News | 14 April 2020

All the big announcements from our online forum with the NDIA

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A few screenshots from Zoom showing 60 people in a grid

Thank you so much to everyone who attended our EAC Zoom forum with Scott McNaughton from the National Disability Insurance Agency last week. We’ve had great feedback and are really pleased to hear so many people found it helpful.

Hundreds of you sent in your questions or tuned in to ask them yourselves. Sadly, we couldn’t squeeze everyone in. That’s why we promised to share the video of the forum with everyone here.

Here’s a really quick summary of some of the big things that were covered:


💻 iPads, laptops, and smart devices

Excellent news here for people struggling to access online therapies and supports.

Scott said you can now purchase a smart device with your NDIS funds if:

  • You don’t already have a similar device
  • You need it for support or therapy
  • It has not been funded through another system (like education)

So no bingeing on Netflix. But if you need a device for support – like doing therapy online or joining an online exercise class – then you can use your NDIS funds to buy it.

This is really great news – so many of us have been finding it tough trying to do everything online without the right equipment.

We know you all still have questions about how this is all going to work – we do too. The NDIA have promised they will put more information up on the NDIS website this week. So keep checking the Coronavirus section of the NDIS website. Or follow us on Facebook and we will let you know as soon as the extra info hits.


Shopping trolley emoji  Shopping delivery fees

Again – more good news for people who can’t get to the shops to buy essentials like groceries. You can claim the delivery fee from your NDIS plan.


 Price increases and the new cancellation policy

Scott explained why the NDIA have put up some NDIS prices by 10%.

He also explained why they have changed their cancellation policy. (Providers can now charge 100% the cost of the service if a participant cancels their service within 10 days).

Short answer – they want to make sure service providers can keep their doors open over this period.

He confirmed the NDIA have not automatically increased peoples plans to cover these changes. (We know this is really worrying many people, and we will keep pushing for change).


😷 PPE – Personal Protective Equipment

Scott answered a few questions about PPE. He said the NDIA is working hard to get access to the National Stockpile. Deliveries to providers are starting now, with more to come. He told everyone to keep checking the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission website. (We know this doesn’t help people who are self-managed. We’ll keep pushing that too).


❓Got more questions?

Unfortuantely we didn’t have time to get through everyone’s questions. There were so many!

So we are bundling them all up and sending them through to the NDIA.

That way the answers will appear on the NDIS website and everyone can see them.

And if you can’t find the answer to your question in there, send us your question. We’re sending them to the NDIA to get answers.

Check out the video from the Q&A with Scott last week, and scroll past it for the full transcript with timings below.


For more information you can check out these links:

EAC – NDIS and Coronavirus FAQs

NDIS – Coronavirus information for participants

EAC (April 20) – NDIS and the Coronavirus – what’s changed and what still needs changing? An interview with NDIA CEO

EAC (April 27) – Smart devices, tablets, iPads – the NDIA get their act together (finally)



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Kirsten Deane 0:02
Hi, everyone, and a very, very big welcome to everyone joining us for our very first Every Australian Counts online Zoom forum. My name is Kristen Deane and I am the Campaign Director for Every Australian Counts.

I wanted to start today by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we’re meeting here today and pay my respects to elder’s past, present and emerging. I’m in Melbourne today. So this is Wurundjeri country. But we’ve got people joining us from all around the country today. So I would really encourage you to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which you’re sitting or standing today.

I also want to start by acknowledging the many many years of disability advocacy that have brought us to where we are today. And there are many individuals and organisations who have fought long and hard to advance the rights of people with disability in this country and we would not be here today without their tireless and often and thankless work, so I would like to acknowledge them as well.

Now, I would like to introduce you to our very special guest that we have here today. Scott McNaughton. Scott McNaughton is the General Manager for National Delivery at the National Disability Insurance Agency. You will have heard over the last couple of weeks that the NDIA have made lots of changes in response to the Coronavirus and it’s Scott and his team that have been responsible for making those changes work on the ground. And that’s why we’ve invited him here along today. So thank you very much, Scott, for joining us and for making time to talk to everybody this morning.

Scott McNaughton 1:49
Kirsten, thanks so much for having us it’s of great initiative and we’re really pleased to be able to come on to the session today.

Kirsten Deane 1:55
Right. Now, before we get going, I just thought that I would explain how given this is the first time and we haven’t done this before, I thought I would explain a little bit about how it’s going to work. And first of all, I’m going to start by asking Scott some of the questions that people have sent in to us over the last week. And then I will throw it over to everybody who’s online today. But I’m going to start by offering a very sincere apology for two things at the beginning. We’re expecting about 300 people to join us here today. And we’ve had lots more questions sent in to us over the last week. And unfortunately, we couldn’t possibly get through the questions that have been sent to us, let alone all of the people that are online here today. So I’m going to apologise up front. If we don’t get to your question here today, we’re really sorry about that. We will try and get through as many as we can. But if we don’t get to you, I’m really sorry. But just just because we don’t get to you doesn’t mean that you won’t have your questions answered. What we’ve promised to do is take all of the questions that we’ve been sent and all of the ones that you can see on the chat running down the side, and we will bundle those up. And we will send those through to the NDIA. And then they will put the answers up on the Coronavirus pages that they have on the NDIS website at the moment. So that means that everybody will be able to see those answers, not just the people who are here today.

We’re also recording this forum here today. And we will pop it up on the Every Australian Counts website next week. That way everybody will be able to see it. We had unfortunately lots of disappointed people who couldn’t make it in today. So we want to give them a chance to watch it as well.

If you don’t want to be part of the video, we would ask you now to turn off your video so that we don’t accidentally record you while we’re recording the whole session. We’d also ask you to send us an email at . And let us know that you don’t want to be appear in the video and we will make sure that that happens.

