We know many of you have lots of questions about the Coronavirus.

That includes questions about the virus itself, but also about how you can still get the support you need (or your family member needs).

We know there are also still big gaps in the information being provided by the NDIS. So we’re working with the NDIA to get you the answers that you need as quickly as possible.

In the meantime we’ve summarised a bunch of the most commonly asked questions here. We’re putting the newest questions and answers at the top so you don’t have to scroll all the way down for the latest.

But we encourage everyone to check out the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and support section on the NDIS website to get all the latest.

And if you can’t find the answer to your question here, ask it in our form on this page. We will pull together all the questions and get them to the NDIA. They have promised to get us the answers as quickly as they can.

 

April 17 Zoom Q&A with NDIA CEO Martin Hoffman

Thank you so much to everyone who sent in questions for us to ask the CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency Martin Hoffman on April 17.

We were flooded with questions – so many that we could not possibly ask them all.

But we did manage to cover the big questions you have been asking us about changes to the NDIS as a result of the Coronavirus. Or just as important what changes haven’t been made – and what still needs to be done.

So what did Mr Hoffman have to say? Scroll down for the individual questions and answers below – or check out our quick summary and the full 23-minute video and transcript from our news article.


“What exactly are the new guidelines for iPads and laptops? So we can access therapy and support? There’s been a lot of confusion.” - Jade and Kylie

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
So I’m going to start first, with probably the most common question that we’ve been asked in the last little while. And the question that I’ve got comes from both Jade and Kylie. And they have both asked, “What exactly are the new guidelines for iPads and laptops? So we can access therapy and support? There’s been a lot of confusion.”

Martin Hoffman
Yeah, no, thanks for that. And it is an important question to ask. And there has been some confusion and that was our fault. And I’m always upfront about saying that we got a little bit ahead of ourselves at the end of last week. And we’re working furiously to address that now.

So right now the position is as it’s always been. We know funding is for disability related needs. laptops and iPads, other tech are generally seen as everyday things that are used broadly by all people. However, we do absolutely recognize that Where we’ve got this big change in the way the whole of society works, and much therapy and much social engagement is being rapidly transformed. And we’re seeing some great stories by providers are changing in and innovating in the way services are provided. We do recognize the need to think again about the way this works. Now, of course, many people have devices. And of course, we’re seeing programs that the states and state education departments are rolling out for devices as well. And so we do need to think about how this works together with those programs. And works in an equitable way. Um, let me just say, we’ve been working through this literally every day since Easter. And we’re very close. And I would expect next week to be able to say something here.

Kirsten Deane 
Okay, that’s great. Thanks, Martin.

Note: the NDIA policy has been clarified – find more info about buying devices here.

“Why haven’t you increased plans to cover the new 10% price increase? Now I will have to seek a review and I’ve just finished one.” - Nigel

Transcript

Kirsten Deane 
This next question comes from Nigel. And Nigel says, “Why haven’t you increased plans to cover the new 10% price increase? This comes on top of not increasing plans to cover the TTP loading on prices. I have estimated that I am now down about five hours per week in core support because of this price increase. Now I will have to seek a review and I’ve just finished one, we need a more streamlined approach.”

Martin Hoffman 
Hmm. So obviously in Nigel’s particular circumstances. I don’t know the details of his plan. And I would – if her personally but it would sound like he must be very close to his total budget spend if in order to accommodate this he needs to drop hours. And that is not the intent. And we do have a strict new streamlined approach for COVID-19 related plan adjustments. Call the call center, press 5, there’s a dedicated team making adjustments for just this sort of circumstance.

But the general situation is this that on average, the great majority of plans run at a utilisation rate well below 100%. So there is the capacity to cover this temporary, we hope and intend temporary 10% on certain line items for six months. And where there is not in what should be a very small number of cases and you know, maybe Nigel is one of them. But in this very small number of cases, we do have the streamlined approach to get the plan amended and topped up. But for the majority of people that won’t be the case because utilization rates are in the 60 and 70%. And there’s capacity there.

