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NDIS Support Plans: Everything you need to know to get started

Tired of feeling overwhelmed by the NDIS? Clarify your planning options with this comprehensive list of all the basics

Like never before, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) offers people like you or your child, the opportunity for greater flexibility and control over the funding for your support. 

It sounds like a dream come true, right? Support on your terms? You might have heard a little about the NDIS already, or your current service provider might have offered to help you with your NDIS Support Plan. So, you did some digging to find out what is really going on.

You’ve found lots of information which is great! But er… wait. There’s also lots of buzzwords like ‘capacity building’ and ‘reasonable and necessary’ supports. And some of the information is different from some of the stuff you’ve already been told by your service provider.

You’re confused. And we don’t blame you. It’s time to set the record straight and give you the confidence to make the most of your NDIS support plans. This post will give you a comprehensive list of everything you need to know about your options before you sit down to submit your first official Plan and start achieving your dreams.

1. Understanding why the NDIS is a better option

Let’s start at the beginning. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is your insurance policy for flexible support that enables you to live a happy, fulfilled life – to the best of your abilities. In their own words, ‘The NDIS takes a lifetime approach, investing in people with disability early, to improve their outcomes later in life.’

Managed by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the NDIS is the introduction of a client-centred funding model. For the first time, this model will give people like you (also known as Participants), a choice to decide how you’d like to be funded and managed. It means you don’t have to fit into existing programs, you get to create and implement a personalised NDIS support plan the way you’d like to receive it.

You get to design your plan, your way.

Understanding your options when entering the NDIS, helps you make informed choices about designing your support plan so that you get the most out of your funding. If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible for the NDIS, you can check these access requirements.

2. Your NDIS Support, Your Choice

This flexibility and control offered by the NDIS comes from your ability to choose how you manage and spend your funding. When you are just starting out, it’s good to know that any decisions you make about managing your funding can be changed later.

These are your options:

You can have the NDIA (or Agency) do it for you

This means that you give control to the NDIA to pay for and engage your supports for you. This option is similar to the traditional way of seeking support and your funds will be managed by the NDIA. They’ll work with you to find the support that fits you while giving you choice and control over what you’re engaged in. If you decide to have your Plan Agency Managed, the NDIA will only engage NDIS Registered Providers to support you.

You can use a Registered Plan Manager

A Plan Manager, like First2Care, can help you manage your funding (such as organising and helping you understand your funding, paying invoices and tracking expenses) and give you the freedom to choose your supports.

You may also choose to employ a registered Support Coordinator who can help you put your Plan into action and get you moving towards reaching your goals. It is a good idea to make a note of any of the options that appeal to you so they can be included in your Plan. 

You can Self Manage your Plan

Self-management is when you choose to stay in control of who you engage to support you, as well as managing all the financial tasks and reporting to the NDIA. This option might seem daunting to you, but the NDIS Management App, First2Care, makes self-managing easy. 

Self-managing your supports mean workers, providers and other businesses you ask to help you meet your goals, are accountable to you because you are in control of your funding. You’ll have the final say on how your support is provided, and when.

When you Self-Manage your NDIS Plan, you’re not limited to registered Support Providers. You might need to employ a personal trainer to assist you with your exercise goals as part of your plan but are not limited to choosing one that is registered with the NDIS (as many won’t be).

This is okay because it is helping you achieve your ‘reasonable and necessary’ goals. Similarly, you might need additional help to maintain your yard in order to reach your goal of living independently, but it’s unlikely a handyman will be a Registered Provider with the NDIS.

As long as the NDIS agrees your funds are going towards ‘reasonable and necessary’ support for your goals, (i.e. those that are related to your disability, and not everyday living expenses), then it should be okay.

We recommend checking with your Planner to verify what can be funded, as the NDIS will not cover everyday expenses that don’t relate to your disability.

TIP: If you're in doubt as to how to use your funding, your Plan Manager can tell you whether it's covered or not. A good Plan Manager will give you choice, control and collaborate with you transparently, to help you understand your plan and make the most of your funds.

Read here how to choose a Plan Manager that suits you.

You can choose a mix of these options that suit you

This might mean you begin by asking a Support Coordinator or a Local Area Coordinator to help you out. Then you might gradually take over that role as you feel more comfortable. You can also engage workers, providers or other businesses to teach you how to self-manage your NDIS funding. This is called ‘capacity building’.

This might mean you seek help from a bookkeeper who can teach you how to pay your worker’s invoices and report to the NDIS. These professional services will help you over time to become more independent and get more from your funding. 

The most important thing to remember is that none of these options are fixed. If you decide to have your Plan Agency managed now, you can decide you want to do more and review, and change it later.

Choice and control? Yes!

3. Your first NDIS Support Plan starts with your life now

If you tick all the right boxes and are eligible for funding, you’ll need to start thinking about your life right now, so that you can translate that into an NDIS support plan that features your goals and aspirations. The best way to do this is to start a conversation early with your existing carers, or loved ones, and write these down.