The other thing that I’m going to apologise for is if we have any technical glitches. This is the first time that we have done a Zoom forum for so many people and just like everyone else in the world, we are learning as we go. So please be patient while we try and work out how to make this work for such a large group of people. We are literally sailing the ship while we’re building it or perhaps if you want to use the NDIS as a metaphor, we are flying the plane while we are building it. So please be a little bit patient if we have any technical glitches because it is such a large group.

We’ve got everybody on mute. And that’s so that we really cut down the amount of background noise. We want to make sure that everybody hears. And so keeping everybody on mute means we cut down on the amount of dogs barking and cars back firing and kids yelling, that happens kind of in the in the background. We’ve also got everybody on mute, because we have both interpreters and captions on here today. And so we want to make sure that they can hear what you have to say, and they capture it accurately.

So, if you’re on mute, how will you ask a question? That’s very good question. What we’ve got here is we’ve got Jean and Afsah and Jenny, and they’re on the chat that you can see on your right hand side, and we’ll get you to ask your questions in the chat. And then Jean or Jenny or Afsah will let you know if your question has been selected and then you will be taken off mute so that you can ask your question in person also in the chat.

You can, we’ve got some tech support. Kayla is our tech support. And so she will if you’re having any problems with the chat, or any problems with zoom or having any issues at all, give Kayla a yell and she will be able to help you. And the way that you can find Kayla, is that if you go to participants and you search for Kayla’s name, you will be able to find her and send her a message. Probably if you’re having technical issues, probably best to message Kayla directly and privately rather than having it come up in the chat. And if you’re having any issues, any tech issues, give Kayla a call.

And one last thing about the chat is we know everybody is really stressed and anxious at the moment, and we know people are frustrated. We get it and we share it. All that we would ask here today is that we are respectful of one another and we’re inclusive. And we’re respectful of everyone’s different opinions experiences. We ask that at every on every forum that we hold, whether it’s face to face or today, and perhaps because we are all a bit stressed at the moment, we just ask everybody to take a really deep breath at the moment. And just remember that we’re all in this together, and we’re all doing our best. And please be respectful of the other people who are joining us here today.

And we know that you’ll all understand if we have any issues, we are going to ask people to leave, we want everybody to feel safe here. And so anybody who is causing any issues we will unfortunately have to ask you to leave we don’t recommend I’ll happen because you guys are all awesome, but I just wanted to let you know that.

Finally, last thing about the captioning and the interpreters. There’s two ways that you can access the captions, if you would like to, you will see down the bottom of the screen, there’s a closed caption CC button, press on that, if you want to have the captions come up. The other way that you can get the captions is that in the email that we sent you with the link for today, there was another link for captions, and you can pop that up in a separate window. And that might be more helpful. If you like to see more of the captions, then you’re able to see on Zoom.

Similarly, the people who are using the interpreters are in a separate zoom link. And if you would like to use the interpreters, we can send you that link so you can join that group. So again, use the chat and let people and if you want to join in with that group with the interpreter separately, just let us know.

Okay, that was a lot of housekeeping. Thank you. All right. We are going to get on with the questions. So I’m going to grab my questions Scott. All right. Um, what we’ve tried to do with the questions was pick ones that were representative of ones of lots of the questions we’ve got. And this first one from Leonie and we actually got variations of this question from lots of people.

So, Leonie asks, um, “I’ve had to pull my son out of all of his group activities. Now he’s at home with us all the time. At the same time, my partner who’s a disability support worker has been made redundant. I’m still working. I understand why the NDIS usually doesn’t allow family members to be paid. But all sorts of criteria are being relaxed at the moment. Is it too much to ask for the NDIA to relax the rules about payment for family members in some situations? For some people, it’s their only option.”

Scott McNaughton 9:51
Yeah, thanks. Thanks, Kirsten. Thanks Leonie for that question.

I mean, it is a really challenging and unprecedented time as you said, Kirsten. We’ve had to make some adjustments to a number of ways that we’re supporting participants supporting providers so we can make sure that there are enough providers out there to support participants. We have – we have a policy in place as people know that generally we don’t allow for the payment of family members in usual times. But we do have exceptional circumstances that that we do on occasions do that. Currently, there are exceptional circumstances such as health risks, advice of a health professional, there are no other services, we’ve exhausted everything possible. So and, and I’ve actually heard of a couple of cases come across my desk and in just the last week where we’ve gone down that path.

Our main priority is to try and make sure there is enough supply of good support workers that people can choose to use. And this is why we’ve been doing the extra work you would have seen our ‘find a worker’ on our website this week in the various HireUp type companies that are out there who are both looking for additional workers, but are also available there for participants and carers to find workers. And they’re also available for job seekers who may wish to find work themselves. So it’s quite a good matching type service. So I encourage people to check out that ‘find a support worker’.

So first and foremost, our priority is to try and get people access to a support worker who is trained, qualified and can continue to provide those supports. If people are having trouble, their support worker is not available. They’re not turning up, something’s gone wrong. You must, you must escalate that and you must contact the Quality and Safeguards Commission because they’re capturing all that information for us. And then we will – we’ll work through what those options are. Are there other providers? If not, perhaps we’ll go down and look at those exceptional circumstances – we have a couple of times this week.

This is an area we’re watching really closely. If we see big chunks and big areas within the provider market that starts to create gaps, we’re going to think and use other strategies that we’ve already put in place to try and keep building that workforce and make sure that supply of workers is there. So this is on our radar, we’re watching it closely. We’re still only using it for exceptional circumstances at the moment. And we want to stick to that for now. But it is an area we are watching closely. So Leonie I would encourage your partner to get online and connect to one of those other groups who are looking at hiring workers too, because that’s absolutely I know that providers out there are still looking and trying a whole range of options to get more workforce themselves. So I’d encourage you to do that as well. So we’ll stay connected. Any change in that Kirsten, we’ll come back to you guys, of course.

