According to the Australian Network on Disability, one in five people in Australia suffers from at least one form of disability. Most of the time, it’s hard to spot a person with disability (PWD), especially considering that just above 4% need a wheelchair. It can either be physical or mental, apparent or otherwise, and affect the young and the old alike.
With a growing PWD population also comes a pressing need to reform the country’s disability support program. In 2013, the government introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), providing financial support to people with permanent or significant disabilities. As of this writing, close to 470,000 Australians are using the NDIS—over half being first-time users.
Of course, being a government-funded program, the NDIS uses taxpayer money, so proper use of the program’s funds is a must. Signing up for the NDIS entails an understanding of correct NDIS plan management. This complete guide will help current and upcoming NDIS beneficiaries make the most out of the program.
Ways to manage funds
Before delving deep into the subject matter, it’s important to understand how the NDIS works. Its four acronyms best sum it up:
- National: The NDIS is implemented in all states and territories of Australia. (It completed its nationwide rollout in 2019, six years after its introduction.)
- Disability: The NDIS supports individuals suffering from disabilities of varying natures, including early intervention and children with developmental delay.
- Insurance: The NDIS acts as an insurance plan to an extent, providing support to both the young and the old with a qualifying disability.
- Scheme: The NDIS isn’t a welfare program, contrary to popular belief, but a way to help people become more self-sufficient despite their condition.
The last bit is worth remembering, as the NDIS plan can change depending on the beneficiary’s lifestyle over the year. Sometimes, the program may renew or change the plan; other times, the beneficiary would be taken out of the program. It’s not designed to spoon-feed someone forever, especially those wishing to be productive again.
With that out of the way, the NDIS recognizes three methods of managing its funds:
- Agency-managed: The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the government body overseeing the NDIS, will handle fund management duties, paying relevant services on behalf of the beneficiary.
- Plan-managed: Funds management duties fall on NDIS-accredited plan managers; they get the funds from the NDIS and pay for the relevant services on behalf of the beneficiary.
- Self-managed: The beneficiaries themselves or their nominees will handle managing the NDIS funds to purchase the support necessary.
Each option caters to unique situations. People who want more control over their NDIS spending can either elect to manage it themselves or have the NDIA do it for them. For those who neither have the time nor ability to do so, plan managers help maximize their plan. Click here to learn more about how they operate.
As one of the fundamentals of the NDIS involves helping people achieve their goals, setting one or two naturally follows. Financial security is just one of several domains that the NDIS can help achieve. It can also foster relationships, become more proactive in society, or learn new things. The type of funding will depend on whatever the beneficiary wishes to attain in life.
When coming up with goals, experts suggest keeping the following five characteristics in mind:
- Personal: Goals should always be about one’s self, along the lines of “I want/wish to do this or that.” After all, in the end, it all boils down to the beneficiary’s aspirations in life.
- Outcome Oriented: Goals should be oriented toward a specific milestone more than the type of necessary support. “Communicating better” is a clearer goal than “needing speech therapy and tools.”
- Flexible: Goals should cover a broader scope to allow funding to be more adaptable if a situation calls for it. “Expressing myself better” is better than “learning painting.”
- Capacity Building: Goals should enable a person to gradually build their ability to be self-sufficient, as the NDIS program is designed to do.
- Improvement: Goals should focus on what a person wants to achieve relative to their disability, like “being able to use both hands” or “socialize with more people.”
The NDIS can only pay for specific support if aligned with the beneficiary’s goals. There will be times when coming up with one or two goals can be quite the chore, but it doesn’t have to be a one-person job. Reach out to a friend or relative or find resources online on the matter to make it more manageable.
An NDIS plan will pay for various types of support, granted that:
- they don’t fall within the responsibility of another government or community program,
- they’re related to the beneficiary’s disability,
- they’re day-to-day necessities related to the beneficiary’s disability, and
- they won’t cause harm to the beneficiary or make them a liability to others.
Depending on the nature of the disability and the beneficiary’s goals, the NDIS can provide at least one of three types of support budgets. The first is the core budget, the most flexible of the three, covering consumables, daily activities, social and community participation, and transport. Its flexibility allows beneficiaries to reallocate funding for one type of support to another.
The second type is the capacity-building budget, which focuses on employment, home living, lifelong education, and health management (among others). Funding for this budget can’t be reallocated between supports.
Lastly, there’s the capital support budget, which enables the purchase of assistive technologies and home modifications to manage one’s disability better. Like the previous budget, funding for this can’t be reallocated.
There are still plenty more things to consider in an NDIS plan, but no planning session should begin without considering these fundamentals first. Above all else, always keep in mind that such assistance can only last for so long.
Maximizing this program’s benefits is in everyone’s best interest; the sooner one person completes the program, the sooner the next in line can start. Every person that regains some normalcy through the NDIS is a merit in the program itself.