“Why have you changed the cancellation policy, we now have to give 10 days notice to cancel a service. This seems excessive. It’s not like we can plan being sick.” - Michelle

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
The next question that we’ve got is from Michelle. And Michelle asks, “Why have you changed the cancellation policy, we now have to give 10 days notice to cancel a service. This seems excessive. It’s not like we can plan being sick.”

Martin Hoffman
No, and again, this is a really tricky one. And I really respect Michelle’s position there. It’s strange because I get criticized as well from providers who say, “You haven’t changed the cancellation policy enough.” And “we should require a month’s notice.” Or “we should be able to keep charging, regardless of cancellation or not for the whole of the COVID-19, six month period, etc.” So sort of taking it from both sides in that in that respect. We quite genuinely were trying to seek a balance but where we were expecting to see an increased number of cancellations for across the board, whether the person was sick or just was practising physical distancing and not wanting to attend, we just needed to give a little bit more time for the providers to adjust to that fact. And hence the change to 10 days. This is one of the things that we’ve done. For a three and six month period, subject to review, and subject to the cancellation policy. They’re subject to the COVID situation in general, so it’s not intended to be a permanent change in arrangements.

“When will people will be able to move their NDIS funds around? Why can’t we just move funds between categories?” - Anne

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
Okay, great. Thank you. All right. Our next question comes from Anne. And lots of people asked this question, but we just picked the one from Anne. “When will people will be able to move their NDIS funds around? For example, when will we be able to move funds from core into capacity building? Why can’t we just move funds between categories?”

Martin Hoffman
Yeah, and certainly, it is the intention of the agency and I’ve spoken about this with you and others before, to move in the direction of greater flexibility, greater treating of the funding package or funding plan as a total.

There’s a range of things we’ve got to do with that including education and support and controls, etc. to put that sort of in place.

Right now, we do have that flexibility we’ve seen for support coordination, the ability to use that between core and capacity building. For the great majority of cases, there is flexibility within the core components and the different line items there. And again, we encourage people to use the 1800 number, press 5 for the COVID special teams to make that streamline sort of plan and plan adjustments to, to move money around and use it in different ways, including you know through that streamlined approach between capacity and core as Anne was asking.

Kirsten Deane
Okay, so the message is – if you want to move money around call the call center.

Martin Hoffman 
Exactly. And you know, we’ve had that we’ve had that [telephone] line there [1800 800 110] and we’ve been trying to promote it. And this session is part of that and in all outcomes, etc. I think it’s a good thing, but we haven’t had that many calls to it. So I think that means that sort of people are coping or maybe it was just the people We’re sort of working out what they needed to do in this new world and sort of thinking it through and now they’ll be ready to start thinking about how to best use their plan at this time, and that’s what we want people to be able to do.

Kirsten Deane 
Okay, that’s great. Thanks.

“How much support and personal care is it reasonable for the NDIS to expect families to provide? What we do goes way beyond ordinary parental responsibility.” - Contessa and Dawn

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
This next question we got asked by a lot of people and we chose two questions from Contessa and from Dawn and we’ve kind of smooshed them together and combined them. So the question is, “How much support and personal care is it reasonable for the NDIS to expect families to provide? How many hours of work is considered reasonable? Why is the term ‘parental responsibility’ so ambiguous? It seems to vary from planner to planner to LAC to LAC. What we do goes way beyond ordinary parental responsibility.”

Martin Hoffman
And this is a really important and, and difficult question. And let me just start by just acknowledging my respect, admiration for so many parents, so many families and what they do with children with disability disabilities. And I absolutely know that people go well above and beyond what another family might do. Absolutely. And so, and nothing that I want to do or the agency wants to do, in any way sort of either on one hand disrespect that or on the other hand, sort of take it for granted or take advantage of it.