Kirsten Deane 12:46
Okay, thanks, Scott. This question actually follows up from that you mentioned that and I can see it happening in the chat. We’ve been contacted by lots of people whose supports have stopped and so we’ve picked a question from Nerida. Who says, “I live in a small country town. My service provider has let me know that they won’t take me to the nearest biggest town for shopping anymore. Can they do that? And now what can I do?”

Scott McNaughton 13:16
Yeah, that’s, that’s a good question, yeah and is a tough one, isn’t it? There’s… a couple of things with this one. Depends on – I guess, if we go back to what the government’s saying around social distancing, and things like that, you have to ask yourself, should people be out there going shopping, if they can do it in another means? So, you know, think about other online shopping and other arrangements and get your essential supplies because your own health and well being is paramount. The most important thing here is to keep yourself well keep yourself safe. And don’t go out if you don’t need to. We hear that from all the politicians a lot. So so please look at the online shopping options and all those things. Of course.

You’re provider though should – you still have to have the conversation with your provider about what is the expected service? What’s that service that they’re meant to be providing? What can they still provide? What are the new and innovative ways they can provide their services in a different way that perhaps they have to think about it, because they can’t do large group outings anymore. We’re hearing lots of those. Because of you know, those day programs where groups of people would go out with providers and do really good and great things outdoors or go to the movies, those things are just not available at the moment. We know that. So we have to think through differently about how that would happen. But if you need your essential services, and you need to go to that town, you need to go there for medical appointments, to chemists, doctors, to get your shopping, then you need to find and contact other providers who will do that for you if you can’t use those online options. So, I mean, the key message for us all here for everyone online is, stay safe. Keep everything you can to maintain social distancing and your own health and wellbeing. If there are online options, please take them up. Because we just want people to be safe and well through this time. When you need to go out you need to have those conversations with providers about what they can do for you.

Kirsten Deane 15:15

So this one also follows on and it’s from Janelle. And Janelle says, “What will happen to my supports if I have to be fully isolated? Or, if I get the virus?” We hope you don’t Janelle. “Will support workers still be allowed to come to my house? Most of my supports are personal care to help me shower, toilet, dress, etc. I don’t have any family or friends who live close enough to help me. I don’t know how I’ll manage if I don’t have a support worker to assist me. Especially if I get sick too.”

Scott McNaughton 15:52
Yeah Janelle, a really good question. This is a real issue, isn’t it? People getting the virus themselves – touch wood, and I hope this is a hypothetical question Janelle and you’re not sick so, but if you are I hope you get well soon.

First and foremost, if someone you know or you think you have the virus, you have to immediately get the health assistance you need. The first and foremost is your health. If you’re not sure about that, get onto all the various Department of Health websites, the corona websites, the 1800 numbers. The National Department of Health has got a Coronavirus hotline, 1800 020 080. We’ll put that up on all those sorts of websites. You’re sure of that already. And if you think it’s an emergency call 000. First and foremost is your health. I must – I can’t stress that enough.

If – and we’ve had this emerge as you as we’d expect, our participants have contracted the virus themselves. Once they’re out or if they need to be hospitalised, they’ll get the treatment they need there. If they come back home to recover in self isolation. We’re working with the providers to make sure that they can still deliver those key supports that providers can access the right PPE equipment they need, that the participants still get the ongoing medical treatment they need, even if they’re at home because they’ve got mild symptoms and they’re self isolating. But – and it’s really important that people continue to self isolate if they’re being told to do so. But there are cases already where we’re working with some big providers, where we know participants have contracted and confirmed cases of contracting the virus, providers are still providing that critical support. In some cases, we’ve had to move a participant out of where they were living into a single accommodation setting and provide new service providers going into that and so we’ve adjusted that person’s plan with some additional funding. We will do that where we need to – you don’t need to worry about that that is a commitment we’re making. If there are urgent plan reviews required because of COVID we’re making those changes. And we just had a pretty difficult case yesterday that we’ve now resolved with that provider by moving the person to a new accommodation on their own with the right support workers, with the right PPE in there supporting him for that period of time. So there are systems in place already, we are working with the providers to make sure they’ve got the PPE equipment they need and there’s a new National Stockpile being delivered out to providers at the moment, which is fantastic, especially for those providers who are delivering daily personal care and all the supports that you’ve listed there Janelle, that’s really important for providers to have access to that equipment. And I just want to go back to the start saying if you are not well and you think you have the virus or you want to get more information, check out those hotlines. Check out those web pages if you can, and if you need health support you need to go and get that that quickly. If your suffering from that. Be rest, rest assured that we will in the Agency change, update, amend people’s plans for whatever additional support they need in like we’ve done with the case I’ve just been talking about. But these are just really trying times and we need to do all we can to make sure people continue to get their supports and continue to get their health supports if they’re unwell because of COVID.

Kirsten Deane 19:25
Okay, thanks Scott. I’ve just, we’ve had a question about the captions. And it’s just a good reminder for you and I, Scott, and then for everyone else who asks a question. Um, slow down. I am very guilty of talking like a steam train. I start slowly and then I speed up. And so it’s just a good reminder for everybody for both the captioners and interpreters that we both need to slow down. So I will remember that because I’m guilty of it, too.

All right. Our next question is from Kerrie. And you brought up the issue of Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, Scott. The question from Kerrie is “How will the NDIA be ensuring service providers have access to protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitiser?

