NDIS readiness for advocates

This was the second session at the Advocacy sector Conversations forum held at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre on 22 February 2017.

Other sessions at this forum included:



The NDIS is rolling out across Victoria giving thousands the opportunity to start new plans for the first time while investigating local support options.  Catherine McAlpine, Manager Disability Loop at AFDO introduced a new ‘Tip Sheet’ for the planning process and provided some perspectives on the Local Area Coordinators and the Service Coordination roles at the NDIS.



References mentioned in  this session:





Hope you all enjoyed your break and beautiful lunch.  I’d like to introduce Catherine McAlpine from AFDO, she’s the Manager of the Disability Loop project, and she will be talking about some NDIS readiness stuff.

Thank you Melissa and thanks to DARU for having me back.  I’m delighted to be here again today.  Could I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and acknowledge their Elders past and present.

I’d also like to apologise in advance because at functions like this I tend to get overly enthusiastic about what I’m talking about and then I start talking too fast.  As you know, long term habits are hard to break so can I encourage the interpreters, and anyone else who needs me to slow down, to not be shy because I genuinely am trying but it seems to be that about half way through I get immersed in the content and I forget my good intentions.  So please do say so.

I’m from the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, I think you probably all know who we are.  We’re an organisation made up primarily of people with disability and family members and our Board is also primarily made up of people with disability.  The big project that we’ve been working on for the past two years is the NDIS Information Loop project, which is the Disability Loop project.  I see some familiar faces here in the crowd who have come to some of our workshops.

That project technically completed in November last year but I did want to mention it because we are about to release three summary reports from that project. One is on NDIS resources, so the Disability Loop website itself and the associated social media, One on the workshops that we ran and one on the NDIS Champions project that we ran, and I know we also have some funding applications in to try to extend that and build on that. We will also be releasing the gap analysis that we did a couple of years ago, but quite a number of people would like to have access to.

So we’ll be gradually releasing these resources on our Disability Loop e-news over the next couple of months.  If you’ve been waiting for these resources, we’ve promised a few people they’re imminent so keep an eye on the e-news as that will be telling you where they are.  I’ve brought a couple of copies here today so if anyone wants one, come and grab these.

Since then we’ve been working on two projects.  I’ll be talking about the Victorian one second because it’s probably of more interest to you, but I was just going to let you know that AFDO has received a grant from the National Disability Insurance Agency to work with peer led organisations to help them prepare for the national roll out of Information Linkages and Capacity building.  This project will build organisational capacity and readiness by looking at the needs of people with disability and their families and the way in which ILC could meet those needs, or support organisations to engage with people with disability and/or their families in consistent ways.

We’ll carry out individual and collective projects to help organisations to get ready for ILC, including the development of useful tools and resources.  AFDO will work closely with a range of peer led organisations to understand their needs and to implement individual and collective projects throughout 2017/18 and we will, naturally, provide reports back to the NDIA. The biggest part of that project will be with big national peak organisations, but there will be some other work that we’ll do with some smaller organisations later this year, and early next year. Again, I’d encourage you to stay connected to the Disability Loop e-news because that is where we will talk about those things in more detail.

The other project that we’re working on at the moment is a project funded by the Victorian Government, together with a number of Victorian based organisations, on the NDIS transition support package. The main thing we’re doing in that package is an extension of the NDIS Understanding workshops, that some of you attended as ‘train the trainer’ workshops, we’re now rolling those out directly to people with disability and their families, mainly in regional Victoria.

My colleague, Mark Thompson, who some of you might know, is currently in Bendigo in his third day of workshops there.  In fact, demand has been so high that we’re running a second lot in Bendigo in March, although I regret to tell you that that is already fully subscribed.  However, I would say to you, we did get phone calls from people after the first series was fully subscribed who, somewhat disconcertingly said we were discriminating against people with disability, but no, we said we were just full, and they said we’re going to tell DHHS.  We said, yes that’s fine, and behind the scenes said thank you.  So they went and complained and DHHS said we’ll fund you another series.  So if you didn’t get in, that’s a plan of action.

