If you are new to navigating the NDIS, it can be confusing. There are lots of different things to consider. We have created a practical guide that answers the most common questions about the scheme and supports your understanding and confidence in knowing how to apply for the NDIS.
What is the NDIS?
The NDIS is the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme. It provides funding for the 4.3 million people around Australia who live with an intellectual, physical, sensory, cognitive or psychosocial disability. It is not a welfare system or a handout. The NDIS was created to help people to access the support they need to empower them with skills and independence over time. It provides participants with choice and control in managing their individual NDIS Plan and accessing an ordinary life.
The NDIS provides information and connections for people with disabilities about a range of support and lifestyle services in their communities. These include doctors, allied health professionals, support groups, sports clubs, libraries and schools. The NDIS also provides information about the supports available in each state and territory.
How to apply for the NDIS
To apply for the NDIS, you need to make an access request.
There are three ways you can do this:
- Make a Verbal Access Request via phone call to the National Disability Insurance agency (NDIA) on 1800 800 110
- Submit an Access Request Form via email at NAT@ndis.gov.au
- Mail your Access Request Form to GPO Box 700, Canberra, ACT 2601
You’ll also need to provide evidence of your child’s disability from a health professional relevant to their primary disability, and a description of how the disability impacts on their daily life. This might include mobility/motor skills, communication, social interaction, learning, self-care and self-management. This evidence can be provided through treatment and assessment reports or a support letter from your child’s treating professional. If you need support with collecting evidence, you can contact your Local Area Coordinator.
If your child is approved to access the NDIS, you should be prepared to nominate the goals and the preferred supports that will assist them to reach their goals.
Who can apply for the NDIS?
The NDIS is for Australian residents 0 – 65 years old who have a permanent, lifelong and significant disability which impacts their capacity to engage in everyday activities.
To be eligible to apply for the NDIS, people must need “reasonable and necessary support.” This could mean accessing assistance or products that help the person live their daily life, participate in the community and attain their personal goals. For example, their aim may be to improve their communication skills in order to function better in school or a workplace.
Children 0-7 years access the NDIS under the Early Childhood Early Intervention pathway. Children are eligible to access the ECEI if they have a diagnosed disability or have delays in 2 or more areas, for example speech and motor skills.
It is possible for children under 7 to access support without becoming an NDIS participant if they are referred to the NDIA or an early childhood services partner by a GP, child and family health nurse, paediatrician or preschool or childcare provider. This referral pathway provides individual children with access to evidence-based early intervention supports outside of being NDIS participants. The first step is to call the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) on 1800 800 110.
The NDIS have an eligibility checker if you need further information.
Tips to help parents with applying for the NDIS
Life can be challenging for parents caring for a child or children with a disability. Many find that managing medical and allied health appointments, school / early childhood playdates, work and family commitments and the related emotional difficulties can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you if you are preparing an NDIS plan for the first time.
Familiarise yourself with NDIS terminology
The NDIS has put together a helpful glossary of terms that are used within the scheme. It’s best to familiarise yourself with these and use them when applying for NDIS funding and making plans.
For example, there is a distinction made between developmental concerns and developmental delay. It’s important that you understand this and can use the correct terms as much as possible to support your application meeting the criteria A ‘carer’ is someone who is part of the family who looks after the person with the disability (not a paid carer or volunteer).
Get support from trusted family or friends
Everyone has different strengths so look to those around you for support in the areas you don’t feel confident with. If you find writing a challenge, ask a family member or friend to look over your NDIS application and provide feedback. If you find it difficult to understand the information in treatment or assessment reports requierd for evidence, ask your child’s treating professional for support.
Don’t forget to prioritise looking after yourself. Make sure you have someone who you can go to for emotional support if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the NDIS application process.
Plan ahead for the first planning meeting
If your child’s NDIS application is approved, you will be contacted to arrange a planning meeting. While you wait for a response on your access request, there are many things you can do to prepare for your child’s first NDIS plan.
Ahead of your NDIS planning meeting, have a think about your child’s long-term goals for their physical and emotional development and how the NDIS funding could help you to achieve these goals. Familiarise yourself with the types of supports available for your child to access and the related costs. This will support you to advocate for the funding amount you need for your child’s supports.
Consider your plan management options
There are three ways to manage your NDIS plan: self-managed, plan-managed or NDIA-managed. You can read more about the different options here. A self-managed plan provides you with choice and control over how and where you use your child’s NDIS funding to help them achieve their goal and requires you to manage all invoices, payments and documentation. Many parents initially choose to have their child’s plan managed by a Plan Management provider or the NDIA. You can change your preference at any time.
However, with more choice and control also comes more responsibility. Dealing with government funding departments and medical systems can be confusing and challenging. If you’re considering coordinating and managing all of your child’s support needs, we have a free Parents as Case Coordinators Course which prepares you to be in charge of your child’s NDIS plan and funding.
Our course will teach you everything you need to know about goal planning, record keeping, conflict management, selfcare and supporting siblings, and will share information regarding many other aspects of coordinating your child’s care. The modules use case studies and current practice to explore the issues you may face when dealing with the NDIS.
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