Scott McNaughton 20:14
Yeah, another another really good question. Thanks, Kerrie. There’s a lot in the media around the PPE equipment at the moment isn’t there and there is a national shortage. That’s, that’s through the media everywhere. I’ve heard this morning that they won’t start up doing any more elective surgery until they can be rest assured there is enough PPE in there for the medical profession. Having said that, we have been able to secure a supply of PPE through a National Stockpile through the Department of Health. This is now in the process of being made available to service providers across the country. We’re going to be prioritising that for service providers who are doing – who either have confirmed cases or are supporting people in accomodation settings, who are providing daily care, personal care, and, and a range of other sort of prioritised access to it. But but because we know there’s not quite enough to go around in the country yet – we know there are new supplies coming on board and making more and more – I just heard, yesterday I think, Cotton On here down in Geelong they’re starting to make and diversify their manufacturing to build to supply more product. So we know it’s coming. But we do have we do have a stockpile. We are getting that out to providers, it will be managed out through the Quality and Safeguards Commission. And we’ll be engaging the logistics company to actually get those equipments out to the front line of our service providers as soon as we possibly can. I understand that’s happening literally as we speak, the distribution of that. Now that might not get full saturation where we want it across the country in the first round. But we continue to source more and more through that process. So it’s better than it was about a week ago. But we’ve still got a bit of work to go to make sure we’ve got enough, everywhere.

Kirsten Deane 22:16
Great. Thanks, Scott. All right. The next question we’ve got is from Michelle, “My son lives in a group home. We usually use other providers to take him out for community participation, which is NDIS speak for going out. But now the provider run that runs the group home says the other providers can’t come to the house, not even meet him outside, nor can we take him out for physical exercise ourselves. We’re following all the government’s strict guidelines. Why can’t his regular workers come and take him out for exercise and try and keep his life on track while everything is so uncertain? What are your solutions please?

Scott McNaughton 23:04
Yeah, thanks, Michelle. Again, a another difficult one that’s emerging. And we’ve heard that I’ve heard a couple of cases like this. But I’ve also heard of a number of cases where it is a bit of business as usual, which is, which is good in the new world of social distancing, of course. I’ll go back to the point, why service providers, we’ve seen this in aged care as well in terms of limiting visitors into into certain facilities and so forth. But I would have thought in a place you know, in some of the some of what your son’s if your son’s in a home three or four other residents who would normally have access to various programs. Assuming those programs aren’t breaching any sort of social distancing regulations, I would have assumed that they would still be able to run, especially if that provider is willing to keep doing it. We do know there are health, regulation or health rules out there being put in place by all the state governments. It is important to note that disability workers are classified as an essential service. So they’re exempt from that. So that’s really important that we continue to make sure providers to make sure that our, our participants and our carers are aware that disability services continue. Now it may look and feel a bit different, as I said, community access and going to the movies and doing those things aren’t how they used to be – but to go out and do get out outside and do some activities outside or do some other type of smaller group based activities is still okay, based on the essential services rules. So for me, it’s really important that we have conversation with your your son’s provider, your accommodation provider, as well as their other providers around these safeguards being put in place, about how we can continue to get the supports that they need in some of those services. Noting that it may change slightly. But if they need help exercising or visiting the pharmacy or helping go shopping, those things can continue. They’re essential disability services and you should be having the conversation with providers around those. Yes, some of those other programs may not, but those access to community, those essential services should continue and can continue. So again, just have that conversation with the provider.

Kirsten Deane 25:29
Okay, that’s great. And that’s a really important point, Scott, about disability services being regarded as essential services. We’ve had lots and lots and lots of questions in the last few weeks about you know, my, my son or daughter or the person I live with, needs more than one person to help them if they go out or at home – are they still allowed? So that message that disability services are essential services isn’t making it out there and people really are confused about that.

Scott McNaughton 26:00
Yeah, well, we’ll make sure that we’re doing our bit as well as with the Commission to make sure that messages gets better saturation because it is clearly an essential service.

Kirsten Deane 26:09
Yeah, that’s great. All right. Our next question is from Gayle. And we got this question from lots and lots of people. And so we just picked Gayle’s because it’s kind of representative of lots of the questions we got. “Now we are being told to do everything online, including telehealth. Technology is now our way to stay in touch with the outside world. But how can thousands of people do that? If we don’t have an iPad or a laptop, or a computer or the internet? Can we use some of our NDIS funding for these things?”

Scott McNaughton 26:48
Yeah, thanks Gayle. It’s really, really good question and it is one that is coming up a lot – it must be one of our top questions being asked at our National Contact Center as well.

So um, the positive around this I must say too Gayle and people watching today is we are starting to hear a lot of really innovative ways that service providers are changing their business models so that participants can continue to get some of their therapies and certain supports via the internet, which is great. We’ve even heard and seen some examples of gym classes for participants being run online now too – this is fantastic. It’s, it makes sure that people can still access, they can still connect, they’re using different social media to do that. So encourage your providers to think innovatively, it is fantastic as I said. We don’t want people, once the world wakes up post COVID in six to nine months time – for children, for participants to have regressed in their progress. We don’t want that. So we want them to keep getting access to these innovative services and supports.

Regarding the actual purchase. So a lot of Australians – a lot of people already have access to those devices, we know that. But when you don’t, and when you need a device to continue to access your disability services, we are encouraging you to use your NDIS plan flexibly to purchase those devices. So you can stay connected with your NDIS supports. Really important, if you need certain software, a certain device to connect with your participants, to do those online therapies, to do those online gym classes, to connect with your speech therapist or whoever is supporting you through your NDIS plan, we’re encouraging people if they don’t already have a device to use their plan flexibly to purchase one. There’ll be more coming out on this in a moment – in the next little while Kirsten. Cause we’re already looking at how we can speed up the supply of some of those devices, too. So we’ve we’ve we’re doing some work in the background around that too. But in the meantime, please, if you’ve got funding in your plan, and you need one of these for your NDIS supports, we would encourage you to consider using your plan budgets flexibly to purchase such a device so you can keep receiving your supports.