DHHS have also informed us that they are going to fund some more so we will shortly announce in the e-news that we will also be going to other areas.  These are most likely to be Warragul, Warrnambool and Hamilton and we’ll probably do one in Melbourne east in June. So that’s what else we’re doing.

We’re also collaborating with the other organisations who received funding under the Victorian NDIS Transition Support Package – that’s organisations like VALID, Youth Disability Advocacy Service, Women with Disability Victoria, a lot of really great organisations.  We’re developing some materials with them as part of that project.

The one I really wanted to draw your attention to is a ‘Tip Sheet’. You’ll be very familiar with it, there’s been a lot of feedback about the fact that the first plan process starts with a phone call.  The NDIA keep telling us that about 55% of people are quite happy to have things by phone call so it’s still, actually, the majority of people are reporting, but it’s still a pretty big 45% of people that don’t want to have a phone call.

There are problems with people just being surprised that the phone call that sounds like just a conversation is actually the conversation.  It’s disconcerting when people with intellectual disability get a phone call directly from a stranger who talks about insurance and maybe you want to hang up on them, because that’s what we usually do when strangers ring us to talk about insurance.  One of the things that was identified was that we need some kind of straight forward information that says, you’re going to get a phone call and what you might like to do and think about before you get that phone call.  So not the whole pre-planning process, which is more detailed than that, but basically saying to people that:

  • Expect a phone call
  • t’s OK to continue that phone call now if that’s what you’re comfortable with
  • It’s OK to ask them to call back at a more convenient time i.e. maybe when you have someone with you and it’s quieter
  • It’s OK to ask for a face to face meeting (although if you do have a face to face meeting your plan might take a little longer)

Noting that in NEMA (North East Melbourne Area) they’re doing most things face to face but that’s because that’s a particular trial but that’s not what is going to happen in the rest of the state or country.

I have in my hand a hard copy of a thing that, at the moment, is called ‘Getting Your First Plan Phone Call from the NDIS’.  We’re working with other organisations to develop it but we’d be really interested in your feedback.  I’ll leave some of these here for you to write on and give back or give us a call or scan and email it to me by the end of next week.  We’ll incorporate your feedback in that and then you’ll see the ‘Tip Sheet’ come out through AFDO and other organisations – we’ll probably put that out all together.  So I’ll leave that here today.

Just to mention, with the ‘Tip Sheet’, there’ll be more pictograms on it.  As you know, Disability Loop always supports words with pictures and uses plain language.  It’s not there yet, but because we were meeting with our Victorian colleagues yesterday and I was coming here today, we rushed it out so that we could get some feedback from you.

Any questions on any of that before I basically go into content I was asked to present on today? No? Good stuff.

Today I am talking more about Local Area Coordination and Support Coordination – how that all links together and what that might mean for advocacy organisations.

So now I’m going to click… oops there’s my ‘First Plan Tip Sheet’ slide but I’m going to go back to my Local Area Coordination slide first and go back to Support Coordination.

In the NDIS literature, because there is more and more coming out, there’s better literature than we had during the trial that’s for sure. In the first plan document, that is about 10 pages long, there’s a page that says ‘Start Your NDIS Journey here’.  When they talk about the NDIS journey, they talk about “what is the NDIS?”, “Can I access the NDIS?”, “My First Plan” where they emphasise that your first plan is the start of a lifelong relationship with the NDIS. Starting My Plan; which says you can choose the providers you want or you might need your existing provider to provide supports for a while, and then Reviewing My Plan.

So far in a lot of the conversations that we have, you would find this through advocacy, a lot of discussion about access , can people get in?, the problems that people might have getting in, and my first plan; what we just talked about then in terms of the phone calls. But in fact what I’m going to be starting with today, is the Starting My Plan bit. It’s the bit that was called Plan Implementation in the more corporate speak, but in the current stuff is called Starting My Plan.