The Act is clear in one sense in that it absolutely says that when it comes to funded supports and the consideration of what is reasonable and necessary. I must SEO and then delegated for the organisation, take into account, what is reasonable to expect families, carers informal networks and the community generally to provide.

And there’s that word ‘reasonable’. And the question that Contessa and the other person asks is, “well what is reasonable?” And of course, the only answer is – it depends on the circumstances.

And that’s one of the great tensions that’s at the heart of the NDIS scheme, which is, on the one hand, we don’t want a black letter set of rules and laws that says, “Well…” you look it up and it says, “This is what you get. Full stop. That’s what the law says no more, no, no less.” The whole scheme was trying to be about and it’s right up front in the Act, individualised situation taking into account goals and objectives of the person, taking into account their particular circumstances, and trying to be reasonable in those circumstances. And I absolutely acknowledge that that is hard. Because it’s about individualisation at mass scale all the way across the country.

So I’m quite sure that the questioners are right, that there is difference between planners and difference between LACs. Some of that is because the people are different. The situation is different and what is reasonable in those circumstances for one family and one parent will be different from another parent. And that’s why we get a large part of the of the variation that we see on these sorts of matters.

So there isn’t a simple answer to this question at all. I would say one place we start with is well, you know, what does a parent of a child without disability reasonably do? And, you know, responsibility for transport for your children rests with families, rests with parents in large degree. And so that translates across to a child with disability and the expectations on transport with their parents, just as it does for parents of children without disability.

So, we start from that place of what do parents generally do for children, regardless of whether they do or don’t have a disability, and work from there in the circumstances. And then the capability of the parents and the wider family and the wider community has to come into it as well. So I want to keep going on and on because it’s difficult to give a precise answer, but we’re very aware of it. We do want to, in general, try and improve not just in this question, but in all these areas of reasonableness and decision making. Try and have more – and I’ve spoken about this before including with you and others – we do think we can do a better job at having more public guidelines, examples, case studies, as to how things should be decided. People might not like what those guidelines say in all cases, of course, but at least they will be there as an indication of what should be expected. Um, and that’s really all I can say on that.

I just want to come back again and just emphasise, you know, my complete personal respect and admiration for what parents and families do in the situation of a child with disability.

Kirsten Deane
And that it’s even more difficult right at this particular time, which as I’m sure why, you know, all of the people who sent us this question wanted it brought up.

Martin Hoffman
Correct, yeah.

“One recent announcement said that the NDIS is contacting around 62,000 high-risk participants to make sure they’re getting the supports they need during this crisis. I’m in that high-risk group, and I haven’t had any contact with anyone.” - Michelle

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
So the next question that we have is from Michelle and Michelle asks, “One recent announcement said that the NDIS is contacting around 62,000 high-risk participants to make sure they’re getting the supports they need during this crisis. I’m in that high-risk group, and I haven’t had any contact with anyone. What is being done for those who are at high risk of COVID-19?”

Martin Hoffman
Sure, so um, first thing I’d say is that if any participant or their family is concerned about exposure to Coronavirus, then they absolutely need to be calling the Department of Health line 1800 020 080 or the National Relay Service if I need to use that 1300, 555 727.

Um, what we’re doing in the Agency, in addition is – as well as our own call center number [1800 800 110] and the dial 5 for the COVID-19 hotline and the special teams there – is as well as that sort of being better at receiving we’re trying to be proactive as well.

So we have started a program of direct contact calls to what we’ll get to about 60 odd thousand people based on the criteria of the high risk, nature of the disability, what supports they’re receiving, their health status, their accommodation status – factors like that. So we started to make those calls in the last week, we’re ramping up the numbers. We hope to get in the next week or so to about 2000 calls per day. And so far, they’ve been going very well and people have been very grateful just just for the call and the contact in itself and there is a big value just in that checking in, you know – we’re here, hello, etc.