Kirsten Deane 29:11
That’s really good news, Scott. And I can already see from the chat that people are really, yeah, already mentioning that some people have been told yes and other people no. So it’s really great that you were really clear that if you don’t already have a device, and you need it for this next period to access your supports, then you can use your NDIS funding flexibly to do it. That’s, that’s really great. Thank you for being really clear about that.

Okay, we’ve got a question from Lesley and I noticed that this question has also already come up on our chat a couple of times, um, and Leslie says, “I’m not happy about the new cancellation policy. You now have to give 10 days notice before cancelling. Who can do that? Why have you done it? And when will you change it?”

Scott McNaughton 30:04
Yeah, thanks, Lesley. So it’s important. It’s a good question. And it’s important to sort of understand why we put this change in place. It’s a temporary change that we put in place. As people know, we’ve always had a cancellation policy. But we’ve made some adjustments to it on the back of COVID-19. And really to reflect that the possibility of increased cancellations on the back of COVID related issues and self isolation. What we’re trying to do with these policy is to make sure participants still will have access to services because providers can claim for services if they’re not delivered. So providers can still ensure they’ve got a workforce, they can still employ the right number of people. And if there are some cancellations that’s covered all well. That means that providers can still pay their staff, and the staff can keep delivering services. If, if a person – so this is the impacts for the participant obviously, is that there could – that would come out of their plans. If their plans are impacted by this, we will adjust them if we need to, of course we will. But for the most part, we think the impact will be quite negligible. It’s only a slight extension on the current cancellation policy. But if people are impacted, and their plan essentially gets used up because of this, then will you need to contact us and we’ll do a review. But the background for this is to shore up workers, and those workers help participants. And that’s really why we’ve done this as well as why we did the 10% increase. It’s to shore up workers who will help participants.

Kirsten Deane 31:49
Alright well actually that’s a good segue Scott, because our next question is about the 10%. So the question is from Les – hi, Les, if you’re online. “The NDA are allowing providers to charge an extra 10% on top of core line items. It appears that participants won’t have an extra 10% added to their plans to cover this increase. It’s also – it’s been suggested that if participants run out of funds, all they need to do is request a plan review.” And Les says “Has bureaucracy gone bonkers? Why did the NDIS decide not to boost automatically every participants plan to provide confidence for those who really depend on the funding for their support?”

Scott McNaughton 32:39
Yeah, Les, a really good question. And if you’re out there um, we grappled with this one too ourselves. But to be honest, but what we had to look at with this initiative was, again, how do we make sure that there is enough workers to support people with disability and same as the advance payment, the cancellation policy, and this initiative is to ensure providers can keep their workforce going. So that we don’t lose workforce. We will lose workforce because of COVID and self isolation. But how can providers continue to maintain the baseline workforce?

So what we’ve done is increase – we haven’t increased every single line item. That’s really important. We’ve increased those key items such as Assistance with Daily Living, Assistance for Community Access and Participation, Improving Health and Wellbeing. We’ve approved the 10% has gone on to those. It’s just a temporary change too. We set it for the next three months we’re going to recruit – review it after the first three. The 10% increase hasn’t gone on to Support for Independent Living or AT or Home Mods or large capital items. So it’s not across the entire the entire price catalog – just for those actions.

The current data does also tell us Les that uh, most people spend between 75 – 70 to 75% of their plans every year, which means most people have some flexibility at the end of their plan. So we think if this change, you know, is taken up by providers, it’ll absorb a bit of that, but it won’t even absorb all that. If an individual is impacted personally, and is starting to get all of their plan is starting to draw down. Again, you need to contact us. Contact our 1800 number or your Local Area Coordinator office and we will review your plan. But that’s the rationale Les, that’s why we didn’t uplift everyone’s plans, because it’s only on certain support items. We genuinely think there’s going to be enough money across the board when you’re looking at it at a macro level. But if there are people impacted we will individually adjust their plans.

Kirsten Deane 34:54
Okay, thank thanks Scott. We are now going to throw open to everybody who’s here online to ask questions. And Jean and Jenny and Afsah have been doing a great job in the background, lining up people to ask their questions. So the first person that I’m going to throw to is Gary. Gary, are you online?

No. Okay. All right. Well, I might read out Gary’s question. And then Gary can join us, if he can. So the question from Gary is, “Is the NDIA looking at adding data to Deaf participants’ plans due to Auslan using so much more data? Many Deaf participants are unable to execute their plans without adequate data, as the only option to do so is live streaming. Thanks Gary.

Gary 35:48
My apologies, Kirsten. I am actually online now sorry, trying to work out how to get the camera working, which I’ve now done. Yeah, and we’ve seen a lot of pushback from the NDIA around data. Even just very recently, with plans still not having data included as reasonable and necessary. And the quote is always generally coming back to the census that 86% of Australians have a device and have data within their family home, which might be true. But if you’re looking at people living on the Disability Support Pension, I don’t think the percentage would be so high if they were the only ones that are actually questioned about the use of data and devices. Additionally, Deaf people when they do use live streaming, they’re using up to 75% more data per hour than what we are using right now in just having a usual conversation, because the pixelation is so much higher. We’re seeing people with plans that have like $20,000 in their plan and requesting $500 worth of data and still been declined. It seems quite odd that you would have a $20,000 plan that you can’t actually execute but because of an additional $500 which then leaves the participant high and dry, makes the sector suffer, and also stops valuable money moving into the Australian economy, which is what we really need to be have happening right now.

