NDIS Budgets Explained: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

There are three types of support budgets that may be funded in your NDIS plan. Find out what they are and how you can make use of it!

by Veena Vinod

NDIS has become a buzzword in the disability community since its introduction in the early 2010s. Despite the criticism about the newly-introduced Independent Assessment process, the NDIS continues to be a valuable resource for people with disabilities living in Australia. At its core, the NDIS aims to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and enable them to engage meaningfully with the community. 

The NDIS also aims to provide support to younger children who are too young to access NDIS services. The Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) is a program aimed at children under the age of seven which provides assessment and treatment for children with developmental delays and disabilities. The ECEI program is built on the principles of early intervention, and also provides resources for parents to allow parents to advocate for and support their child. 

What Is NDIS and Am I Eligible?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), and provides funding for Australians with disabilities to access support services and assistive technology. Beginning in 2013 with the creation of the NDIS Act and a trial period in four states, the scheme has since been extended to Australians in all states and territories. There are currently over 400,000 participants on NDIS plans, with the number expected to rise in the future.

Prior to the introduction of the NDIS, people with disabilities in Australia faced uncertainty about their living situations and funding policies that differed between states and territories. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that people with disabilities in Australia were 2.7 times more likely to live in poverty as compared to other countries. 

The NDIS moves away from viewing disability clinically, and instead recognising the person with disability/ies as an individual with a unique experience. The NDIS also provides a structured funding model that is constant across the country, allowing NDIS participants to continue to access services with their funding regardless of geographical location. 

The basic eligibility criteria for the NDIS is as follows:

  • Australian Citizen, Permanent Resident, or Special Category Visa holder
  • Aged between 7 and 65 at the time of application
  • Permanent or significant disability that requires support and/or special equipment
  • Require support to reduce the future needs

The NDIS is not means-tested. This means that a potential participants’ economic status will have no bearing on whether or not they are able to access services. It is important to understand that meeting this criteria does not automatically entitle one to receive funding from the NDIS. Potential participants need to request access to the NDIS and undergo an assessment. If successful, these participants will be provided with an NDIS plan. 

How Can I Get an NDIS Plan?

Anyone who wishes to obtain an NDIS plan will first need to apply using an Access Request form. Applicants may also need to obtain supporting documentation from medical professionals such as their General Practitioner, Speech Pathologist, or Psychiatrist. Health professionals who provide evidence of disability must have been working with the applicant for at least six months for their documentation to be accepted. 

The NDIA will notify the applicant of the outcome of their access request. If successful, they will need to contact an assessor in their area to arrange an Independent Assessment. The Independent Assessment is free of charge and takes up to three hours. The participant can arrange to do their assessment in one day, or over several days. They can also choose to do the assessment virtually, if they wish. 

Administered by a qualified health professional, the Independent Assessment aims to get a better understanding of their needs, goals, and daily activities. Standardised assessments may also be used, if appropriate. The results of the Independent Assessment will aid in the development of an NDIS plan that meets the applicant’s immediate needs, and make provisions for improvement in the future, as appropriate. 

After the assessment, successful participants will need to attend a planning meeting. This meeting is usually with a Local Area Coordinator (LAC), who will discuss what supports are currently being used, what are needed, and understand what the participants’ current goals are in regards to their community participation. 

The LAC will also be able to advise when the participant can expect to receive their plan, and explain next steps that need to be taken after the meeting. LACs can also answer questions about the administration of the plan and how it can be used to achieve the participant’s goals.  

Support Budgets Explained

The NDIS is administered in the form of plans – with every eligible participant receiving a personalised plan after an independent assessment with a qualified health professional. The plan allocates money in each budget based on the client’s needs and goals. 

For example, a client who has complex mobility and communicative needs may receive a significant amount of money in their Core Supports budget which can be used to purchase items such as a wheelchair and communication device, whereas a client with less complex needs may receive more money in their Capacity-building budget to access a support worker to increase their community participation. Here is a breakdown of the budgets and what they cover: 

Core Supports Budget

The Core Supports budget is funding for everyday activities and immediate needs related to the participant’s disability. The level of funding allocated to this budget is dependent on the participant’s needs, goals, and current level of support. In some participants – particularly those with complex needs – the Core supports budget may be the largest. The Core Supports budget provides funding for support workers, who can provide companionship and escort the participant to events in their community. This budget also provides funding for transport and low-cost consumables such as continence aids, pressure cushions, and simple communication applications. The four support categories are listed below, along with examples of how they can be used: 

  • Assistance with Daily Life (e.g. assistance with household maintenance)
  • Consumables (e.g. continence aids, low-cost assistive technology products)
  • Assistance with Social and Community Participation (e.g. a support worker who can accompany the participant to community activities and social events) 
  • Transport (e.g. if a wheelchair-accessible Taxi is required to transport the participant)

Capacity-Building Budget

The capacity building budget is aimed at improving independence and developing skills so the participant is able to pursue their goals. In participants who may have less complex needs, the Capacity-building budget may be the largest, in order to equip them with the skills to become independent over time. The eight support categories are listed below, along with examples of how they can be used: 

