APM Communities - NDIS plan - Having a voice

Lavinia: (silence) 

Hi, my name's Lavinia. I work closely with people with disability as they decide on the types of support that they can buy. Whether you're using NDIS for the first time or making adjustments to your plan, there are some basic steps to follow. These steps will help you to have a voice in selecting the right services for you. 

Think about buying support services, like buying new shoes. You wouldn't spend money on shoes that you don't like, that don't fit, or that make you feel uncomfortable. You've got the right to look for and purchase services from providers that best meet your needs. I'll introduce you to some people who will share their experiences of when, why and how they've used the steps to improve the services that they receive. The first step is understanding how to read your NDIS Plan. It explains the types of supports that are funded in your budget. Your Local Area Coordinator can assist you with this task. 

Tom: I listed the daily activities and therapy goals that are most important for me. And I thought about the different ways support services can be provided to give me more independence. 

Lavinia: The second step is to manage your NDIS budget. The NDIS Price Guide gives you an indication of how many hours per week you can purchase if you use registered providers. Based on your requirements, you can negotiate with the providers on the rate that you're prepared to pay. 

Tom: Here are the hours of support funded in my plan. I'm Plan-managed. For support with my medical appointments, meal plans and preparation, and with my physio exercise. I'm happy to use an unregistered provider so I have more choice of who I select. I really want my support at a set time and using the same worker each week. But for help with household jobs, I only want to pay the base price. I'm more flexible about when these jobs get done and less fussy about who helps me. 

Lavinia: Depending on whether your plan is agency managed, plan-managed or self-managed, you can have different levels of flexibility on the amount you pay for services, and whether you can engage unregistered providers. Tom recently reviewed the services he was receiving. I asked what made him do this. 

Tom: I was getting support two afternoons a week for three hours. I really looked forward to seeing Rob. He was a great support for me. But I was exhausted after our sessions. Three hours is such a long time. I realized it would be much better for me if Rob came three days a week, for two hours. When I asked to change the days and times, the provider told me they pay their staff a minimum of three hours. So I went back to my NDIS budget to find a solution. I didn't have any additional funds to pay for an extra day, and I didn't want to waste my funds by only using two hours. I knew what I wanted would be a game changer for me. 

Lavinia: The third step is to list the skills and personal characteristics that you'd like a support person to have. Little things can make a big difference. The Requirements Checklist helps you work out what you need and your preferences for a support worker. 

Tom: For me, reliability is important. I also want someone who loves dogs. My little Terrier is a big part of my life and he deserves a lot of attention. 

Lavinia: It's a good idea to talk to other people about the services they receive. You can search online for providers in your area, or attend an expo where you can meet providers and ask them questions. Your Local Area Coordinator can't recommend providers, but they can support you in contacting them and can assist you to develop questions to ask the providers. You should interview a few providers. Jot down the questions you'd like answered. That way, you'll be sure to cover everything that's important to you. 

Tom: That was a really good tip for me. These conversations helped me make good decisions. I wanted to know things like, can they support me on my preferred days and times? Can they guarantee the same worker? What happens when a worker is sick or on holidays? Can I meet and select my support worker? And what qualifications and training do their staff have? For Allied Health Services, I wanted to know about their approach to therapy, what's involved and the success that they've had helping people with similar therapy needs. 

Lavinia: By asking the right questions, you'll have the information you need to make an informed decision on the best service provider for you. Let's hear what Tom did next. 

Tom: Because my provider was unable to change their service hours, I decided to look around. I did an online search for local providers. Then I asked around to find out if they were any good, or if there were any other providers I should consider. I found a smaller service provider in my area that's able to do two-hour sessions. I met some of their staff and found someone that I really connected with. This change has been really positive. I now have a support worker three days a week to help me with my exercises and I don't get so exhausted after each visit. And I don't have to rely on my family so much. 

Lavinia: Hearing about other people's experiences can help you work out what's important to you and the questions you can ask before signing up with a provider. You don't need to rush. Take your time to find the provider that can deliver the services the way that you would like them. Let's hear how other people have used the steps to improve the services they receive. 

Nicola: The therapist we were using for my little boy, Noah, didn't encourage parents to be in the therapy room. Noah gets so anxious about this. He likes me to be close by. I want to be really involved in all his therapy so I'm better at helping him at home. We decided the therapist wasn't a good fit for us or Noah. So, we looked around and we found one that uses an approach which is more about training parents in the child's environment. Now I can help to reinforce Noah's learning, and he's making great gains. 

Lucy: My son, Marco, is 16, and he has Cerebral Palsy. He needs help with some activities, like playing wheelchair basketball. I used to take Marco to basketball, but now he has a support worker through his NDIS plan. His service provider often sent older people to support Marco. He complained it was like being with his parents all the time. So, we asked the provider if they had any younger support workers. Marco had a list of preferences. He wanted a young, male support worker, with a passion for sport. And he got his wish. The new support worker plays basketball and has joined the team. Marco says no one even knows he's a paid carer. It's made such a difference to Marco's acceptance of needing a support worker when he goes out with his mates.

Lavinia: A good provider will try to accommodate your requirements. If they're unable or unwilling to adjust their service to better meet your needs, you have the option to explore what other providers can offer. And you can choose to make a change to your service agreement with your provider. Now it's time for you to think about what's important to you and the types of questions you can ask providers to help you exercise your rights.