The reason we’re concentrating on Plan Implementations, or Starting My Plan, is that one of the things that came out of trial was that people managed to get through access, managed to get through planning, how to plan and then 10 weeks later, hadn’t spent a single dollar or 20 weeks later had barely spent anything.  So people had a plan but then didn’t know what to do. They either didn’t have the skills or confidence, or didn’t understand that once they had the document they could, in fact, start purchasing things.  The emphasis about Starting My Plan is actually about the ‘getting going’ part.

When the agency talks about Starting My Plan, they talk about self-direction, they talk about you having control of your supports and how they are provided.  So this is very much where the choice and control part of the NDIS is expected to dominate more than any other part of the scheme.  You can choose your providers – you would normally need to make a written agreement with your providers to do this.

They mention the Participant Portal, which is an online tool available through the MyGov website that keeps all your documents together.  They get people understanding that the way they do the things with their plan happens through the MyGov Portal and of course we’ll soon all be talking to “Nadia” on the Portal. I’m going to learn more about Nadia tomorrow.  You can also think about your future goals.  It’s important to think about how your first plan is working for you and what is not.  The things to note about that is that they talk about self-direction, choosing providers and Participant Portal.

But of course, there are many people who really can’t do that.  Are all of you aware that the NDIS is screening people as they come into the scheme?  What that means is that when you access the scheme and go through the first plan process, the various people from the NDIS, whether it’ a Local Area Coordinator or whether it’s the National Access Team who might call you, effectively the information gatherer, whoever it who first makes contact with the person with disability or their nominee, is making an assessment on how capable the person is to do the Plan Implementation.  One of the tasks of the people who first come into contact with the person with disability is to make an initial assessment about the level of support that will be required from the NDIS to assist them through the planning and the Plan Implementation, or the Starting My Plan, process. This is done to try to use the NDIS resources as efficiently as possible.

They basically screen people into three streams.  The first is self-planning for those participants who only need minimal support through the planning process and who are pretty able to implement their plan themselves.  This is expected to be about 10% of participants.  Then there is the majority that they call ‘supported’, the participant who will need some level of support through the planning process and that will be 60-70% of participants. And then there’s ‘intensive’, participants who require a high level of support and are likely to need specialised providers to help them to implement and manage their plan. This is expected to be around 20% of participants. The numbers don’t add up exactly, because they are all a range.

An NDIS participant may change between those streams, partly by telling the NDIS that they need more or less support or the NDIS themselves, might identify that the person needs more or less support.

That streaming becomes more relevant when I start talking about Local Area Coordination.

The question is, what do LACs do? Unfortunately the acronym LAC sometimes means Local area Coordinators, the people, and sometimes means Local Area Coordination, the action. I’ll try not to use the acronym too much.

The Local Area Coordinators, their job is to support NDIS participants, well they actually have three main tasks, and the biggest part of their tasks is to support NDIS participants.  That’s no surprise because they are supposed to help people through access, they are supposed to help people through their first plan and they are supposed to help people with their Plan Implementation.  That is a lot of work with participants. Then they are supposed to support every person with disability.  This about providing supports for people with disability who are not eligible for the scheme or to get an individualised package through the scheme, but would still benefit from the linkages, a lot of the same information or need assistance in some way. But, during the transition, that will only be about 10% of their job.

Then they are also supposed to do community development which is about helping the mainstream become more inclusive, working with community organisations, service providers to build awareness of the needs of people with disability that other people take for granted. So far, the reality is that really is that Local Area Coordinators are spending most of their time with NDIS participants.

But we would very much hope, in the same way that the Transport Accident Commission, the long term benefits of explaining to us about slowing down and wearing seat belts have changed driver behavior, that in fact, community behavior, when we look back in 10 or 15 years’ time, we will actually see those differences.  But in reality, the next three years it will be mainly to do with people with disability who are eligible for the scheme.