But we can talk about plan issues. And so the need for any light touch adjustments as we’ve spoken about before. Making sure things like they’ve got their Woolworths code or their grocery code – I shouldn’t name one grocery store – but you know, the grocery code and they now have apps that’s working if they’re, if they’re after that.

And, but I would just urge if you if you need contact, obviously, don’t wait for us to get through our list, please just call the contact center. You know, at the moment we’re handling the call volumes really well. We’ve got the dedicated teams there. The numbers have not been huge to date. So you will get through and it seems they’re keen to try to and assist.

“For people who’ve had to reduce support hours because of the Coronavirus, can we be reassured that future plans won’t be cut because funds weren’t used?” - Emma

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
All right, the next question that we’ve got is for from Emma. And Emma asks “For people who’ve had to reduce support hours because of the Coronavirus, can we be reassured that future plans won’t be cut because funds weren’t used?”

Martin Hoffman
So yes, Emma can definitely be reassured that future plans won’t be cut because funds were unspent for whatever reason – but particularly for the impacts of COVID-19 and quite rational and reasonable decisions or necessary decisions that a participant may have made in terms of use of plan.

Plans will be adjusted based on the changes of circumstances, changes of need, changes in the nature and extent of disability etc, they’re not made on the basis of spent or unspent funds in the prior plan. And that’s absolutely the case for the COVID-19 situation.

Kirsten Deane
All right. Well, that will be good because we got that question from a lot of people so that – it’s not just for Emma but for lots of people.

“Why does the information on the NDIS Coronavirus pages give a flat out no to employing family members when the NDIS Operational Guidelines allow it under exceptional circumstances?” - Shirley

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
And we’re going to give the last question to Shirley. And Shirley asks, “Why does the information on the NDIS Coronavirus pages give a flat out no to employing family members when the NDIS Operational Guidelines allow it under exceptional circumstances? Could you set up a hotline so these requests could be dealt with urgently?”

Martin Hoffman 
So as I’ve said, we do have a hotline [1800 800 110 and the dial 5].

But I do have to say that, yes, in exceptional circumstances, that is allowed for. But that is really talking about situation where it’s advice – on the advice of health professionals where there is just no other option at all available for the safety of the participant. We have agreed in a very small number of cases for a family member to receive paid daily care supports.

But that is not the general policy even in the COVID-19 situation. And so that’s not really a factor that goes into the exceptional circumstances consideration. We do believe that it is important, as I referred to earlier in the questions under the Act, to take into account for very real responsibility, and I’m not disparaging those taking advantage of those – but just the real responsibilities that do exist in our society for parents and family members for, for children and other family members.

 

April 9 Zoom Q&A with NDIA General Manager Scott McNaughton

Thank you so much to everyone who attended our EAC Zoom forum with Scott McNaughton from the National Disability Insurance Agency on April 9. 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.

There’s a quick summary of some of the big things that were covered in our News section here, along with the hour-long video and transcript.

Or check out the individual questions and answers below.


“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.” - Leonie

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
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
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.

“My service provider won’t take me to the nearest biggest town for shopping anymore. Can they do that? What can I do?” - Nerida

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
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
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.

“What will happen to my personal care supports if I have to be fully isolated? Or, if I get the virus?” - Janelle

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
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 
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.

“How will the NDIA make sure service providers have access to PPE such as masks and hand sanitiser?” - Kerrie

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
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 
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.

“The provider that runs my son's group home says his other providers can’t even meet him outside, nor can we take him out for physical exercise ourselves.” - Michelle

Transcript

Kirsten Deane 
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 
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
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
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.

“How can we use telehealth 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?” - Gayle

Transcript

Kirsten Deane 
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 
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 
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.

Note: the NDIA policy has been clarified – find more info about buying devices here.

“I’m not happy about the new 10-day cancellation policy. Why have you done it? And when will you change it?” - Leslie

Transcript

Kirsten Deane 
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 
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.

