NDIS – The National Disability Insurance Scheme

For parents of children who are blind or vision impaired, navigating the educational arena, social security systems and various disability support agencies connected to your child’s support needs may seem confusing enough without the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (known as NDIS). The NDIS does however represent a landmark change in disability funding within Australia. It presents the opportunity for you to ensure that your child’s support needs are more fully funded with greater self-determination and choice. Its aim is to ensure that people with disabilities receive the necessary and essential funding to provide services to meet their specific needs, access to adaptive equipment, and increased participation in the wider community. It may also present parents and carers with increased support. The intention of the scheme is to address perceived gaps in disability funding and ensure that funds are directed where they are most needed.

Under the ‘education’ umbrella, Statewide Vision Resource Centre and your Visiting Teachers will not become NDIS providers. However, SVRC staff and Visiting Teachers (Vision) may be able to assist you to:

  • Understand how the NDIS will affect your child’s support and funding
  • Find out when the NDIS is coming to your area
  • Help you to work out if your child is likely to be eligible
  • Direct you to useful resources to grow your understanding about the NDIS
  • Alert you to networks and community forums you may wish to attend
  • Talk to you about your child’s possible short term and long term goals
  • Find out about local NDIS service coordination providers

The following information aims to give an overview of the NDIS and answer some frequently asked questions about the scheme. The NDIS is in its infancy and therefore may be subject to change; it should be noted that SVRC has made every effort to ensure that the information is true and correct at the time of publication the information presented here has been compiled in consultation with SVRC staff, SVRC families, Disability service providers, Visiting Teachers, the NDIA and disability consumer organisations. For more information, please reference the NDIS resource link on this page and look for NDIS updates in the SVRC Bulletin published fortnightly.

Your child may be eligible to become a participant in the scheme if they usually need support from a person and/or equipment to do everyday tasks for themselves because of a disability or condition that is likely to be permanent. Some parents find it difficult to define the kinds of day to day tasks their child requires assistance with that directly relate to their disability and therefore are unclear if their child is eligible for the scheme and whether their child requires any changes to their current support arrangements. It may be useful to note down the types of daily supports you assist your child with that specifically relate to their disability. Parents and families connected to SVRC already accessing the scheme, have noted that this strategy assisted them to think about their child’s eligibility and what opportunities may be accessed for their child through participation in the scheme.

To access NDIS funding – an individual needs to be able to demonstrate the functional implications and specific needs that directly result from their disability. These needs are assessed by the National Disability Insurance Agency as to whether they are ‘necessary’ and ‘reasonable’.  Some families associated with the SVRC have already successfully applied for NDIS funding and more families will do so as the scheme is rolled out across Victoria. We know of students in both the legally blind and partially sighted categories of vision, who have been found eligible for NDIS packages.

You will need to test your child’s eligibility for the NDIS with the NDIA which involves an assessment to determine whether or not they face barriers in any of the following four areas of daily living:

  • Communication
  • Mobility
  • Self-care
  • Self-management

For a child who is blind or vision impaired, a few examples of such obstacles might include:

  • difficulty accessing information
  • difficulty accessing transport to different parts of the community
  • difficulty accessing recreational activities

People wishing to access the NDIS must be aged under 65 years and must live in Australia and be:

  • an Australian citizen OR
  • a permanent resident OR
  • hold a Protected Special Category Visa

To determine if your child is eligible, you will need to complete an ‘Access request form’. You can call the NDIA on 1800 800 110 if you have any questions or to ask for an access request form.

Your child may be eligible for the NDIS even if they are not classified as legally blind, as access to the scheme is determined on need.  We know of students in both the legally blind and partially sighted categories of vision, who have been found eligible for NDIS packages. Differing levels of evidence may be required depending on whether your child’s vision impairment falls into classification list A or B.

There is a formal complaint process you can follow to appeal the decision

If your child is assessed as being ineligible for the scheme and you feel that this decision is unjust, you can appeal the decision and ask for the application to be reviewed through the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).  If the matter cannot be resolved through the NDIA, it can then be progressed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where an independent decision will be made.

 

The NDIS is steadily being rolled out across Australia and not all regions of Victoria have access to the scheme as yet.