What I have described just there is the ILC, the Information Linkages and Capacity building part of the LAC’s job where that really relates to getting plans started and helping people through. But also the LAC will be the primary contact person, the NDIS contact person, for the person with disability.  For that group that I just called ‘supported’, that 60-70% of people, the LAC is their main point of contact.  The 10-20% of people who self-manage, the LAC is actually still their prime person to contact but really they’re quite independent in how they might go about it.  It’s the ‘intensive’ stream, that 20% of people, who will actually get Support Coordination in their plans.  Their primary contact person is the Support Coordinator.

One of the things the DARU team talked to me about when we were preparing this presentation, is this confusion about what the role of the Local Area Coordinator is relative to the Support Coordinator, but really it’s a continuum.  It starts pretty independent more and more dependence on an LAC, Local Area Coordinator, and then gradually when, in fact, the amount of support someone needs is greater than what the LAC could be expected to provide, then we move into Support Coordination.  So really, when it comes to plan implementation, when it comes to starting your plan, the work of the LAC and the Support Coordinator are similar, but clearly the Support Coordinator is much more intensive, much more detailed and possibly more specialised.

The other thing that the LAC should do, and possibly also the Support Coordinator, is risk assessment.  They need to make sure that there are safeguards in place and to make sure the person has access to the things they need to be safe.  That includes the stories that you hear of the 80 year old parents coming in with a 50 year old person with intellectual disability who say that everything is fine, “we’re all fine”, and the LAC should look at it and go, actually there’s a risk that that support from the parents might disappear for reasons that the parents might not want to face up to. There’s that sort of risk assessment all the way through to identifying an abusive relationship, gate keeper in a planning situation.

In the literature the NDIS provides, again, all headed up ‘Starting My Plan’, they talk about once your plan is approved it’s time to now put it into action.  Their tips are:

  • read and understand your plan
  • Register with MyGov and enter the Participant Portal which is called My Place
  • Connect with the person who will help you start your plan

So that last point is what we’re talking about.  You’ve either got to meet or talk over the phone with the Local Area Coordinator.  Again, that’s the continuum, for people who only need a little support, they’ll get telephone support from an LAC, for someone who needs more support will get a face to face meeting with an LAC or, if you are under the age of 7, your contact will be the Early Childhood Partner.  So that’s for people who are starting their plan with a Local Area Coordinator.

They give you a whole lot of literature about what you might do in terms of talking to your Local Area Coordinator and then they may talk about a Support Coordinator.  These are a similar set of things however there is an assumption that your situation will be more complex if you are talking to a Support Coordinator.

So, what does that mean for advocacy agencies in terms of Support Coordination? This comes back to the scenario where it’s possible that advocacy agencies already do some complex navigation, that already the calls to advocacy agencies are likely to be from people who are in those most complex situations with the most intensive communication needs or support needs. Probably, it’s highly likely that the group of people that you are in contact with are that 20% of people who need that more intensive support. It’s not always the case, but it’s often the case.

The tricky position that advocacy agencies are in is that this support is now provided through a plan, so advocacy itself is still funded separately through the National Disability Advocacy Program. This particular thing that advocacy agencies do in terms of helping people in complex situations to navigate the system, that’s funded in a plan.  Because it’s funded in a plan, the only way for an agency to get paid for that work is to be a registered provider of supports.

You may well know that people can self-manage a plan and that if they self-manage a plan they can choose a provider that’s not a registered provider of supports, but for Support Coordination you are expected to be a registered provider of supports, partly because of conflict of interest issues for other providers.

In the NDIS Provider Update of September 2016, they talk about First Plan and Support Coordination First Plan for people receiving Support Coordination focusing on participant’s immediate needs. It’s expected that Support Coordination will assist the participant to implement and monitor their plan, as well as working with the participant to develop their goals prior to second plan,  and the supports required to achieve them, building current capacity and encouraging participants to explore different supports and linking participants with mainstream and community supports.