  • Support Coordination (e.g. for Support Coordination for eligible participants)
  • Improved Living Arrangements (e.g. independent living facilities such as group homes) 
  • Increased Social & Community Participation (e.g. camps, classes, and vacation activities that allow the participant to build independence such as the Motor Mouth Camp)
  • Finding & Keeping a Job  (e.g. job training or employment workshops)
  • Improved Relationships (e.g. specialist behavioural intervention and social skills training)
  • Improved Health & Wellbeing (e.g. Dietitian or Exercise Physiologist visits)
  • Improved Learning (e.g. for participants transitioning between learning institutions) 
  • Improved Life Choices (e.g. Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy sessions) 
  • Improved Daily Living (e.g. for Plan Managers of eligible participants)

Capital Supports Budget

The Capital Supports budget is for big-ticket items that are not covered by Core supports. This includes home and vehicle modifications, and high-tech alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) devices. Some plans require the participant to obtain quotes for these items from their healthcare providers before they can access the funding in this budget. Some plans may not have any money allocated to this budget – the amount allocated is dependent on the client’s needs and goals. 

The participant’s health professional can apply for funding for high-cost assistive technology even if it is not covered in their plan. However, these applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis and may not always be successful. Where possible, the participant should advocate for themselves at the planning meeting and emphasis the importance of assistive technology in achieving their goals.  

Other Forms of Support Available

Individuals who do not meet the eligibility criteria for the NDIS still have options when it comes to accessing support for themselves or their loved ones. Children under seven can access support services through the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) program. Currently, over 70,000 children and families are involved in ECEI programs across Australia.

The aim of ECEI is to support children with developmental delays or disabilities by offering age appropriate assessments and interventions. Like the NDIS, the ECEI recognises that all children and families are unique, and that the participation of the child and family need support in order to participate effectively within community settings.  

Early intervention has been shown to be instrumental in improving health outcomes in children with developmental delays and disabilities, and also equips caregivers with the knowledge about how to best support their child from an early age.  All interventions offered to ECEI participants are evidence-based and aim to improve their quality of life. 

In order to access the ECEI, participants need to get in touch with an Early Childhood Partner in their area.  Early Childhood Partners will discuss the child’s needs with their caregivers, and put them in touch with support services in the area, including playgroups, and community health centres. The ECP may also recommend some short-term intervention depending on your child’s needs. Children with complex needs, or who need long-term intervention may be eligible for the NDIS, and the ECP will assist with the application process. 

Another support option for older adults is MyAgedCare. Designed for individuals 65 and older, MyAgedCare provides information about aged care services and provides referrals and support for participants to find the best service provider to meet their individual needs. MyAgedCare offers a range of support services – from aged care facilities for those unable to live independently at home to help with activities of daily living while remaining at home. 

MyAged Care requires an assessment in order to determine the most appropriate level of care for a participant. Individuals who wish to access MyAgedCare must first complete an application for assessment. Successful applicants will be contacted by an assessor to arrange their assessment. The assessment will be conducted at the applicant’s home and the type of assessment conducted will depend on the applicant’s needs. Like the NDIS Independent Assessment, the assessor will ask questions to understand the applicant’s current needs, goals, and existing level of support. 

The assessor will develop a care plan based on the assessment results, and this will determine the applicant’s eligibility for services. Most assessment outcomes are sent via mail two weeks after the assessment. Some applicants can begin searching for aged care facilities immediately after receiving their letter, whereas others may be on a waitlist to receive their home care package. It is important to note that MyAgedCare funding is means-tested against an applicant’s income and assets, hence the funding received can differ between participants. Participants may need to take an Income and means assessment before they are able to access home care packages or moving into an aged care facility. 

Of course older adults who wish to pay for their own aged care facilities and receive home care from private providers are able to do so by applying to these services independently. Private providers typically have shorter waiting times, less stringent eligibility criteria, and provide services that can be personalised based on the client’s needs. 

The Commonwealth government has centralised disability service provision with the NDIS, and has led to improved outcomes for people with disabilities in our society. As NDIS participation continues to grow, it fuels the creation of a better society, with equity for all Australians. 

References
  1. Bailey, D. B., Hebbeler, K., Spiker, D., Scarborough, A., Mallik, S., & Nelson, L. (2005). Thirty-six-month outcomes for families of children who have disabilities and participated in early intervention. Pediatrics, 116, 1346-1352. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2004-1239
  2. Butteriss, M. (2012). NDIS: In Context. Journal of Social Inclusion, 3(2), pp.102–107. DOI: https://doi.org/10.36251/josi.58
  3. Hayes, L., Brophy, L., Harvey, C., Tellez, J.,Herman, H., & Killackey, E. (2018). Enabling choice, recovery and participation: evidence-based early intervention support for psychosocial disability in the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Australiasian Psychiatry. 26(6), 578-585. https://doi.org/10.1177/1039856218759407

 

About the Writer
Veena Vinod
Veena is a Perth-based Speech Pathology student with an interest in acquired language disorders and over five years' experience in creating health and lifestyle content. She likes to unwind with Stephen King novels, gardening, or a good documentary.
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