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Welcome to the August edition of Bedford Connect

Keeping our Clients and Families informed and connected!

Bedford Connect is a way for us to regularly keep our Bedford community connected and informed, and another means of providing you with an update on important topics and what’s happening at Bedford.

We value and welcome your feedback, so if there’s anything you’d like to hear about in Bedford Connect, you need assistance with, or wish to provide feedback on, please email the Media, Marketing and Communications team via the button below – we’d love to hear from you!

In our June issue (previously titled Family Matters) we talked about how Bedford is assisting our clients to prepare for the changes to how NDIS funding supports people with disability who work in Supported Employment.

We also spoke about the expansion of our service offerings across the whole organisation, including opportunities within our Day Options and Community Access & Lifestyle programs.

In the changing NDIS environment, we know that at times it may be challenging to navigate, and that funding changes introduced by the NDIA may be confusing. In this edition, we provide information to help you understand the processes.

Understanding the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA)

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is the independent government organisation that runs the NDIS.

The NDIA makes decisions about whether someone is eligible to become an NDIS Participant and, if so, how much funding is allocated in their NDIS plan.

These decisions are based on legislation called the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 which sets out:

  • The eligibility requirements every NDIS Participant must meet.
  • What supports and services are considered reasonable and necessary for the NDIS to fund.

Local Area Coordinators (LACs)

Partners in the Community are community-based organisations working with the NDIA to deliver the NDIS. These partners employ and provide Local Area Coordination (LACs). For most people aged seven years and older, an LAC will be the main point of contact.

LACs can help in:

  • Understanding and accessing the NDIS – this might include workshops or individual conversations about the NDIS
  • Creating a plan – if eligible for an NDIS plan, the LAC will need to learn about a Participant’s current situation, supports, and goals to help develop the plan. It is important to know that LACs cannot approve an NDIS plan, this is done by someone from the NDIA
  • Implementation of plan - the LAC will help to find and start receiving services in the NDIS plan. LACs can also provide assistance throughout the plan period if required
  • Reviewing the plan – the LAC will provide support to make changes to plans during a plan review. This generally occurs 12 months after a plan is implemented

LACs can also link NDIS Participants to information and support within the community to help:

  • Learn about supports available in the local community.
  • Understand how the NDIS works with other government services – these include supports like education, health, and transport.
  • Sustain supports– this could be family, friends, and local community members.

You can find an LAC by visiting ndis.gov.au to search for offices in your area, or call 1800 800 110.

Support Coordinators

A Support Coordinator can support and help implement a Participant’s plan and build the ability to connect with supports and services. The Participant’s NDIS Planner, or LAC, may also recommend a Support Coordinator, if their situation is more complex, or there are specific goals that a Participant needs help to achieve.

Support Coordinators will also assist Participants to best use their plan and can also assist Participants in planning ahead to prepare for plan reviews.

The NDIS may fund the cost of a Support Coordinator in an NDIS Participant’s plan where the need for a Support Coordinator is recognised.

A Support Coordinator can assist with:

  • Helping a Participant to understand and implement the funded supports in their plan and link them to community, mainstream, and other government services
  • Focusing on supporting a Participant to build skills and direct their life, connect them to providers, and assist them to negotiate with providers about what they will offer Participants and how much it will cost out of their NDIS plan
  • Ensuring service agreements and service bookings are completed. They will help build a Participant’s ability to exercise choice and control, to coordinate supports and access to their local community

Specialist Support Coordinators

A Support Coordinator and a Specialist Support Coordinator are very similar, however, there are some key differences.

A Specialist Support Coordinator will be funded by the NDIS if a Participant has additional high or complex needs – this will be a qualified and experienced practitioner, such as a Developmental Educator, Occupational Therapist, Psychologist, or Social Worker.

Specialist Support Coordinators will support a Participant to manage challenges within health or education services. Specialist Support Coordination aims to reduce barriers to implementing or using an NDIS plan.

