We won’t blame you if you compare understanding the NDIS to, say, the laws of physics or rocket science. From payment portals to confusing policies, there’s a lot to wrap your head around and every step of your NDIS journey brings questions.
And in the spirit of asking questions, here are some meaty ones:
What is the NDIS?
And how does it work?
Well, we’re going to make things way easier for you by explaining things like NDIS eligibility, the application process, funding and loads more in this article. So whether you’re a person living with a disability, a parent, guardian or a Support Worker, here's your simple introduction to (we hope!) understand the NDIS.
What Is The NDIS?
The NDIS—or National Disability Insurance Scheme—was launched officially by the Australian Government in 2016. The Scheme’s intention is to deliver funding and support to people living with a disability—or, the way we see it, to ensure people living with a disability can tick their goals or receive greater support.
Whether it’s wellbeing, employment, or community involvement, the NDIS is there to break down barriers and offer more independence in daily life.
The NDIS takes the place of most state-based disability funding programs, to ensure they offer similar support regardless of your location. So whether you’re living with a disability in Wagga Wagga, Warwick, Wattle Grove or any place in between, the NDIS has you covered!
How Does The NDIS Work?
The NDIS aims to provide ongoing support funding for a person’s lifetime, which means funding that supports both immediate and long-term needs. You can think of it as having someone willing to fund some of the goals, goods and services that make life better.
There’s a lot to understand about the intricacies of NDIS plans, but for now, all you need to know is that an NDIS Plan should aim to help you achieve your goals.
Who Is Eligible For The NDIS?
The NDIS assesses eligibility on a case-by-case basis; so although there are no clear cut answers, here are a few things to consider as a starting point.
You may be eligible for NDIS funding and support if you are:
- An Australian citizen, permanent resident or hold a Protected Special Category Visa;
- Under 65 years of age; and,
- Living with a condition recognised by the NDIS, typically a disability that impacts your ability to navigate daily living.
If you think you tick all of these boxes, you may be a person who is eligible for the NDIS, meaning extra funds and support are within your reach! You can check your eligibility through the NDIS checklist here.
Who Does The NDIS Fund?
The NDIS funds those living with “intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairments or to one or more impairments attributable to a psychiatric condition" who meet the NDIS eligibility (we’ll dive more into eligibility shortly!).
If you’re a fan of not-so-light reading, you can check out this NDIS resource and get into the nitty gritty of who the NDIS supports.
What Does The NDIS Fund?
Each NDIS plan and funding allocation is unique to every individual—you'll discuss the details of your individual plan in your planning meetings.
The great thing about individually crafted plans is that they offer a lot of flexibility! But they do make it difficult to figure out what is and isn’t funded by the NDIS.
So to give you a rough idea, NDIS plans cover things that help with both everyday needs or long-term goals–anything from cooking classes, to dance classes, or even alterations to your car that’ll give you more independence.
Tip - Plans do not cover assistance that isn’t related to your disability, such as food, rent or general transportation.
If you want to dive into the specific criteria of what the NDIS deems ‘reasonable and necessary’ to help your needs and long-term goals, you can check out Section 34 of the NDIS Act here.
How Do I Apply For NDIS Funding?
If you think you might be eligible for NDIS funding, you can get the ball rolling by submitting an application. Here are the steps you’ll take to access the NDIS:
Step 1 - Check Your Eligibility For The NDIS
Before launching into an application, it’s a good idea to check out the NDIS eligibility requirements here. The NDIS will consider your age, residency status and the impact of your disability on your daily life. If you’re confused about your eligibility status, you can contact the NDIS directly and discuss your situation.
Step 2 - Submit An Application To Access The NDIS
You can submit an application by calling NDIS on 1800 800 110 or by filling out an Access Request Form. Your nearest NDIA office can help put you in contact with an early childhood partner or Local Area Coordinator partner if you need help applying for the NDIS.
Step 3 - Wait For An Outcome
The outcome of your application is usually sent in a letter called an ‘access decision’ and waiting for this news can be pretty nerve-wracking! Regardless, it’s important to understand that this letter won’t give details on the amount of funding you’re eligible for or what you can and can’t access money for; it simply confirms whether or not you can participate in the NDIS!
Step 4 - Have Your Planning Meeting
Once the NDIS approves your application, a Local Area Coordinator will invite you to a planning meeting. Your first planning meeting is the most important and complex step of your process and requires the most preparation and thought.
Tip - Consider what type of funding suits you before you start.
Step 5 - Put Your Plan Into Action
Time to start kicking your goals, achieving your dreams and getting the support you deserve. Is that a sigh of relief we can hear? Actioning your plan will need commitment, but it will be worth it.
Will My NDIS Funding Impact Other Government Funding?
Support offered by the NDIS is separate from the support you may receive from other government services or your community. That means your NDIS funding will not impact your other supports, e.g. Medicare—the two supports don't overlap.
Here are some examples of what we mean:
- You can't use your NDIS funds to pay the gap in services covered by Medicare;
- You do not need to use health plans created by your GP before you can access your NDIS support;
- Your NDIS funding will not impact your disability pension.
Types Of NDIS Funding Budgets
The NDIS has three types of support budgets: Core Budgets, Capacity Budgets, and Capital Budgets. Let’s dive into a quick overview of each.
Core Support Budget
The Core Support budget is the most flexible of the 3 supports and covers the following four categories:
- Assistance with daily life;
- Assistance with social and community participation; and,
In most cases, you can choose how you use your funds from your Core budget with a bit of freedom. You may even be able to move funds between the four categories as the need arises. For example, if you had funding allocated to home cleaning but found yourself a partner happy to keep things spick and span (win!), you could switch this funding to something more useful such as transport.