The role of Support coordination is, the primary role, to support implementation and identify options for all supports in the plan; including informal, mainstream and community, as well as funded supports, to strengthen and enhance the participant’s abilities to coordinate supports and participate in the community, reach decisions and develop agreements with support providers.  The NDIS is actually hoping that Support Coordination will build their capacity to, for example, need less support which could then be provided through a Local Area Coordinator, and then the LAC should be building the capacity to implement their own plans.  Basically a higher proportion of people will self-manage their plans.

The NDIS is hoping that there will be a move, in fact the Support Coordinators have been tasked to do themselves out of a job.  But of course there are some people who are in quite complex situations and will always need Support Coordination.

They’re expected to ensure the mainstream services meet their obligations — housing, education, justice health etc. – doesn’t allow the mainstream services to just push the person with disability back to the NDIS and say, “No, we’re not going to help you as you need to get that support through the NDIS”. It’s to help the person say, “No, you actually need to help me with this support.  I’m entitled to an inclusive education even though I’m an NDIS participant.  I don’t need to use part of my package to be included in education.”

To build the capacity of the person to achieve greater independence, self-directed supports in the longer term and understand funding flexibility.  This is where you get budgets in your plan, but even though your budget has one thing against it, you’re allowed to spend it on similar things.  It’s one of the complexities in the whole transport stuff at the moment that if you have transport in your core support but also have personal care, in fact you can use some of those things interchangeably i.e. you can use some of your personal care budget to supplement your transport budget.  Not that this is great as you don’t want to sacrifice personal care just so you can get around.

The Support Coordinator needs to be available to ensure that support arrangements endure in times of crisis and this is the bit that Local Area Coordinators don’t do.  The Local Area Coordinators are pulled in all different directions at once and it’s going to be hard to catch them on the phone.  The Support Coordinators are supposed to be available so that when crisis hits they can help people with a short time around and provide NDIA with reports.

The way Support Coordination is allocated… if you’re a provider, once the plan is approved, the NDIA contacts the participant for the preferred Service Coordinator that the participant has already nominated.  If none has been nominated, NDIA will allocate via random selector.  The NDIA sends a copy of the participant’s plan and request for services and completes the service booking.  The Service Coordinator must meet with the participant within 5 working days. So that’s what is expected from you as a Service Coordinator.

When you get the ‘Request for Service’, you get the participant’s name and ID number, plan start date, contact details, preferred contact person.  You should get information about what support is required, which includes barriers, immediate connections required and other informal and mainstream connections. You should be told what the reporting requirements are. You must have explicit policies in place to manage any conflict of interest and you must maintain records that demonstrate potential and real conflicts are managed appropriately for each participant.  For those who have heard me speak before, you will have heard us speak strongly about the conflict of interest that exists for service providers.  It’s one of the reasons that advocacy agencies find themselves in a position of thinking about becoming Support Coordinators is because of the conflict of interest of service providers.  If you’re doing Support Coordination, enabling a participant to exercise choice and control of their provider and you work for a provider that provides a lot of things, you’ve got to be really careful that the person doesn’t walk out the Support Coordination door and into the Day Service door just down the corridor. Providers really have to demonstrate that they are managing their conflict of interest.

There’s different conflict of interest for advocacy in terms of you might be advocating to the agency for a particular participant but at the same time negotiating their Support Coordination. As an agency, you would need to have processes in place to manage that.  The reason they go on about conflict of interest in particular is about the conflict of a service provider providing other services that the participant might want to access.

Then there is a whole lot of information about service agreements.  There’s quite a bit of detail there.  When you look at the Price Guide, you can see that there is three levels of Support Coordination which is, again, expected to be a continuum.  One is called ‘support connection’, well actually the first is ‘no assistance required’, but support connection is some support needed to start the plan, link to providers and monitor plan progress. That’s called support connection and usually, we particularly saw this in Barwon, where people had maybe 10 hours or so in their plan and it really just enabled that little bit of support at the beginning.