Scott McNaughton 37:05
Great. Thanks, Gary, really, really good question. Again, this is this is one, obviously, we’ve been grappling with a little bit it goes to the, my response earlier around the access to devices for people, where people need devices for their disability related supports, and to continue to get their therapies and others they should use their phones flexibly to access that. Absolutely. But you’re right, our view on data, our view on everyday expenses, such as data or on groceries and rent and so forth, saying that’s not within the remit of the NDIS certainly at this stage. However, it is something we are continuing to monitor closely because of COVID. COVID does mean things are being different, delivered differently. It means there’s much more use of certain things like that. So, at the moment, we’re still you know, using the flexibility within plans to access devices and the supports you need, of course, as I’ve said. But data is probably not something at this stage that we’re actually looking at agreeing to fund, but it’s something we are reviewing, in light of the changes to the way services are being delivered. So it’s on our radar, we’re looking at it. We made a call on devices and access to that in terms of flexibility when you need it. But so we’ll continue to review that, I think you’ve made a really good point. And we’ll take that away and give some thought to it, thanks Gary.

Kirsten Deane 38:33
And I’m just going to repeat the question. And just so that everybody understands the context of the answer, because apparently a few people missed the question. And so Gary’s question is, “Is the NDIA looking at allowing people who are Deaf to use more data from their NDIS plans because they are using Auslan more – with data than they would ordinarily do so.” So that was the question.

Now I am going to throw to Brian. Brian’s got a question about PPE – Protective Equipment. Brian are you there?

Brian 39:20
Yes, here. Can you hear me?

Scott McNaughton 39:24
Hi, Brian.

Brian 39:25
Hi, Scott, how you doing?

This is more of our scenario that could potentially occur in the next 10 minutes. We, we’ve been looking at a continuity plans and, and looking at how we would manage situations that could potentially happen in the near future. And one of them is a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or a suspected case of COVID-19. And these are especially with people who are really vulnerable, who have no informal supports, and can’t do basic day to day activities. They said the scenario is is, if that person’s deemed to be suitable for in home care, then we as an organisation need to have all the correct PPE in place, ready to go and make sure our staff are fully trained in this situation. The other problem I’ve got is, staff have a right to refuse to work in that situation if they don’t feel … if they don’t feel safe. Um, what would we be doing as an organisation in that situation? If we don’t have the PPE, and we don’t have the — trained staff, and we and we don’t have staff to actually do it.

Scott McNaughton 40:39
Yeah, Brian, I mean, it’s really, um, it’s a very lively issue, isn’t it? It’s, as you said, it could happen in the next 10 minutes. In actual fact, it’s happened this week. We’ve seen it happen in some providers across the country that we’re working with and supporting with access to PPE. I mentioned earlier, there is now the ability for providers to go to the National Stockpile through the Department of Health and get access to that. And we’re arranging the delivery of PPE to providers, especially those like you who are doing in home care for people, in home supports for people. So that that will be available, so encourage you to get that. You are going, organisations may well face where people aren’t prepared because of their own health and safety risks to go into those settings. We need to look across what we’ve done with this provider that we’ve been working with this week is to say, do you have available workforce? Is there some other workers we can get in? Are there others workers in and other providers who we can actually help to get and source up and get – get to support these participants, where we did have a confirmed case. So within your own workforce, you need to do those scenario planning. Really pleased to hear you’re thinking this through Brian already and doing that sort of business continuity approach. Strongly encourage you to get online through the National Stockpile through Department of Health, and Quality and Safeguards to get access to that PPE to ordering. We’ll get that delivered out by Toll or whoever’s doing the deliveries where you are. And then think about your broader scenario for your own workforce. And what if then, if there were, if you were having challenges in your own workforce, how we can support, how the Quality and Safeguards support, how other providers in your local area could also provide additional staff and if need be, and we just move some of the funding in claiming around to support.

Brian 42:35
Some of the problems we have Scott is we’ve went to the Department of Communities and they’ve said that they can’t give us any advice … on COVID-19. We’ve went to the NDIS and they’ve basically said is that we need to continue supporting people, and the Quality Safeguarding Commission, is forwarding these on the Department of Health. I’ve actually went to the Department of Health, and I’ve been able to get a contact in there. And I’m waiting on them coming back with an answer for me as well. And they can’t even give me an answer at this stage. And some of the some of the feedback I’ve got from staff is, the PPE that we have – the gloves and mask, apron, and eye protection is nowhere near the PPE that they see on the TV at nighttime, the staff are walking in hospitals, and the feedback I’m getting is “why do we not have the same PPE as staff in hospitals are getting, when we’re in a similar situation working in a home, in a confined space with people with suspected cases of COVID-19 unconfirmed diagnosis’?” Yeah there’s a lot of really uncertainty and a lot of fear. And um, and the support work community about em about getting the PPE. And then we’ve got we’ve got a real sense of duty of care that we in this unprecedented times to provide the best that we can for our support workers on the front line.

Scott McNaughton 44:06
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just acknowledging that, that uncertainty, anxiety Brian, it’s, it’s very real and and so it should be. So look, I would encourage you, and we’ll send Kirsten a link around through to the Quality Safeguards – how providers can access the National Stockpile. There are some really good resources there Brian around the types of PPE people need for certain jobs that they’re doing. Obviously, the medical profession will have a higher level of kit than than others who might be in sort of casual contact. But there are there are sort of levels and good guidance around that as well. So we’ll make that available. As PostScript, Kirsten, through you around how providers can access the right levels of PPE through the National Stockpile and hopefully, Brian that can help you and your organisation, somewhat to getting the right equipment they need.