This can seem like an overwhelming task and you might be worried that you’ll miss something out. If this sounds like you, the First2Care app is a great place to start. 

Inside the app, you can complete the step-by-step Pre-Planning Template called ‘My Life Now’. You don’t have to create your NDIS support pre-plan alone either. You can invite your friends, family, and existing carers or search for a Registered Pre-Planner to connect inside the app and get help with this process. 

In ‘My Life Now’ you’ll be asked to think about:

1. Your current circumstances (living and working arrangements etc)

2. Your regular activities on each day (education, social activities, appointments, employment etc)

3. What is working well in your day to day life, and what isn’t (so that you can think about the support you are currently getting and the support you will need so that things improve)

4. What your main challenges are (accessibility to services, managing finances, lack of confidence etc)

5. What your strengths are (personal autonomy, preparing simple meals, taking public transport etc)

6. What interests you (maintaining friendships, dancing, art, sport etc)

7. What existing supports you have (paid and unpaid)

8. What important relationships you have

9. What aids and equipment you have or need

What your goals are for:

a) Employment

b) Education

c) Social Participation

d) Independence

e) Living arrangements

f) Health and Wellbeing

The First2Care app is designed to help you collaborate with those close to you and start the conversation about a personalised plan that suits you. Then you can turn it into a printable pre-planning booklet for your planning meeting with the NDIS. Don’t forget to bring any current reports, assessments or medical information with you to the meeting too.

4. The NDIS is about you

It can feel dehumanising to have to explain every detail about your life to every agency that promises support and the NDIS is no different.

First2Care understands that you want to get it right the first time. Pre-planning tools like the First2Care app help you:

Explain what you need to the NDIS

a) In a format they understand – using the NDIS pre-planning booklet

b) And make it easier for them to convert this into your official Plan.

Ultimately it’s the NDIS’s job to decide what’s funded and what isn’t, and it helps to understand that their job is to make sure you’ll get adequate support while keeping in mind the cost to do so. This is why the NDIS only funds supports that are ‘reasonable and necessary’.

If you feel you need help advocating for funding, you can ask your current Support Provider or a Disability Advocate to help you. They might attend the final Planning meeting with you.

So what is ‘reasonable and necessary’?

1. The NDIS defines a support plan that is ‘reasonable and necessary’ as something that must: 

2. Be related to the participant’s disability

3. Not include day-to-day living costs that are not related to a participant’s disability support needs

4. Represent value for money

5. Be likely to be effective and beneficial to the participant, and

6. Take into account informal supports given to participants by families, carers, networks, and the community.

They won’t fund support plans:

1. That are not related to your disability

2. Are related to everyday costs that don’t have anything to do with your support needs,

3. Or are likely to cause harm or pose a risk to others. 

TIP: If you order your reasonable and necessary supports from most important to least important, it can help you identify the support you need now. You may not be able to achieve some of your dreams straight away, but if you view each NDIS Support Plan as a stepping stone, you can see you’re already on the path to achieve those bigger goals.

Libby Ellis of In Charge says the danger is that people won’t know they can include their goals when designing their new NDIS Support Plan. So, it’s important to do your research and if in doubt, ask questions.

5. Get creative with your goals in your NDIS Support Plan

Once you’ve started the conversation about what support you have, might need and how these fit into your first Support Plan, it’s worth taking a moment to ask yourself these questions again:

a) What’s missing from your life?

b) What would you like to change?

c) What is stopping you from obtaining those missing things?

d) What would make a difference?

These can help you identify any immediate goals you might have, that have been lost amongst the noise in your current conversation. The way disability support is being provided is changing, and you need to be bold in your approach to what you ask for. If one of your dreams is to learn to drive and get your license – but you’ve never thought it possible – now is the time to make it happen. Don’t sell yourself short because of past limitations.

6. Find support groups and attend events

Like any new government program, the NDIS hasn’t been without its hiccups. This is why they’ve trialed the release in some areas, before releasing the entire scheme to the country at once. The problems that occur in those areas, can be amended as the rollout continues across Australia.

Don’t let the previous problems with the NDIS hold you back.

Sometimes getting the right information is not just about the questions you ask, but who you ask. And sometimes Providers get things wrong too. If something doesn’t sound right, it’s okay to get a second opinion.

If you’re not sure who to ask, you can check the schedule of NDIS information events happening around Australia to find one closest to you and your capital city, or for events happening in Queensland, you can check the Queensland Government’s calendar. For peer support and advice you can search for support groups online – such as those on Facebook run by other parents, participants, and providers.

Although it all seems overwhelming at first, the NDIS has been called the most significant social reform since Medicare was introduced, and we owe it to ourselves to make the most of the funding opportunities and show Australia that anything is possible. Read more about the benefits of working with a Plan Manager. Alternatively, register with our FREE NDIS Plan Management platform, so we can start helping you best manage your plan today.

Read more about First2Care’s plan management features.

Over to you

What has been your biggest challenge or fear when looking for information about your NDIS Support Plan? We’d love to hear about it. If you liked this article please share and comment below.