Then there’s ‘support coordination’ which is assistance to start the plan, monitor the plan including active plan management, actually that’s probably the wrong word as it’s different to the financial plan management, and address barriers.

Then there’s ‘specialist support coordination’ which is like the other two with a requirement for a specialist framework necessitated by specific high level risks and needs.

I looked to try to get someone from the agency to come along today to help me with this presentation. The message from the agency was that we will see a distinct decrease in support connection in plans because, really, that’s going to be the role of the Local Area coordinator.  So we’re going to see fewer and fewer plans with support connection in them and we’re particularly going to see a decrease of support connection in the trial sites, so for us that means Barwon, because in the trial sites there wasn’t any Local Area coordination.  So for people who needed some support, they needed at least support connection.  There is a very strong overlap betweenm the work of the Local Area Coordinator and support connection. They didn’t say there won’t be any support connection but they expect to see a significant decrease.  So if you are already a provider in Barwon, that’s something to be aware of.

Then you’ve got the support coordination level and the specialist coordination.  The other thing is they are expecting an increase in the need for support coordination and they’re particularly seeing an increase for the need for specialist support coordination.  People who are in complex situations, are in contact with child protection or in contact with the justice system, those are complex situations and there is a worry, at the moment, that there might not be enough Support Coordinators to do that more complex work.  The strong message is that we are moving away from the simpler connection work and moving toward the more time consuming complex work.

Then you look at the Price Guide and look at your own organisations and think, “can we provide this service?” if we decide to register as a support provider.  The registration group that you need to be aware of is the 0106 registration group which is on page 10 of the Provider Toolkit Module 4. If you were thinking about becoming a provider, you need to go on the NDIS website and go through all of the provider information, which, again, has improved markedly since trial, and you need to look at the Provider Toolkit. In there, it talks about the registration group called ‘assistance in coordinating or managing life stages, transition and supports’ or, for short, ‘life stage transition’.

This registration group includes long and short term supports that focus on strengthening the participant’s ability to coordinate their supports and to assist them to live at home and participate in their community.  This includes support connection, coordination of supports assistance with accommodation and tenancy obligations, life transition planning including mentoring, peer support and individual skill development and assistance with decision making, daily planning and budgeting, the professions, your staff would be expected to be any combination of Disability Support workers, Welfare Workers,  Developmental Educator, Social Worker or other care worker.

It matters when we move into the specialised stuff because it’s in a different group.  The specialised support coordination, see this is where it gets tricky because I’m suspecting that the people that you see in your agencies are possibly the most complex but, the provision of support within a specialist framework necessitated by specific high level risks in the participant’s situation.  It’s likely to be about behaviors of concern, it’s likely to be contact with justice, likely to be with child protection, maybe it might be a parent and a child with disability, whatever the complex situation is, the support is time limited and addresses barriers and reducing the complexity in the support environment while assisting the participant to connect with supports and build capacity and resilience.  It may also involve developing an intervention plan that would be put into place by Disability Support Workers.

In this case it’s a different registration group and it’s called 0132.  In this case it has a higher threshold in terms of the professions.  They are more likely to be Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, Social Worker, other allied health developmental educators, social or health science professionals. So you can do your Support Coordination with a team made up of advocates who have a lot of lived experience but you can’t do the specialised work without having someone with one of those qualifications. allied health etc.

One of the reasons they are concerned about not having enough of the specialised support coordinators is because of that higher threshold.  Basically you need people with a degree level of training rather than a certificate 3 or 4 or the lived experience.  That’s really the difference.

From there you then look at the Price Guide.  Instead of being bulk funded like through the NDAP, you’d be invoicing through a person’s plan.  You’d have to have a service agreement with the participant that says what you charge and support connection which is the one I’m saying will be reduced, and the unit price for that currently is $56.61 per hour.  Coordination of support is $92.27 and the specialist one is higher again (I’m just trying to look it up quickly…), the last I knew was $192 but I think it’s gone up but, oh here it is, $192.71 is where it’s at.