What Supports and Services can the NDIS fund?

Every NDIS Participant has an individual plan that is reflective of their individual circumstance, support needs, and goals. NDIS Participants use funding to purchase supports and services that supports the goals outlined in their NDIS plan.

Categories of Participant’s NDIS funding

The NDIA funds a range of reasonable and necessary supports and services, which may include capacity building supports, therapeutic supports, education, employment, social participation, independence, living arrangements, and health and wellbeing.

A reasonable and necessary support or service:

  • must be related to the Participant’s permanent disability
  • must not include day-to-day living costs unrelated to the Participant’s disability support needs, such as groceries
  • should represent value for money
  • must be likely to be effective and work for the Participant
  • should take into account support given to the Participant by other government services, your family, carers, networks, and the community*

*Although the NDIS primarily supports people with permanent and significant disability, their NDIS-funded supports and services may also have a direct or indirect benefit for families and carers. Families and carers provide help and support that could otherwise be provided by formal services or paid support workers.

Types of Support Budgets

Core Supports Budget

A Participant’s Core budget is the most flexible, and includes four categories of support:

  1. Consumables (eg, purchasing everyday use items such as continence aids)
  2. Daily Activities (eg, assistance with self-care activities during the day or evening)
  3. Assistance with Social and Community Participation (eg, supports to enable Participants to engage in social or recreational activities)
  4. Transport (eg, if the Participant is unable to use public transport because of their disability)

The good news is that generally funds that have been allocated against one Core support category can be used to purchase supports under another Core support category. For example, funds allocated to Consumables may be used for a Daily Activities cost.

The flexibility in the Core funding is helpful if a Participant has used all of their funding in one of the four support categories. This may be an option unless funds in a given category have been set aside for a specific purpose, eg, ongoing pre-allocated funds like:

  • A periodic payment for transport
  • Compensation
  • Specialised Disability Accommodation, ie, accommodation for participants who require specialist housing solutions due to significant functional impairment and/or very high support needs
  • In-kind, eg, Government pre-paid supports such as school transport or some therapy supports
  • Stated item (including quotes for certain items) eg, assistance in a shared living arrangement

If changes are made to the category from which supports are withdrawn (Consumables used for a Daily Activities cost), care needs to be taken not to use all of the funds, (in this example we used the Consumables category), to ensure Participant’s funds will be available until the end of the plan.

Capacity Building budget

The Capacity Building funding is allocated across eight support sub-categories, each matched with the goals in a Participant’s plan. There is some flexibility in the Capacity budget, with Participants choosing how to spend these funds to purchase any approved individual support within the same category. However, unlike the Core budget, funds cannot be moved from one category to another.

The Capacity Building support categories include:

  1. Choice and Control (eg, training in planning and plan management)
  2. Daily Activity (eg, therapy aimed at building a Participant’s capacity to participate)
  3. Employment (eg, employment related assessment and counselling)
  4. Health and Wellbeing (eg, exercise advice required because of the impact of disability)
  5. Home Living (eg, support to obtain/retain appropriate accommodation)
  6. Lifelong Learning (eg, assistance moving from school to further education)
  7. Relationships (eg, positive behaviour support strategies to reduce behaviours of concern)
  8. Social and Community Participation (eg, individual life skills development and training including public transport training and support, developing skills for community, social and recreational participation)

Support Coordination (if required) is included in the Capacity Building budget.

Capital Support budget

The Capital Support budget relates to supports such as assistive technology or modifications to a Participant’s home, and as such, depends on quotes from suppliers. Funds within this budget can only be used for their specific purpose (eg, a rail in the bathroom or a wheelchair) and cannot be used to fund other items.

The Capital Support budget has two support categories:

  • Assistive Technology – includes equipment items for mobility, personal care, communication, and recreational inclusion (eg, wheelchairs, vehicle modifications, communication devices, etc)
  • Home Modifications (eg, rail in the bathroom)

Who can manage an NDIS Participant’s Plan?

