Thursday, November 16, 2017

My Path Through the NDIS maze

Welcome to the new world of disability support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  The ndis support system moves from a medical care system of support, to an environment where individuals and  families are empowered to actively design their support networks. 

This is achieved by nominating your goals to your ndis planner. This simply means telling your planner about the things and the activities you or your family member wants to engage in. This could be:-
  1. Finishing high school .
  2. Entering  rehabilitation program.
  3. Writing a behaviour management plan or
  4. Speech therapy to help your child learn to talk.

Goals may or may not relate to your disability.  One of my goals is to build my visual arts practise.


I am an artists who seeks to mentor other artists living with disabilities through my Ignite Artists Network. 

Some of your goals might relate to your disability, like my goal to purchase a new power chair to enable me to work in tight art spaces. So your ndis plan is not about your disability or the things you can do. Your plan is about what you want to do and how you what to do these things!

Support to do the things you want to do!

These goals will help your planner work with you to tease out the supports you will need.  It is important that you understand your plan is about you and your families needs.

Your plan is not about:-

  • Service providers
  • Support staff you want
  • Day or social programs you or your family wants to attend
  • Or what other people think you should do.

The services and supports you decide to purchase can be determined once you receive your ndis plan from the ndia.  However that doesn't mean you shouldn't be thinking about, your support providers now and the types of supports you and/or your family want to access and what you want your day to day routine to look like.   For many individuals and families day to day life might look much like it does today. 

In essence my life looks no different to the outsider than it did before I transferred to the ndis.  My ndis goals pretty much match my life goals, to work in the arts sector. However I was determined  under the ndis to create a weekly schedule that worked around my art practise. 

I dearly wanted an end to squeezing in developing my art skills and knowledge. To do this I decided to move from four direct service providers to one provider who provider my in home supports and my community access supports. The jury is still out as to whether this was a wise choice.

Ndis is about making choices for your life

Before the ndis I felt my life was dominate by my support services and the times their workers were available to work. Not only could I only access the services Disabilities Services assigned to me, but many support workers thought they knew what I needed, better than I did and even better than my coordinator.

Moving all my direct supports to one service and having o fixed roster has worked really well for me. Sadly other parts of the services delivery aren't working.  Many providers, including my current direct service provider are struggling to attract suitable staff for an industry under going significant change. 

The other issue for me has been transport and the cost of that transport. Previously staff of the provider I chose were not required to transport for clients. Thus so driving their own cars to transport for their community access was not a condition of their employment. I was reassured by the provider that under the ndis this would change. However, this shift in policy has resulted in a major change in thinking for my support staff. Many staff do want to transport clients in their own cars. 

So in terms of your own goals and what services you are wanting to purchase, you may have goals around education and learning new things, skills building and/or independent living skills, some participants are learn to drive or access transport independently. Assistance with transport and associate costs are available as part of your ndis package. 

An another area or goal to consider under the ndis is living arrangements and accommodation. Some participants will choose to continue living in supported accommodation or family members. For those with high complex needs supported accommodation will remain their only options. Other participants currently living with parents or family members may consider moving into their own home or living with a group of friends.  

In terms of own goals around accommodation, my independence and safety are very important.  So I have life goals around my safety and maintaining an ability to be safe on my own. While I currently I on my own, this may change in the future.  Who knows I might finally meet Mr Right. 

Your goals may centre around friendships and social gatherings.  If so group based activities may be just what your looking for.  Some participants will have partners and may be looking to marry and start a family.  I guess your goals with center on where you  and/or for family members are on the lifespan journey called life. 

Many parents will desire their children to develop to a level that enables them to be independence in their participatiom in the community at level suitable for their level of disability.  Your fsmilies ndis plan could include funds to maximise your child's independence. For me that's about accessing physio and a new wheelchair.  

Step Two - Purchasing Your Services

So step one is about the planning process.  Step two is about purchasing your supports. Once your ndis plan has been approved there you are able to start purchasing your supports. This is where you should start to notice the change in the way you will be supported under the ndis. 

Unlike the previous system in Queensland your planner or Local Area Coorindator is not going to tell you what services you must use. You don't need only service .com or services you are currently using.  That is not giving you choice of purchase. However you and your family might be happy with your current provider and not make any changes and that is your choice under the the ndis and this is what many participants are opting for.

Your ndis Local Area Coordinator assist you with finding services that suit your needs and assist you in the dialogue process. For each provider you will need to establish a service agreement. The process by how this happen.

Remember you do have choices and that includes 
the right to change your mine

Just as each participants goals and aspirations are different, so to are the type of  services  and the way the purchase services vary.  The essential thing to remember in stage two is you do have choices and you also have the right to change your mind.  Under the ndis you don't need to justify your choices, although providers will always value your feedback.

Contracts or service agreements prior to the ndis you would of had  with your provider(s), would outline the services you would access and responsibilities of your service provider and your rights and responsibility as a client.  In general these were reviewed every 12 months, unless things changed for you or your family. 