At the moment there is no training specifically to become a Support Coordinator.  I believe there is one online but when I went to Google it before coming here I couldn’t find it again so now I’m not sure whether I just imagined it. With the specialist stuff, it’s controlled by the quality control mechanism through membership of the professional bodies, the allied health bodies and the psychology bodies etc.  But there is no particular course on its own at this time.

It’s a big thing to think about – whether or not that might be a direction we’ll go in but, as I said, when I was looking in to having someone from the agency to come with me today, the very strong message was we need more in the most complex areas.  The unspoken hope was that there will be further action in the advocacy sector moving in that direction.

I’m open to questions at this point.

I’m Eve by the way, I do think, I brought an article in that I thought would be beneficial but I do think they need to be educated because we are going to have an increase of people who are going to have a disability and who well and truly need the NDIS and they are going to have trouble funding us.

Yes, that’s true.

So they do need to be educated so I would like to know how we can educate them.

Yes. Well I do believe that’s why there are a lot of subsidies at the moment for people doing Disability Support type work and allied health and psychology.  They are trying to get more people going to university and doing those courses.

There’s another hand up over hear…

Is this screening process the same or different for a person already on an IS plan who has been self-managing for years?

Sorry I missed the first bit before process… screening was it?


Starting process, right thank you.  If you are already getting supports, the NDIS will contact you when your area comes on board and if you tell them that you have been self-managing, they’ll pretty much straight away say that you’re in the self-management area unless you tell them that you don’t want to.  If you’ve been self-managing for years, and you’ve been doing that well, then you should expect them to, straight away, that that would continue.

I’ve heard that the invoice and payment process is more complicated because of different rates.

Yes, but that’s different to the starting process.  The starting process is supposed to be simple but if you have a state based package and you’re getting supports through your state, basically the state will give your information to the NDIS and then when they ring you, they will basically confirm with you that the information is correct and they will be looking at your existing package as a starting point.  When you come into the NDIS, you can say whether or not you feel your package is meeting all your needs or whether you need more or less or whatever.  So that process should be relatively simple, although as we keep reiterating, it’s likely to start on the phone.

But of course when you go through access, you can talk about your preferred communication method and say that it needs to be face to face if that’s what you need.

In terms of interacting with the Portal, the rules between the state system and the NDIS, some people have found them to be different – some people report easier and others report harder.  In this case I have a colleague who self-managed under the state system and who is now in the NDIS, and he’s fairly blasé about it.  He was actually on the DSR, the Disability Support Register, and he only had a very small package so for him it’s been wonderful.  He’s happy to put up with the Portal because he gets all these extra supports.  It seems to be that there are some things that are more flexible and there are some things that are not so flexible, but it’s true that they are not exactly the same.  I’ve only got a relatively small sample size of people who have been self-managing who say that it’s OK.  They say there is a little bit of adapting.

For example, people might have been using their self-managed packages to buy memberships for a footy team or something like that as part of their community participation, that sort of stuff won’t be allowed on a plan any more but, on the other hand, people rarely had enough money for consumables such as continence aids, so now they have enough money in their package for that.  So basically people have reported swings and roundabouts – you may get a bit less flexibility here but you get something else properly funded so now we can actually afford to buy our own tickets because we’re not having to spend all our other money on disability related supports. So we’re hearing a bit of both.

I’m just wondering, with the Local Area Coordinators and the Support Coordinators, do participants get to keep them on a regular basis?  Are they their contact?

Certainly on a regular basis would depend on your definition of regular.  So that’s one of the differences between the two…

No sorry do they change?

