The Guardian • Issue #2036

Dealing with a disability and the NDIS process

  • by Bev Hall
  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2036

Rally calling for a fairer National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Photo: Matt Hrkac – (CC BY 2.0)

Our grandson was placed with us when he was a baby. He was a victim of crime and is now living with an acquired brain injury and mild cerebral palsy. Initially for the first year or so he was with us he received several times a week, assistance from Novita an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, and a physiotherapist. It was really a wonderful service and as he grew up until eighteen years of age was able to access services as needed. After this he came under Disability SA which eventually phased out when NDIS came into being and clients moved into this new Australia wide service.

When it first was set up it was very confusing, in SA alone suddenly there were 80 pages of providers. This in itself was overwhelming. The first local group we tried on advice from a friend, who also has a disabled child, later proved unsatisfactory. After only a few services we found out that a considerable amount was taken out and that any activities arranged we had to provide the transport. It was NDIS who eventually let us know that our grandson’s money was being used and he could run out before the end of the year it was allocated. When we confronted the group about the amounts they accused us of complaining to NDIS. 

Consequently, soon after, the Disability and Aged Care Exhibition was held in Adelaide and we visited it to see what services we could access for our grandson.  The NDIS had a stall there so we visited them first and informed them that we were confused and how do we select from so many providers. The advice they gave us, we followed up and have ended up finding a reliable and supportive service to cover the various needs of our grandson. We found this group over the years have not only provided us with assistance and how to weave through the complexities of NDIS, but have gone further in seeking out other services for our grandson’s various needs including pursuing his educational wishes and competitive sporting desires.

The situation in SA, is that Ferris Care, a private company, was brought in to process initially Disability SA participants and to assist in the establishment of NDIS access for people with a disability in the state. NDIS recipients then when approved, can elect to manage their plan in one of the three different processes:

Self-manage – means that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) pays the participant so they can pay the provider.

Plan-managed – NDIA provides funding to pay a Plan Manager who pays providers for the participant.

NDIA managed – NDIA pays the providers on behalf of the participant.

Providers have to be NDIS registered and meet government quality and safety standards. Participants who elect to self manage or be managed by a Plan Manager can use NDIS registered providers and non-registered providers, while NDIA managed can only use NDIS registered providers to deliver services.

In being considered for supports and services it must be related to the participant’s disability. It cannot be for day-to-day living costs not related to the disability. It should represent value for money and be effective and work for participant. It needs to be taken into account along with other services provided by family, government, and community networks.

Where participants are vulnerable is that some service providers can charge more knowing it’s government funded. Participants who decide on being Plan Managed brings in another middle stream who are setting up a private business from the funds allocated in order to manage these funds and so the funds go towards offices and staff for this purpose. NDIA managed means the participant deals directly with the government funding body and not another middle level which has private business interests. In this category along with some service providers it has been a windfall financially. The additional difficulties come with hours needing to be spent by either the participant or their family to fill out the numerous service agreements, with the various types of funding supports. For some people this is a daunting experience and requires a considerable level of ability intellectually.

For our grandson who has elected to be NDIA funded directly, he still has to deal with at least 4 different bodies including one dealing with supported employment. All of who require agreements and some funds charge more than similar non NDIS services elsewhere.

In the education system there are many supports for intellectually disabled, but for more higher functioning disabled any funding is globalised by the school and such students are usually overlooked or not supported at all. In discussions with other families who had children with disabilities it appears that very little if any support is given and often schools only allow these children to attend part time. The schools claim they haven’t the funding, while using allocated funding to support other students, so disrupting the potential of some with learning problems related to their disability. Schools conveniently brand such students as having intellectual problems, so denying the more higher functioning student any opportunity to achieve their potential.

Our grandson despite all these difficulties particularly in education system has become generally a well balanced adult and interested to continually learn overcoming the various effects of his disability.

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