Now under the ndis as a purchaser of services you can determine the period you want to purchase a particular service for.  It can be 3 months, 69 days of 12 months. Agreements under the ndis must have a cost and payment agreement attached, so you are aware you are able to afford the services you are purchasing. 

Once you receive you plan and you budget your local area coordinator will explain the types of services you can purchase and the amount of money you have to spend on each type of service. 
You will find a service price guide on the ndis, this lists all the different types of services that may be purchased on the ndis website and your planner with highlight which service you can purchase with your package. 

So your service provider coordinator is no longer able to determine which services you will receive. Rather you tell them which of their services you want them to provide. This is where some earlier planning and research into services you hoped to purchased with your package will be very helpful.  Even though I felt confident in the choices I was making at the time, I still poked around and talked to new providers that were popping up. 

The ndis requires a transition period for all of us, not just participants. Service providers too are struggling with the change in purchasing power of the participants.  In Queensland it is fair to say we underestimate the increase in supporters needed under the scheme.  Many providers have struggled with staff availability and even current support workers struggle with their changing roles. 

In terms of the purchasing process and managing their funding participants can choose from a number of options, depending on the level of control or involvement they are seeking in directing their own supports. 

1) Is too had the ndia (National Disability Insurance Agency) to make your purchases on your behalf. 

2) Select a provider who will make your purchases for you.  Be aware that if the provider is offering other services as well, their advice many not be completely independent.  All providers are now after you ndis dollar. 

However their are things you can have written into your service agreements for your protection. Or you can stipulate your with only be purchasing plan management from them. 

3) There a number of ways you can self manage you funding. I am have chosen to self-manage my own package through a Planner, but be aware you do have a choice to go it alone.  

At times I found these choices are overwhelming and for the first time in my life being single leaves me feeling overwhelmed, make no mistake, its very easy to get lost in the maze of services. 

At times it feels like I walking in a shopping center doing my Christmas Shopping on Christmas Eve. Every service provider has endeavoured to display the best Christmas Tree in their window to attract you to into their shop front display. These  multi-coloured lights demand your attention and distract you from you mission to purchase the service that you have predetermined.  They will also offer you the usual optional extras, such as support coordination. Make sure you stick to your shopping list and budget.  

The golden rule of a major purchase is still don't buy anything on the spot.  Go home and think about your purchase, they will need time to provide a quote and write the agreement anyway. Use this time well, double check the service is covered by your ndis plan.  If you are unsure you can ask for a shorter agreement period. Your purchase is only finalised once you sign the agreement,

As I am self-managing I am still getting my head around what I can purchase from who, under which item number. Meeting with my plan today resulted in being made aware of services I could be purchasing to make self-managing easier and increase my confidence. So now I have new questions for my local area coordinator.   

We all know all that glitters is not gold and there are trap out there, as with any purchase it is case of 'buyer beware'.  I thought I had thought through my purchases very well.  I now know my hopes for the service I desired, wasn't delivered by current provider.

In the current environment  services are tripping over each other to get you through thier front door to show you their nice shiny brochures and their product service guide, without know if they have the right staff to meet your needs.  Rested assured it won't take us long to recruit the staff your after.  We recruiting more staff rang through my ears.  

A statement I her many times, until I didn't believe they could find what I asked for.  For months there was a gap in my service provision the same statement was repeated We recruiting more staff.  At the same time I heard they were continuing to sign more clients despite being unable to provided current demand. 

Now I am looking for something else to suit my needs and other customers are running out the door to drag you in to listen to the hype the sales assistance has to offer. Most of the sale staff all want to sell you the same thing, FEAR!

Fear that other services are unknown to you and thus come with unknown faults, Sometimes its better the devil you know than the devil you don't. However you still need to keep the devil accountable. 

Many providers want to sell me, 'The Fear' that to set up your own shop and employ your own labours will leave you unprotected.  In the mist of the bright flashing lights I realised, I brought fear dressed up as a service provider that promised to deliver my needs. That purchase has left me in the lurch too many times and I now once again become hunted pray for other service hungry for guaranteed income. 

The new market environment of the nids, has service providers scrambling to secure their own future.  My decision to open my own low key shop the only offers hot chocolate on its menu,  means loss of potential income for services.  In a sense have brought the same product as myself - FEAR. Their shelves are now stocked with FEAR and the magic words are not protection and insurances. 

Don't buy this smoke screen, just like any other business or employer you can use your core funding to purchase insurance and an accountant. Just like providers write policies to protect themselves, similar protections can be written into service agreements with the workers you employ.  These are the types of things my Plan Manager will assist me with. 

What others forget is I already run a business, I already take risks and do risk management assessments.  I already have a business insurance policy. Dangling those fears as Christmas lights is not going to work  I am engage the support of others who self manage, support staff who have previously worked for me assist in the recruitment process.   

Like any other major purchases you ndis service providers and agreements can contain lose screws at times. 

Keep clam its only the ndis not the end of the world

Whatever the challenge keep moving forward!

1 comment:

  1. A great article sharing the ups and downs of a participant who has run their own business and is happy to share learnings from setting up and self managing their NDIS Plan. Thanks for sharing this Debbie.