Oh, do they change?  Well only as far as a staff turnover thing.  The organisation won’t change.  The provider of your LAC or the provider of your Support Coordinator won’t change.  With the contracts at the moment, I think they have been given 3 years, is it 3? Maybe 2 years depending on what jurisdiction you’re in.

There are some organisations who are coming in who are very small  who are coming into Support Coordination where it might be a person or advocate in the sector and it will totally depend on them.  If it’s Support Coordination provided by Yooralla then maybe there might be more turn over.  It’s a hard question to answer because really it’s about staff turnover as much as it is about anything else, but I think that could be a competitive advantage for advocacy agencies where you tend to have low staff turnover.  The idea is that the participant does develop relationships that are consistent – that is the intention that there will be some kind of consistency so that you are talking to the same person about your plan and when you go to review the plan, you go to the same person again and you have this ongoing relationship.

The reality is that these are all professional positions and people move jobs so it really depends on that.

What does the NDIS package involve?  What are they allowed to spend on?

A person with disability?


It’s on your disability related need.  It means that you can get the support you need, because of your disability that other people who don’t have a disability don’t need.  The NDIS will pay for personal support, so if you need help to get in and out of bed and that sort of thing.  They’ll pay for equipment, specialised equipment that you need to give you access to the community and they’ll pay for some of your personal development.  That’s when they talk about capacity building, what they mean making you more able to do things by yourself but you haven’t learnt how to do because of your disability.  You might not have learnt something because you have an intellectual disability or you might not be able to do something because you can’t see or hear something so you may need some extra supports.  It must be because of your disability.

One of the classic examples is swimming lessons.  Other people in the community have to pay for their own swimming lessons so the NDIS won’t pay for swimming lessons.  But if you need a person with you to help you learn how to swim because of your physical condition that means you can’t float so you need someone with you, or you might have an intellectual disability and need a support worker with you, then they’ll pay for that. So it’s your disability related supports that the NDIS will cover and there’s a reasonable amount of flexibility in there.  It must be about your disability and not absolutely everything you want for your life.

One last question, well not really a question.  I brought in an article and I suggest you watch what they do because that was an important article I brought in and I thought you have to watch the Government because they could start straggling along with the NDIS money so it’s important that we all have that the people who really have a disability and depend on it, need it.

That’s right.  We do need to keep a close eye on it because the Government has made a couple of changes and we need to be very, very careful to make sure the NDIS keeps going as promised. I agree with you 100%.

Thank you very much but I think I’m out of time.

I think we have time for one more question before we go to our break.

And just a reminder that all the resources that Catherine has referred to today, we will make available through our website later and we’ll send round an email to everyone who has registered today when it’s all ready.

So one more question…

Will NDIS cover work based assistance?

I don’t believe so.  It depends.  When you’re working, there’s a thing called the Jobs Access program or the Employment Assistance Program, that if you get work and you need assistance to access the work environment then it will help you pay.  For example, I have a colleague who uses a wheelchair and when he started at AFDO we needed to get a self-opening door so he could get in and out independently.  They paid for that.  The NDIS will not pay for that kind of workplace assistance.  But if you need access assistance all the time, to get to work, to get to school, to get to the community, you need it all the time no matter what you’re doing, then that’s your disability related need.

So there are some things that are just related to your work and some things that are related to your whole life.  It’s hard to say what will and won’t be funded as it totally depends on you and your situation and the plan, but basically, that’s what they do.  If you need it for your whole life because it’s your disability related support, then it’s much more likely to be approved as part of your plan.  So if you need a wheelchair to get anywhere then it’s not a work place related thing but you need something like the self-opening door .  My colleague arranged for the same provider to install the one at work as he used for his one at home so therefore he only has the one remote switch on his wheelchair that activates both doors. That’s where your choice and control comes in so you can be smart about the way you line things up to make life more easy for yourself. I hope that makes sense.

OK thank you Catherine.  We’ll now have a quick break and we’d like everyone to be back here at 2:20 to start the session on the State Disability Plan and the Office for Disability Update.

Thank you.