The old disability system was “underfunded, unfair, fragmented and inefficient” (Productivity Commission, 2011, p.3) and most people with a disability were not getting the support they needed. As many service providers used to be given block funding to provide services, consumers had little choice and control over the services they received or how they received them.
One of the biggest differences is that block funding is no longer given to service providers. Instead, individualised funding packages are arranged for participants who can then use the funding to purchase the type and quantity of supports required to meet their individual needs. Individualised funding means a greater level of choice and control for consumers; service providers need to work harder to attract and maintain clients.
The National Disability Scheme (NDIS) is a new jointly funded programme which largely replaces and enhances existing disability support services provided by the Commonwealth and the States.
The scheme will be funded, in part, by increasing the Medicare Levy from 1.5 to 2 per cent. This money will be placed in a separate fund for 10 years and will only be able to be drawn on to fund the additional costs of delivering the NDIS.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) explains the scheme’s key insurance principles as follows:
Government welfare schemes have a very short-term focus on minimising costs in a particular budget year. In contrast, the NDIS will seek to minimise support costs over a person’s lifetime and maximise their opportunities. The NDIS will therefore invest in tailored early intervention services and nurture and support families and carers in their roles. There is therefore a much closer alignment of interests between people with disability, their families and carers and the NDIS, compared with the previous welfare-based approach to disability support services.
For the NDIA, another very high priority will be encouraging the full inclusion of people with disability, their families and carers in mainstream community life, through increased social and economic participation. This will benefit individuals and the nation and according to the Productivity Commission is expected to add close to 1% to GDP.
The Scheme has bipartisan political support and the early trials have demonstrated that it can run in a financially sustainable way. All evidence indicates that the NDIS is here to stay.
The NDIS commenced on 1 July 2013 and is already operating in the ACT, Hunter and Nepean-Blue Mountain trial sites, as well as There are also trial sites in other states across Australia.
From July 2016, the NDIS will roll-out in Northern Sydney, Western Sydney, South Western Sydney, Southern New South Wales, the Central Coast and the remaining populations of Hunter New England and Nepean-Blue Mountains.
From July 2017, the NDIS will begin to roll-out in Sydney, South-Eastern Sydney, Northern New South Wales, Western New South Wales, Mid-North Coast, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Murrumbidgee and Far West New South Wales.
To be eligible to participate in the NDIS, an applicant must:
- Be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or New Zealand citizen who holds a Protected Special Category Visa;
- Be under 65 years of age;
- Live in a trial site; and
- Have a permanent and significant disability.
Detailed summary of the access requirements for becoming a participant in the NDIS
Unfortunately, people over the age of 65 years are not eligible for the NDIS. The NDIA have stated that people who are ineligible as a result of their age will not be disadvantaged and will continue to receive disability supports that achieve similar outcomes to those they have received in the past. Participants who join the Scheme before they turn 65 can choose to remain a participant of the NDIS or transfer to the Commonwealth Aged Care system.
Anyone who would like to apply to join the Scheme can contact the NDIA on 1800 800 110 to lodge an application. An NDIA representative will check that the basic eligibility criteria have been met before lodging the application.
After initial contact has been made with the NDIA, the applicant will be asked to complete an ‘Evidence of Disability’ form. The form is designed to collect information about the diagnosis, treatment and functional impact of the individual’s disability. Orientation and Mobility Specialists can complete the functional impact section of the form, however, the diagnosis and treatment sections must be completed by a medical practitioner or eye specialist. The NDIA can approve (or deny) the application once they receive the completed form.
What happens if an application is successful?
The NDIA sends successful applicants a planning kit containing information about the next step: The planning and assessment process. The kit also contains a ‘Participant Statement’ and a planning workbook. These documents are designed to help participants think about their current situation, what they would like life to be like in the future and what supports are required to get there. Orientation and Mobility Specialists can help participants to complete the ‘Participant Statement’ and ‘Planning Workbook’ on request.
Once the Participant Statement and Planning Workbook are completed (as much as possible), participants are invited to attend a planning and assessment appointment with a NDIA Planner. The planning and assessment process may take one session, or multiple sessions depending on the complexity of each participant’s situation. Family members, friends and/or carers may also attend the appointments and Orientation and Mobility Specialists can be available to attend planning sessions as advocates if requested.
The finished plan outlines a participant’s goals and aspirations and the supports that are in place, or need to be in place, to achieve them. Plans also contain details about the funding arrangements and how much assistance participants require to find service providers, access services, monitor spending and manage payments. At this stage, plans are designed to be in place for 1 to 2 years after which point they are reviewed and updated.
If a client applies to become a participant of the NDIS and their application is unsuccessful The NDIA a formal review and appeals process may be lodged with the NDIA. Guide Dogs NSW/ACT will continue to provide services by also offering support and advocacy as required.
The purpose of the NDIS is to give participants more choice and control over what supports they receive as well as how, when and where those supports are provided. Participants can choose the supports they require as long as the NDIA agree that they are reasonable and necessary.
After plans have been finalised, participants can access services using their funding. In some cases, participants may receive funding to have a Support Coordinator assist them to find and connect to service providers that are likely to meet their individual needs. Support Coordinators can also help participants to monitor and coordinate participants’ expenditure and keep an eye on whether or not the participant’s goals are being achieved.
It is important to know that NDIS plans are not set in stone. Participants’ can contact the NDIA to negotiate changes if their life changes significantly, or if they identify that a part of their plan is not appropriate/adequate for their individual needs.
All of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s core services and mobility aids can be funded by the NDIS providing that the NDIA deem them reasonable and necessary for the participant. This includes (but is not limited to) orientation and mobility assessments and training, Guide Dogs, canes, Miniguides, and Trekkers; Support Coordination and Occupational Therapy may also be included based on resources available in the GDN region.
Yes they will. Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is committed to providing services free of charge to clients who are not eligible for the NDIS. Clients who are eligible but who choose not to receive NDIS support for any reason, will be invited to meet with a Support Coordinator to discuss their reasons. As Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is a charity which relies on the generous support from donors in order to continue to support people with vision impairment we will endeavor to maximise funding opportunities as appropriate.
- Guide Dogs NSW/ACT can help clients to transition to the NDIS in a number of ways. First, Orientation and Mobility Specialists can conduct free, one-to-one, individualised NDIS information sessions with clients. NDIS information session content is flexible based on the individual needs and preferences of the client. Family, friends and carers are most welcome to attend the sessions as well.
NDIS Information Sessions typically include:
- Detailed information about the NDIS;
- The steps involved in applying for the Scheme (we can even help with the paperwork);
- Detailed information about the planning and assessment process; and
- Guidance to develop a meaningful plan for the future.
- Orientation and Mobility Specialists can also accompany clients to planning meetings with the NDIA to provide support and advocacy.
- As the Scheme rolls-out across NSW, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT can provide support coordination services to clients to ensure that they can access all of the supports they require in a way that meets their individual needs. All clients need to do is contact their local office and request NDIS assistance.
Additional information about the National Disability Insurance Scheme can be accessed via
the National Disability Insurance Scheme website (http://www.ndis.gov.au/) or by contacting the NDIA on 1800 800 110.