Capacity Building Support Budget
The Capacity Building support budget has several categories within it; however, Participants may only see the Capacity Building categories for which they're funded.
This type of fund helps you maintain your independence and build your skills but offers less flexibility with how you spend within this budget and across the budget’s categories. The Capacity Building funding is the place where you can request funding to get help from a Support Coordinator, too.
Capital Support Budget
Capital Support typically covers only assistive technology and home modifications. Think big-ticket items that are a one-off purchase. New car ramp, anyone?
I've Just Been Approved For An NDIS Plan...What's Next?
Congrats! You’ve done the hard work of submitting an application and getting approval, now it’s time for the fun bits of the process.
Once you’ve got your approved NDIS plan, make sure you really understand the way your plan is managed, the different budgets you have and the support that’s available for bringing the plan to life.
You can then begin locking in your support services and activities according to your plan. Always keep in mind the funds need to stretch the length of your plan.
There are a few things to consider when deciding how to spend your funding, like the length of your plan, the types of budget supports your plan includes and the type of plan management you have set up.
From here you can start considering your funding in more detail: What might you only need in the short term? What do you need for the long haul? Where do you have flexibility to swap categories as your needs change?
These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself or discuss with your best support person. You want to make every cent stretch as far as it can so you achieve all that you hope to.
If numbers aren’t your thing, make sure you enlist some help to keep on top of your budget. A Plan Manager can be a good person to speak with.
NDIS Plan Management Types
Ways to manage your NDIS funding include self-managed plans, plan-managed or NDIA-managed plans. Although you can request a specific plan management option—for example, let's say you want a self-managed plan—the final decision is ultimately made by the NDIS.
Regardless, you probably want to learn a bit more about each option before you choose or get assigned a plan, so let's get into the details of each option below.
Self-Managed NDIS Plans
When you self manage your NDIS funding, you have complete control and flexibility. You manage your funds on your own, paying for things directly then claiming reimbursement by the NDIS. This gives you the power to choose all of your support workers and how much you spend on each of them.
The plan management option offers flexibility but also some assistance. You pay for a ‘Plan Manager’ with your NDIS funds to help you manage all facets of budgeting. They’ll help you get your Providers’ invoices paid, issue claims from the NDIS portal and provide you with monthly statements so you can keep track of your budgets.
An NDIA-managed plan–which is also referred to as an agency managed plan– means that you're only able to use Registered Providers (which are only 10% of the Providers available).
Not sure what you need? Don’t worry.
At your first planning meeting, your planner or Local Area Coordinator can help you decide what option will suit you best and factor this into your plan.
What Do I Do If My NDIS Plan Isn't Right?
You might find your plan is not a true reflection of your needs or maybe feel it won't appropriately fund the goals you have. If this is the case, don't despair! It's possible to raise your concerns with the NDIS and request a plan review.
A fresh set of ears may hear your story and circumstances in a new light; however, this does not guarantee that your plan will change.
Try to arm yourself with specific reasons why you would like them to reconsider your plan, sharing precise areas of the funding that feel unmatched to you, as well as details on why and how you would like them altered.
What Do I Do If It’s Time For A New Plan?
Plans are typically reviewed every 12 months—depending on your situation, that timespan might feel like a lifetime or go by in the blink of an eye.
There are a few things you can do to make sure your planning meeting is a success and sets you up for another great year of support.
Make sure you have:
- Considered any questions you have
- Thought about what's working and what's not
- Prepared ideas on what could change
- Assessed your last plan and thought about what you liked and didn't like
- Read Booklet 2 on the NDIS website about planning for your meeting
You may want to consider taking:
- A support person
- Any documents or reports that reflect your use of funding in the past year
- All your questions, ideas and concerns written down on paper so you don't forget them
- The information detailed in the NDIS Booklet 2
There are various types of support offered for NDIS Participants.
What's The Role Of A Local Area Coordinator?
Local Area Coordinators (LAC) can either be from the NDIS or from an NDIS partner organisation.
LACs typically reach out once your plan has been approved. They will help you understand the nitty-gritty of your plan and assist with connecting you to other Service Providers.
What's The Role Of A Support Coordinator?
Support Coordinators typically step in when managing a plan requires an extra set of hands. There are three types of support coordination designed to suit the different levels of support required—support connection, support coordination and specialist support coordination.
A good Support Coordinator will help with:
- Understanding and using your plan
- Using your funded supports, ensuring you maximise your funding
- Accessing community and mainstream services
- Building your independence
- Making decisions about Providers, such as how much to pay and who to choose
You can search for registered Support Coordinators on the myplace portal and find more information on how to find the right support coordinator here.
Check out our guide to Choosing the Right Support Coordinator.
How Can I Find NDIS Support Workers?
There are many different ways to find Support Workers, but the two most common are through traditional Providers and online platforms like Kynd.
Traditional agencies usually have an office and cater to a particular area, employing Support Workers directly.
Online platforms typically curate a huge list of independent Support Workers to choose from, giving you flexibility to choose someone based on personality, age, gender, specialised qualifications, price or other factors important to you.
Platforms like Kynd also allow you to easily track invoices and upcoming bookings, taking away all the admin hassle. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!
There are many different ways to find a Support Worker and you need to choose the path that best suits your needs. It’s important to understand that finding the right Support Workers can involve time and research. But once you’ve found great people that meet your unique interests and needs, it will hopefully be worth it!