There are three options for managing an NDIS Participant’s Plan:

  • Self-Management by the Participant (or nominated representative)
    The NDIS provides a Guide to understand Self-Management. This guide is updated regularly to ensure it meets the needs of people self-managing their NDIS funding
  • Engaging a Plan Manager
    Plan management is when a provider supports in managing funds within the NDIS plan. These providers are known as Plan Managers.

    A Plan Manager can help Participants by:
    • Increasing financial and plan management skills
    • Paying service providers
    • Getting NDIS plan budget reports and providing greater budget oversight
  • NDIA Managed
    When a plan is managed by the NDIA (sometimes referred to as agency-managed) a Participant:
    • Will have their providers claim payment electronically from the NDIS Portal
    • Cannot use unregistered providers
    • Can access the NDIS Myplace portal to see what claims providers are making against NDIS funding and keep track of budgets
    • The NDIA manages book-keeping and records of supports and services used

Bedford recommends that you check all of your invoices as they may contain genuine errors. There are also cases where some providers have been dishonest and engage in fraudulent activity. If you suspect someone may be committing fraud against the NDIA or NDIS, you should report it.

The best way to report suspected fraud is to call the NDIS Fraud Reporting and Scams Helpline on 1800 650 717.

How to arrange a Plan Manager

The NDIS include funding in a Participant’s plan to pay for their Plan Manager, if they ask for Plan Management during their NDIS planning meeting. This is separate from other services and supports in the Participant’s budget.

If a Participant is in mid-plan and wants to change, contact the NDIS on 1800 800 110 to discuss if plan management can be included in the plan.

More information on the supports of a Plan Manager is available here Plan Management Funding.

Viewing a Participant’s plan

An NDIS Participant’s plan will be available on the NDIS Myplace portal about 24 hours after it has been approved. The Participant or their Nominee will also receive a printed copy of their Plan, either in person or in the mail, in the Participant’s/Nominee’s preferred format or language.

What if the Participant doesn’t agree with their plan?

Once a Participant receives their Plan all of the details should be checked to make sure it includes everything the NDIS approved.

If a Participant/Nominee doesn’t agree with the content of the plan, they have the right to ask the NDIA for an internal review of its decision. The Participant’s partner or the NDIA, can let you know how to do this and can put you in touch with someone, such as an advocate, who can help you with this process.

Once the internal review has been completed, if the Participant/Nominee disagrees with the outcome, an application can be made for a review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Visit the AAT website at aat.gov.au or call 1800 228 333. Participants can only ask the AAT to review a decision after the NDIS has completed its review.

A Participant can reapply for NDIS funding if there is new evidence about how their disability impacts everyday life, or if their future situation changes.

NDIS Client Engagement Team

Bedford is here to help you navigate through the NDIS process. Our NDIS Client Engagement team can assist you further to understand the NDIS and how it will affect your personal situation.

Our Client Engagement team can be contacted either by phone on 8275 0211 or email clientmanagement@bedfordgroup.com.au, and you can organise to meet with them in person at a time convenient to you.

I hope you find this NDIS Update helpful. We are also looking into holding live-stream information sessions, for anyone who would like further information on how to best understand and navigate the NDIS. Please contact the Media, Marketing and Communications team to us know if you’d like to take part in a live-stream – I’ll be there and ready to answer your questions.

We are always looking for new ideas from Bedford clients and families. So, let us know what you would like us to add to our current service offerings, or to find out more about our Employment, Day Options and Community Access & Lifestyle programs, by contacting our Client Engagement Team via the buttons below.

Don’t forget to let us know what you’d like to hear about in an edition of Bedford Connect, or if you need assistance or wish to provide feedback, please send an email to the Media, Marketing and Communications team.

Thanks everyone, I know there is a lot of information included, but hope you find it helpful.

Until next time.

Kind regards