To access the NDIS right now, you must live in an area in which it is currently available.

In Victoria, the Northern East Melbourne, Central Highlands and Loddon regions joined the scheme   from 1 July 2016. Many families associated with the SVRC living in these localities began accessing the scheme from that date.  The regions of Inner Gippsland, Ovens-Murray, Western District, Inner Eastern Melbourne, Outer Eastern Melbourne, Hume-Moreland and the Bayside Peninsula will enter the scheme from July 2017, followed by Southern Melbourne, Western Melbourne, Brimbank-Melton, Goulburn, Mallee and Outer Gippsland from July 2018.

Victorian children on the Early Childhood Intervention Services waitlist will enter the scheme during the first two years of transition and ahead of the scheduled transition of each region.

To see a full listing of when and where the NDIS will be rolled out, go to www.ndis.gov.au, click on ‘Victoria’ and then ‘Roll out of the NDIS in Victoria’.

Once it has been determined that your child is eligible for the scheme, you will be invited to sit down with a NDIA planner. The planner’s role is to assist you to develop a plan that will outline the types of “reasonable and necessary” services and supports that you wish to use your individualised funding to purchase on behalf of your child. It is useful to pre-plan for this meeting and organise and document your support requests. It is not enough to demonstrate your child’s disability, the crucial step in successfully advocating for your child’s support needs is that you demonstrate the impacts of your child’s disability and the specific and necessary supports they will need in order to maximise life outcomes (both short and long term). Some parents find the notion of detailing the support they give their child and the impacts upon the family unit challenging to define and it may be useful to keep a diary about the kinds of supports your child requires help with both in the home and community in order to prepare for your assessment meeting.  Jotting these formal and informal  supports down can be really useful when it comes time to write your child’s participant statement.

You may choose to attend the NDIA assessment meeting independently, or with an advocate, friend, family member or Support Coordinator to assist you. The Support Coordinator is your NDIS contact person to discuss any questions about your plan. More details about who can assist you with your child’s NDIA assessment meeting are listed below.  The process can be completed, over multiple visits and in a way that is comfortable and convenient to you and your family. It can be conducted in your own home, an alternative setting that is suitable to you and your child or in an NDIS office. Some families associated with the SVRC have noted that arranging a telephone appointment toward their assessment has sped up the process and allowed them to meet with the NDIA from the comfort of their own homes.

More NDIA offices will be opening as the roll out of the program continues across Victoria.

You may choose to attend this meeting on your own, or with an advocate, friend, family member or Service Coordinator to assist you. While some people may choose to utilise the NDIS service coordination services of a blindness agency, there are a huge number of organisations who can provide such services. You may wish to consider an advocate on the basis of:

  • Who best understands the specific needs of your child
  • What your child’s primary disability is (where there may be multiple impairments) and who best understands the specific supports they require.

A comprehensive list of these organisations can be found at:

https://www.ndis.gov.au/providers/find-registered-service-providers/provider-lists

The NDIS offers participants greater choice and self-determination over their funding package. It is your choice as to whether you self-manage your child’s NDIS package or whether you enlist the services of a NDIS service coordination provider.  While some persons with disabilities receiving NDIS funding prefer to manage their own money and services, for many parents of children accessing the scheme for the first time however, they may prefer to have an external agency manage their funding for at least the first year while they learn the processes and responsibilities involved in administering their funding package.  The choice is yours.
For young Children wishing to access early intervention, they need to:

  • have a disability or condition that is likely to be permanent (lifelong); or
  • be a child under 6 years of age with a developmental delay and the delay means they usually need more help with their self-care, communication, learning or motor skills than another child of the same age.

It is important to note that Early intervention supports provided by the NDIS are those not provided by any other services such as health and education.

While the SVRC is not a NDIS service coordination provider we do understand that we are often the first point of contact for many families with regard to their child’s assessment and understand that the introduction of the scheme can seem confusing and challenging to parents. Our staff are always available to discuss what supports are available for children with vision impairments.