“The NDA are allowing providers to charge an extra 10% on top of core line items. Why didn't the NDIS automatically boost every participant's plan?” - Les

Transcript

Kirsten Deane 
So the question is from Les – hi, Les, if you’re online. “The NDIA 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
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.

“Is the NDIA looking at adding data to Deaf participants’ plans? Streaming video for Auslan uses so much more data.” - Gary

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
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 
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 have happening right now.

Scott McNaughton 
Great. Thanks, Gary, really, really good question. Again, 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.

“What should providers be doing if a person who needs in home care has COVID-19 - if we don’t have the PPE and the staff?” - Brian

Transcript

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

Brian 
Yes, here. Can you hear me?

Scott McNaughton 
Hi, Brian.

Brian 
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 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, 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 
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 
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 
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just acknowledging that, that uncertainty, anxiety Brian, it’s, it’s very real 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.

“I have a participant who requires a device to be able to access his services. His plan is agency managed. How would he go about getting it?” - Robyn

Transcript

Kirsten Deane 
I am going to throw to Robyn now who’s had a question on the chat. Robyn, are you there?

Robyn 
Yeah I am. Can you see me?

Kirsten Deane
Yeah, we can.

Robyn
Okay, great. Yeah. My question was, I have a participant who requires a device to be able to access his services. His plan though is agency managed so he can’t just go out 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
Yeah, thanks Robyn. Good, good question. Looks nice and sunny where you are too there in the back.

Robyn 
Sydney. Yes.

Scott McNaughton 
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 
– It’s my client actually –

Scott McNaughton 
– 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
Okay. So he would have to have a good idea of what he really needs. Yep.

Scott McNaughton 
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 
Okay. Good. Thank you.

Scott McNaughton 
Good luck, thanks Robyn.

“I'm high-risk and need to have my groceries delivered. Is it possible to claim the delivery cost from my plan?” - Gina

Transcript

Kirsten Deane 
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
Yes, I am. Hi. Can you hear me?

Scott McNaughton 
Hi Gina. Yes

Gina 
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 
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 
Thank you.

Scott McNaughton 
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 
That’s great.

Scott McNaughton 
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 
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.

“How do people who self manage get access to PPE?” - Trudi

Transcript

Kirsten Deane 
We’ll throw to Trudi and then Maree. So Trudi, are you there? And do you want to go ahead and ask your question?

Trudi
Can you hear me?

Kirsten and Scott 
All, good Trudi. Yeah we can Trudi.

Trudi 
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 
Yeah thanks Trudi. 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.

Trudi
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 
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.

Trudi 
Thank you.

“I have a team ready to go on telehealth but I cannot move funding from Improved Daily Living into Improved Relationships to help my family members with escalating behaviours of concern.” - Maree

Transcript

Kirsten Deane
And Maree Dyson, you are the lucky last – you’ve got a question you’d like to ask Scott.

Maree
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
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
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
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
Yeah families with kids with autism and behaviours are under tremendous stress at the moment. Tremendous stress.

Scott McNaughton
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Kirsten Deane 
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.

 

Your questions about the NDIS answered 

What should I do to get ready?

It might seem like it is too late to get ready but it’s not. But there isn’t any time to waste. Now is the time to think about what is absolutely essential to you. What do you need to get through the coming weeks and months?

Essential supports and services are those which keep you alive and which you cannot live without. Eating and drinking are two pretty good examples. But because of what is happening at the moment essential support might also include some different things – like support for your mental health. Now is a pretty stressful time and given we are all at home alone a lot, it is something worth thinking about.

You need to think about what is essential to you – your health and your wellbeing. Then talk to your family, your friends, your service providers and your health care providers about coming up with a plan to make sure you are safe and have what you need.  (And we know not everyone has those people in their lives. Please try and find someone – anyone – you trust to help you).

