What disability advocates don’t do

Request for advocacy in the NDIS has increased dramatically in recent times but many referrals are inappropriate. Here are some common ones that demonstrate why.

Q: My client needs their Service Agreement signed. Isn’t it the role of an Advocate to sign on a person’s behalf?

A: No. The NDIS Act says that participants should be provided with the support needed to make and implement their own decisions. Only in circumstances where this is not possible, a Plan Nominee is appointed, in writing, to act on behalf of an NDIS participant. A plan nominee can be an informal support (someone who knows the participant well) or a formally appointed Guardian or Administrator, Supportive Guardian or Supportive Administrator or an Attorney.

“With service agreements, we’ve pushed back reminding them that signature is not required. There’s uncertainty about engagement of advocates, of advocacy roles. Service providers make assumptions that we are there to make decisions on behalf of people, and that needs some attention and clarity.”
– Advocate

Q: My client has just got a new Behaviour Support Plan that needs an independent person to sign off on it. Is this something an advocate can do?”

A: No. An independent person in this instance is described in section 134 of the Disability Act 2006. The role specifies that the independent person must communicate the plan to the person in a way that they understand. Ideally this would be someone who has spent a lot of time with the person and knows them well and understands how they communicate (particularly if this is non verbal).

Given the issues based nature of advocacy, it is unlikely that an advocate would have had the time to establish the necessary communication channels to fulfil the requirements of the role satisfactorily.

Q: I’m finishing up with my client because they have used up all their Support Coordination funding. Can an Advocate fill this gap until the next plan review?

A: No. The LAC should be alerted to the situation, and it is then their role to assess the situation and bring the next plan review date forward or to initiate another appropriate internal process. An Advocate would only step in if this process falls down.

“A lot of people have the mindset that we’re an unpaid service of theirs, we’re not costing anything out of their NDIS plan. The burden can be put on us because they think it’s cheaper for us to do stuff than to take money out of their plan.”
– Advocate

Q: My client needs decision support and has no informal supports in place and doesn’t have a Plan Nominee. Can your advocacy organisation provide this?

A: No. Advocates are not decision supporters. The right to decision support was formalised in the legislation review of Victoria’s Guardianship and Administration Act in 2019. But the practical application is still catching up. There are currently no independent decision support services available in Victoria outside the authorised roles specified in the Act.

Leadership Plus is offering a pilot decision support program to support people with disability to engage with the NDIS. The purpose is to ensure that people who have limited decision making capability have maximum support in making the many decisions required when accessing the Scheme and obtaining a plan from the NDIS.