the SDA, whether it is a group home, whether it is an SDA for a one on one; so the SDA may be just you living in a one person apartment, for example, and you may be able to choose your SIL. So it really depends on your circumstances and also the service agreements that you have. We will be look at service agreements on Friday, in part 2.

So I’m sorry I couldn’t be more specific but think it’s a question that sort of is on it depends on a number of things. Okay, we might be able to squeeze in one more question, if there’s one, Helen?

HELEN: There’s one more question: can I use some of my funding for community access support on daily living support?

RAMONA: Ah, yes, you can; because they are both in the core budget. So community access is core, and so it daily living. You certainly can. Like the video says, those different categories within core are the most flexible and particularly now, there’s even more flexibility in COVID 19. So if you need, for example, to buy an iPad to communicate with your therapist to still continue get that therapy that was in your plan but you can no longer make face-to-face calls to them you know, in-person calls then there’s more flexibility than ever. I won’t go into all the details because they are up on the NDIS website or your support coordinator or LAC can help you. But there’s certainly flexibility around those things. There are rules. So, for example, the general rules are that we transport is usually not one of those flexible categories. So there are four categories under “core”. Transport is one; and you usually can’t use transport funding towards daily living but you can with community living, like you asked.

So there’s general rules and flexibility because of COVID 19. I did forget to mention I will do it now if you do raise your hand for questions, if we have time, we will certainly do that again on Friday. Just be aware that your name may come up; so I just want to let people know that your name may be shown if you ask a question through the verbal thing.

I think that might be all the time we have for the moment. I hope part 1 has been useful and I hope that you will come back and join us on Friday at 11 o’clock for part 2 where we will talk more about “how to get the most out of your NDIS plan”. And in between, feel free to contact us with any comments/questions. But we will be sending you out a link later on after Friday, the evaluation; and also I want to remind you: if you want to have an information pack in hard copy or alternative formats, please respond to the email that we sent. And thank you again and it’s bye for now.

SESSION CONCLUDED

(No warranties express or implied as to the accuracy of the material contained in this transcript are given by the authors and the authors will not be liable for any error, misdescription or for any other reasons.)