Kirsten Deane 44:59
Okay, thanks Brian and thanks, Scott. I am going to throw to Robyn now who’s had a question on the chat. Robyn, are you there?

Robyn 45:11
Yeah I am. Can you see me?

Kirsten Deane 45:13
Yeah, we can.

Robyn 45:15
Okay, great. Yeah. My question was, I have a participant who requires a device to be able to access his services. He’s plan though is agency managed so he can’t just go out and and purchase the device he needs. Because NDIA need to approve, you know, approve that and pay for it. So how would he go about that? He does have sufficient funds in his core support, assistive technology, low cost low risk funds…

Scott McNaughton 45:59
Yeah, thanks Robyn. Good, good question. Looks nice and sunny where you are too there in the back.

Robyn 46:03
Sydney. Yes.

Scott McNaughton 46:05
Look pleasing to hear that your son’s got enough funding in the plan for to do this. The easiest way to make it happen in this case – because it sounds exactly like your son needs the device to access his NDIS supports –

Robyn 46:21
– It’s my client actually –

Scott McNaughton 46:23
– funding in the plan to access supports. So that’s great. If it’s agency managed, you can contact us at the 1800 number, we can organise how you can do that, or your LAC or your plan manager. If you do have a plan manager, they can also do that. We are looking at increasing the number of suppliers as well and moving outside the traditional AT suppliers over time who could potentially also support the provision of tablet devices etc. But at the moment, I’d say just contact us. We can make sure that the funding can be used appropriately and put you in the right – point you in the right direction of current suppliers you can use within the plan. Registered suppliers of those sorts of equipment because we do have some already that you can use.

Robyn 47:10
Okay. So he would have to have a good idea of what he what he really needs. Yep.

Scott McNaughton 47:16
Yes. Yeah. What sort of device, what sort of tablet, what’s the – what are the providers saying the most appropriate equipment, you know, so that they can keep doing the teletherapies or health or whatever it might be? Or the providers say this is the sorts of equipment that would best suit you.

Robyn 47:33
Okay. Good. Thank you.

Scott McNaughton 47:36
Good luck, thanks Robyn.

Kirsten Deane 47:39
All right. We’re going to throw to Gina next and quite a few people have asked this question. Gina’s got a question about shopping.

Gina, are you there?

Gina 47:50
Yes, I am. Hi. Can you hear me?

Scott McNaughton 47:52
Hi Gina. Yes

Gina 47:53
Hi, Kirsten, and everybody. I’m self managed and have very adequate funds in my core support, but can’t afford out of my personal funds to pay for delivery for groceries. I live on the rural fringe and I’m immunosuppressed and on strict medical advice not to have any workers in my home, at the moment. I rang NDIA about 10 days ago and was told by a very kind caring call taker that to check with her team leader, but in fact that that was fine, and she volunteered a reference number for the call should it be questioned. But I notice, I think it was on last week’s NDIS newsletter that in fact, grocery delivery is not an allowable payment request cost. And I’m just wondering if you can clarify that and, and if it’s not, can that be reversed please? Because it’s reasonable, it’s necessary. I don’t want a secondary source of infection by a second lot of people handling the goods — fatigue issues in washing those down is huge, and I’m sure many people will have lots of reasons as well.

Scott McNaughton 49:07
Yeah, no, thanks, Gina a really good question. And pleased you asked, because I really want to clarify this one for people. Before I do, I just want to give a plug for the announcement earlier in the week around the online shopping supermarket delivery service. So hopefully people out there listening or maybe you’re supporting participants have received their code by email or text this week. That that’s a great initiative. Covers most of the major supermarket small supermarket chains in the country, which is great. So you put that code in and your online order goes to the top of the queue, essentially. Because we have heard in some parts of Australia, you can be 6, 7, 10 days to get delivery. It puts it to the top of the queue. So that’s that’s a great a great initiative.

Of course, the cost of the groceries are everyday expenses you’re expected to pay for those yourselves. The delivery fees – a lot of supermarkets delivery fees vary quite a bit depending on how much you spend, some are free, some are 15 bucks if you only spend $30 just depends on the region and provider. However, and your case is a perfect example – where you’re unable to do your shopping because of your disability, so you need to shop online that is claimable by your plan, through your NDIS plan.

Gina 50:27
Thank you.

Scott McNaughton 50:29
Okay, it’s very clear. So when you can’t shop because of your disability, you can claim that delivery fee of the shopping through your –

Terrific, thank you.

Gina 50:39
That’s great.

Scott McNaughton 50:41
So use it flexibly to do that, of course then you’re up for the cost yourself, Gina, of the of the groceries, of course, but the fee can be funded. And use the code to get to the top of the queue.

Kirsten Deane 50:52
Thanks, Scott. That’s really clear. And there’s been lots of questions about that in the chat. And so thank you for clearing that up. Now I’m going to apologise to everyone, because we need to finish on time, we’ve only got a chance for two more questions. So just remember that I apologised at the beginning that I thought this might happen. So remembering that we’re going to bundle up all the questions and send them through to the NDIA. So we’ve got time for two more, and the person and I’m – because we haven’t got very much time left, I’ll ask the two people to be pretty quick in their questions. We’ll throw to Trudy and then Maree. So Trudy, are you there? And do you want to go ahead and ask your question?

Trudy 51:33
Can you hear me?

Kirsten and Scott 51:36
All, good Trudy. Yeah we can Trudy.

Trudy 51:37
Sorry. Okay. Um, yes. My question was just everything you’ve talked about is to do with service providers. What about people who self manage or are employing their own staff to be able to get PPE equipment for them? How do we do that? Everything’s about contact the national database but it’s nothing about what self managers can do.

