A change is a coming… so they say

Last week I attended an information seminar on the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme). It won’t be starting in my local area until June 2017, but apparently we need to start preparing for it now.  The presenters were not from the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) and I found them to be refreshingly honest and open about the process. I’m not going to get into the logistics of it all, but wanted to share some thoughts I came away with:

  • We were told that the government would normally be spending $11,000,000,000  on disability funding down the track (I think the year was 2019) but with the NDIS, the government would now be spending $22,000,000,000 – and what a great thing that was. Being the skeptic that I am, my first thought was, “so they’ve put a cap on what they’re prepared to spend on people through the NDIS”. Closely followed by, “ndisgiven all the media attention to cost blow outs, that probably means a lot of people are going to be missing out altogether”.
  • There seems to be a lot of paperwork you have to go through.
    Nothing new about that. Given that the amount of assistance you will actually get however, hinges on the things you write down in your workbook / action plan, it would seem to me that it’s pretty important to know what things to put down. We were told at the information session that how you phrase your goals, will affect what support they will give you. This could be rather tricky for people with disabilities who have to do the paperwork themselves, or who rely on care institutions to do this sort of stuff for them. Anyone who is not used to speaking government-ese may also get less support than someone who knows what catchphrases to put down, and how to ‘plead their case’.
  • The first intake into the NDIS in any area will be for those people who are already receiving support from an agency. Other people will have to go through a screening process and that won’t be until the existing clients are in the scheme. Not good news for those of us who don’t have any support now. So it seems the prudent thing is to get yourself on a list with any of your local agencies, so that you can streamline the process already. Assuming they’ll take you on, of course.
  • Some of the stories I’ve heard have said that kids with Autism are having a hard time getting appropriate funding. Apparently there aren’t enough planners (who do the interview with you) who know about Autism and it’s specific needs. The only government recognised therapies for Autism are speech therapy, occupational therapy, psychology and ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), yet the NDIS isn’t covering ABA. Presumably because it generally costs $50,000 a year and they don’t want to spend that sort of money on the thousands of kids with Autism in our country. So I asked one of the presenters about all that after the session. Turns out that yes, that’s what was happening, and it was a problem that he didn’t have an answer for. He did direct us all to the NDIS Grassroots facebook page however – a place where parents could swap stories and ideas about the process. Some of the parents have apparently been through it all in the trial sites, so may have useful ideas. I’m going to be hanging out there during the next 18 months while I’m waiting for it to start here, so I can learn as much as possible. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my parenting journey, it’s that you have to fight with everything you’ve got to get any help at all.
  • dollar signThere will be a choice as to who administers the money. Truly. I doublechecked that one. I remember with the HCWA (Helping Children with Autism) funding we were told how great it was that we could just sign a piece of paper, and our therapist would claim the money back from the funding. No need to pay up front and then claim it back! The only catch was that the therapists charged a premium fee for this – as much as an additional $50-100 per visit, so the funding was used up quickly.  With the NDIS funding (once it’s been allocated to you), you have a choice of letting the agency manage your money (at no cost to you), managing it yourself, or a combination of the two. Our presenters told us that apparently the agency had been swamped with requests to have the money managed by them, so they were now feeling the pinch of not having enough resources to actually do that, and were encouraging people to manage at least some of the money themselves. The advantages of managing it yourself are that you can pay people other than on the list of registered providers (apparently not family members however), and pay them over the ‘capped price’ that the NDIA assigns to each service. The downside is that you have to submit receipts and a lot more paperwork.

So, will it be as big a change as they keep telling us? That really remains to be seen. I think a lot of that will depend on how much the costs keep blowing out during the next few rollouts, and how good the intake planners are. I’m glad that we will hopefully have something we can apply for as we certainly don’t at the moment. A step in the right direction is better than no step at all!

If you’ve had experience with the NDIS I’d love to hear from you – please do leave a comment below on how the process went for you.


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