The National Disability Insurance Agency have developed the following list of questions to assist you to determine if early intervention supports would advantage your child. You may wish to consider if Early Intervention Services would:

  • reduce the impact of your child’s impairment or condition or developmental delay?
  • stop the impact of their impairment or condition from getting worse?
  • strengthen informal supports, such as helping a parent or carer to keep supporting a child?
While any child under 18 has someone with parental responsibility sign off on their plan, at 18 all contact goes directly to the person with the disability. Parents might need to think about ways to ensure their child has an affective voice in the process if they’re older.
Individuals receiving NDIS packages will not lose Centre Link health care card benefits or their disability support pension (Blind), if they apply and are successful in gaining a NDIS funding package. They will however automatically lose Centre Link mobility payments. This does not mean they will be worse off; in fact, the opposite is true, as nobody should be disadvantaged under the scheme.
There is no minimum funding under the NDIS. Your child’s plan outlines short and long term goals and aspirations, and being part of the NDIS means your child should have access to the support they need to meet these goals; regardless of their situation or diagnosis.

Types of supports that the NDIS might fund include:

  • support for daily living activities like getting dressed and eating
  • transport so that your child can take part in community or social activities, or go to school
  • therapeutic support including behavior support
  • modifications to your home, including design and construction
  • equipment or technology to help your child, as long as it is ‘reasonable and necessary’.

Some families already accessing the NDIS have noted some very positive outcomes that have directly resulted from their NDIS funding:

‘Our NDIS package helped my blind child go to her school camp. It provided assistance on the camp.’

‘Our package provided iPads for our two partially sighted boys, and prescription sports sunglasses, because these were all things that were needed outside of school to help them participate in the community.

NDIS is unlikely to fund support that:

  • isn’t related to your child’s disability
  • duplicates other support already funded by mainstream services like the education or health systems
  • is part of day-to-day living costs that aren’t related to your child’s disability support needs
  • is likely to cause harm to your child or pose a risk to others.

For example, the NDIS will fund early interventions such as speech therapy or physiotherapy, but it won’t fund disability inclusion support for kindergartens or modifications to preschool buildings, because these are considered the responsibility of the early childhood education system.

For children of school age, the NDIS will fund support that enables a child to go to school, such as help with self-care at school, specialist transport or a hearing aid. The NDIS won’t however fund teachers or learning-specific aids like computer technology (used for school), because these supports are considered the responsibility of the education system.

Resources and Links

The following resources have been compiled by SVRC staff to assist you to understand more about the NDIS and how your child can become a participant in the scheme. It may be useful for you to visit these resources and even begin the thinking around your child’s participant statement even if it is some time until the scheme is rolled out to your locality.

DARU – the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit

They have a weekly e-bulletin which comes out every Monday. It’s Victoria specific but it provides information and resources which are relevant in a national context. It’s very easy to quickly navigate through so that time poor parents don’t waste their time going through information which is not of value.

Disability Loop

This operates out of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO). It is designed specifically for people with disability and their families to provide information about the NDIS. Everything is written in plain English and is designed in line with the W3C web accessibility guidelines. They also have a newsletter you can subscribe to from the front page of the website.

The NDIS website

Some parents find this web site challenging, as while it is extremely comprehensive, it can be difficult to navigate, especially if you don’t know what you are looking for. The good news is that the Disability Loop website and newsletter will always post up to date information about any new information or resource or report that is posted on the NDIS website.

The Department of Social Services – Children and Parents page

This website is worth regularly checking out. DSS funds many disability advocacy organisations and various projects and programs which are useful to children and families with disability. They fund a number of programs which will eventually transition to the NDIS, so it’s worth always checking out their website for any news and timeframes or resources.

Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS)

They are a Victorian state-wide advocacy service for children and young people aged up to 25 years. They run a range of events and outreach services and programs, including an NDIS engagement service. They have a very active Facebook page.

Children and Young People with Disabilities Australia (CYDA)

They are the national peak body representing children with disability. They mainly do policy and systemic advocacy work.

Lastly, but most importantly, you can subscribe to the SVRC’s fortnightly bulletin, where you will find regular updates regarding the NDIS, specific to the interests of children with vision impairment, as well as a range of other useful information for parents and educators.   It is available on our home page or you can view past editions or subscribe at:

http://svrc.vic.edu.au/resources/the-bulletin/