Scott McNaughton 52:03
Yeah thanks Trudy. We’ve been looking at what – how big the National Stockpile will be to allow self manages to access this over time. We’ve had to prioritise, because the stocks aren’t, there isn’t enough, there isn’t enough in the country. So we’ve had to prioritise the service providers, especially those doing lots of the sort of in home type care, as I mentioned. But so at the moment, that will be the priority, then we’re going to see what’s left in the stockpile, and then we’re going to see if we can get this some way of having some access to people who are self managing, But unfortunately, just don’t have enough stock yet in the country. However, I do encourage people to get on to all available resources around the place for that self managing. Also, we’re hearing that a lot of providers who are providing services for participants that are self managed, are able to support – source their own PPE themselves too. So if you’ve got someone coming into your house, who is your provider, they can still sort – service their own PPE equipment through the stockpile. So I’d encourage them, Trudy to do that. I think that’s right. And then until we can get more stockpile in the country, we then need to work out when we can actually open that up for people that are self managed. Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough stock. So just be innovative. Try and get the stocks where you can try and get any people coming to your house to source through the stockpile, and we’ll stay in touch through EAC about when we can get some more stockpile available.

Trudy 53:42
Okay, so just to confirm on that, we so we don’t use service providers, we employ our own private staff, so therefore we’re responsible. So if we can access the equipment ourselves in some way then that is a claimable expense for us?

Scott McNaughton 54:01
Yeah, so if you need that for the support of it, remember to make sure you’re doing your own due diligence and research around when you need to wear PPE. And why it’s important. There’s a lot of people using PPE that don’t need to be using it in the country and that’s also diminishing the stocks of people that really need it. So do you do your research about when you need to use it, Trudy, that’s really, really important. And then and then you’ll be able to access it through those means, but just use it wisely as you need it.

Trudy 54:34
Thank you.

Kirsten Deane 54:35
Thanks, Trudy. Alright. And Maree Dyson, you are the lucky last – you’ve got a question you’d like to ask Scott.

Maree 54:43
Thank you very much. I assist two family members in the management of their plans. One’s on an agency managed plan, the others my grandson’s self managed plan. Both have behaviours of concern and are escalating in response to the isolation and will get worse because of the school closures. Because of the NDIA current pricing guide, I am unable to move funding from Improved Daily Living into Improved Relationships. My grandson has some money in there, my cousin has none. And the behaviours are escalating. I have a team ready to go on telehealth and I cannot access the money. Will you please allow us to use the Improved Relation – the money in other buckets in capacity building to address Improved Relationships?

Scott McNaughton 55:34
Yeah, Maree, thank you. This is a really powerful example about how we need to create more flexibility. I can tell you before COVID we were looking at a piece of work underway actually to create a lot more flexibility between core and capacity budgets.

Maree 55:52
No, not core and capacity – it’s within capacity. We have money in Improved Wellbeing and we have money in Improved Relationships – or no money in Improved Relationships. And your price guide currently says I cannot move money into Improved Relationships. And my family members and the staff are dealing with escalating behaviours.

Scott McNaughton 56:14
Yes, we want to make sure absolutely Maree we want to make sure they can access that funding, we want to make sure that they can move that funding around or you can claim against that. We’ve made a couple of changes to allow support coordinators if you had one to claim against those items. We’re also looking at a system change coming up shortly that will allow for much more flexibility within core and within capacity building over time, maybe between the two. If you would like I can get some details to Maree around how you can actually do it immediately and how you can claim against those two buckets — capability because we want those services to continue. They’re too important. And so when there’s money within the capacity bucket how you can move it or use it flexibly between those items. We’ll get your details and explain how you can do that.

Maree 57:05
Yeah families with kids with Autism and behaviours are under tremendous stress at the moment. Tremendous stress.

Scott McNaughton 57:12
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Kirsten Deane 57:14
Thanks, Maree. And thanks for asking that question on behalf of, you know, lots of people who can’t be here me today. So thank you.

Now I’m going to say sorry but we are going to have to wrap that up, now.

I want to thank everybody out there online for taking part. We’re so glad with everything else that you’ve all got going on at the moment that you made time to do this today. So thank you, for that.

I would like to send a very big thank you to the interpreters and to the captioners because it is very hard usually to caption a forum, a face to face forum like EAC usually does and it’s even harder to do it online like this. So they have my sincere thanks to all of them for the work that they’ve done today.

I would really like to thank Scott, for being very generous with his time and being very honest and clear with his answers. So thank you very much, Scott, we really, really appreciate you being here today.

Just a couple of reminders. The first thing is remember that we will put this up on the website next week. So let people that haven’t been able to make it know that this info is going up on there in the EAC website next week, so they will be able to watch. If you’ve got any feedback about how today went, please let EAC know. We’re trying to come up with some different ways that we can support people, get information out to people, through the next few weeks and months, and we don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. So if you’ve got any ideas about you know, ways that you think that we could help you please let us know. I’ll remind you that our email is .

And I will just finish with one plug. We have been very fortunate in the last couple of days to be able to lock in an interview with Martin Hoffman, the CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency. He’s agreed to spend some time with us. And we’re getting a chance to ask him some questions. So we want to ask the things that you want to know about. So we’ll pop this up on social media in the next couple of days. But we’re giving you all the heads up. If there are things that you would like us to ask the CEO of the NDIA next week, can you drop us an email at and we will choose the most commonly asked questions and we will put those to Martin next week. And then once we’ve recorded the interview, we will pop that up on the Every Australian Counts website.

So I really thank everyone for taking part in today, Scott and all of you online. And we would just ask please look after yourselves. Please stay safe and stay well and let us know if we can help you in any way. Thanks and we’ll see you next time. Bye!

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