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NDIS guru – What are the steps to access the NDIS?

Blue Badge Insurance understands that accessing and participating in the NDIS can be confusing at any point in the journey. That’s why we engaged NDIS guru and plan manager Caroline Daley to write a series of articles answering all kinds of NDIS questions we’ve seen on our Facebook page and elsewhere. Caroline has not only helped develop some NDIS policies, she was the first person to self-manage an NDIS plan – for her daughter Siobhan.

Between the NDIS starting in 2013 and the end of 2019, over 134,000 people began receiving disability supports for the first time. This is a life changer for every one of these individuals, as well as their carers, family and friends.

Knowing a national scheme is now available has many people wondering ‘what are the steps to access the NDIS for the first time’? I’ll explore this here.

What’s happening on the ground?

From what I have seen and heard, many of these new NDIS participants have degenerative conditions and previously fell through the gaps. A number of people are still experiencing the same challenge.

As an  NDIS support coordinator, I see it time and again. We know there are many more people in our community who could benefit from accessing necessary supports. 

Arming yourself with the knowledge you need to step into the world of the NDIS is vital in effectively accessing the program. It is well worth the time and energy investment it takes to gather the right evidence to support your NDIS Access Request.

The NDIS has a comprehensive website filled with plenty of information that will help you begin and continue your funding journey. The website should have the information you need to start the ball rolling with a certain level of confidence. The steps to access the NDIS become much clearer when you read it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

If you feel you need to speak with someone as you comb through the information there, then speak with peers you have met through online groups, forums and so on related to your disability. Or, you might know people in your area who already have NDIS funding, or people who have a similar disability type. Meet up with them and grab their ear.

It is also important to speak to your GP, treating specialists and therapist/s, as they will provide the supporting documents you need. They too should have a good amount of knowledge about the program.

The NDIS has a great guide called ‘Understanding the NDIS’. You can download it here.

Wondering how to manage your exposure to COVID-19, as you navigate the NDIS at the same time? I’ve written about my family’s experience here: Dealing with COVID-19 as an NDIS Participant.

What are the facts around NDIS eligibility?

You may be eligible for access to the NDIS if you usually need significant support from equipment or a person to do day-to-day activities that focus on:

  • Mobility/motor skills
  • Communication
  • Social interaction
  • Learning
  • Self-care
  • Self-management

If you are between the ages of 7 and 65* years, you can enter the NDIS as:

  • A permanent participant, or
  • Through an “Early Intervention” pathway.

About the latter – yes, I know, they also use the same language for little kids in the program. For those aged 7 to 65 years, Early Intervention means a year or two of individual funded supports. The goal is that these supports will help you build skills or get equipment so you may not need ongoing supports in the future. 

As an example, I know of someone who is in the later years of high school and has an Asperger’s/Autism diagnosis. The impact on their everyday life does not meet the permanent access criteria for the NDIA. They have received Early Intervention funding for two years (so far) to assist with building the skills and knowledge to catch public transport, drive, prepare meals independently, and discover some hobbies so they can expand their social circles.

Now you know the above, are you ready to take steps to access the NDIS?

How do you research the criteria?

If you are keen to know more about your eligibility, the NDIS website has plenty of information on the criteria you need to meet…

Age:

As mentioned, you need to be between 7 and 65 years of age at the time of applying. On the cusp? At the lower end of the scale, see this information about the Early Childhood Early Intervention scheme. If you are at the other end, you can still submit your Access Request – even at age 64 – and await the same potential outcomes as everyone else. You might be declined for access or you might be approved. If you are approved, you might even have your planning meeting after you turn 65.

Residency:

You need to live in Australia and have Australian residency. There are a couple of exceptions (Permanent or Special Category Visa) so check out the NDIS website link above.

Disability:

Your disability must be permanent, or likely to be permanent. This can be tough to navigate. For example, you or your family may not yet be ready to accept that this is permanent. Or, you want to apply for the NDIS now, but your medical team may not have tried everything and may not be willing yet to put in writing that this is permanent. Have the serious conversations you need to with those around you – family, doctors, therapists and other supporters. Regardless, even if everything hasn’t been attempted yet, you can still apply. While doing so, think carefully about how you meet each of these criteria.

Diagnosis:

A diagnosis is not needed to be eligible for access to the NDIS – eligibility is based on day-to-day functional impairment. However, we know that people with a formal diagnosis can find the NDIS application process much easier. This area of the NDIS website gives you some great information about providing evidence of your disability. This will come from your treating health professional such as a GP, occupational therapist, neurologist, psychologist or physical therapist. If you need assistance with getting your evidence together then an NDIS Local Area Coordinator can help you.

Evidence of Functional Impairment:

This means proving how much of an impact your disability has on your day-to-day life. Read here to learn how to provide evidence of your disability and how it impacts your quality of living. Remember to focus on the help you need and the functional impact your disability has on your daily activities. Think about those day-to-day activities we mentioned earlier… How far can you walk? Up and down stairs? How do you go with starting and maintaining a conversation? What about getting along with people? Are you restricted in your learning capacity in some way?  Do you need help washing your whole body?

Should you give it a shot, even if in doubt?

Everyone has the right to see if they are eligible for taking steps to access the NDIS. Even if you are doubtful, it is worth taking the time to receive a yes or no. Imagine if you could access supports or equipment to make your life easier.

Call the NDIS on 1800 800 110 for an Access Request Form. The call centre will run you through a series of pre-screening questions that focus on the support you need from equipment or a person for day-to-day activities. Treat this call as part of your Access Request. 

If English is not your first language you can contact the NDIS through the NDIS interpreting service, supplied by TIS National. Call them on 131 450 and you won’t be charged for their service. If you do gain access to the NDIS then you will be provided with an interpreter.

Good luck

Hopefully you have enough information now to take those steps to access the NDIS. Best of luck with your application.

Want to know more about the insights I’ve had since becoming a part of the NDIS program? Read my ‘Things I wish I knew before becoming involved with the NDIS‘ article here.

*Children under the age of 7 access the NDIS differently and this will be covered in a different article.

About the writer

This article was written by Caroline Daley, a leading NDIS expert. She has held several roles assisting the NDIA, including writing the original NDIS documentation and fact sheets on self-management, becoming a qualified NDIS Assistive Technology mentor, and speaking at dozens of events. Caroline began planHELP upon realising thousands of Australians struggle to effectively create and action their NDIS plans.

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