It’s also a good idea to make sure you have a good stock of all your medicines and stuff. Do you need catheters, continence items etc? You will probably need to stock up on a few extra. And if you need personal care, some personal protective equipment (PPE) is going to be pretty important. Unfortunately it’s just really hard to get at the moment. Talk to your providers and workers and keep trying through your usual suppliers.

My plan is about to end and I haven’t heard anything. What should I do?

If your plan is about to end then a local area coordinator or a planner should be in touch to organise a review.

Because the NDIA are trying to reduce face-to-face contact, that review will happen over the phone or by email.

If you are happy with your current plan and nothing needs to change, then you can roll over your plan for up to 24 months. That can just be done over the phone.

You will get the same plan, the same supports and the same budget as you had before.

For example, if your current plan budget is $15,000 for one year, you will get $30,000 for two years.

The NDIA is trying to make it as quick and as easy as possible to get plans rolled over. That way they can focus on people who need changes and help more urgently.

So if you are pretty happy with your plan and your budget, you can just ask it to be rolled over and you will be good to go.

But back to the question. If you haven’t had a phone call or an email and the end date is coming closer and closer, make sure you call the NDIA. Pronto.

But most of all don’t worry that you will run out of money.

NDIS plans do not end any more. On the day your plan is due to expire, it will be extended by 365 days.

It will have all the same supports and the same budget as the previous year. You won’t have to do anything – it will happen automatically.

But again if your needs have changed – or you think they are going to change in the year ahead – get on the phone and organise that plan review quick smart.

You can find more information about this on the NDIS – what happens when page and on the NDIS – FAQs pages.

Lots of services that I usually use have all stopped. What should I do?

It is really hard with all the changes. We get it. First place to start is to talk to your regular provider (or providers) to see if they can offer you any different kinds of support. For example, if you usually have help to go out, can you get someone to come and give you a hand at home? Or someone to do your shopping for you and drop it off at home?

And if your current provider can’t help you – do you know any other providers in the area who might? If you have a support coordinator they should be helping you find other options. You can also ask your current provider to help you (yeah we know – that’s likely to get a bit of a mixed response. But worth a go).

Remember that your core budget is flexible so you can use it in the way that works best for you. You can change things around to suit yourself. You don’t need any kind of approvals to do that. Just go ahead and organise things the way you want to.

And if you are worried that you will run out of money AND you have some left in your capacity building budget, you are now allowed to move some into core.

But (and it’s a big but) you can’t do that without talking to the NDIA first. So give them a call and they can approve the changes over the phone.

If you are finding all this wrangling a bit too much, don’t forget you can now use some of your core funds to pay for a support coordinator to help you.

And finally – if you think you might not have enough funds in any category, get on the phone to the NDIA straight away and tell them you need help. Tell them you need an urgent review so that you have enough funds and support to get through. Don’t wait.

You can find more information about this on the NDIS – what happens when page and on the NDIS – FAQs pages.

All my son’s group activities have stopped. Now he is home all day. What support can he get?

It is really hard for people when everything shuts down all of a sudden. Particularly for people who are really used to routines and find change hard.

First thing to do is talk to your provider (or providers). Now that the regular activities have stopped what other individual options can they offer your son?

Or if you employ your own individual workers, can you get them to organise some different (but still safe) activities with your son? What about walks in the park? Some support at home instead of going out?

And if you are reluctant to have workers in your home right now (and we get that) are there some things that support workers could do by video that would work for your son? Learning something new? Playing a game together over the internet? Watching a movie together over the internet? We know that won’t work for everyone – it’s not a good solution for all. And it requires gear and internet that not everyone has. But for some people it might really help to keep connecting with the same people who have always worked with them.

Now is the time for a bit of creativity. Talk to your workers – they might have some awesome ideas.

And one final thing. The funding in your NDIS plan assumes your son will be doing things in groups. If he is using support workers one-on-one he will burn through his funds quicker (the hourly rate for groups is less than the hourly rate for individual support). If you are worried he will run out of funds get onto the phone and call the NDIA and request a review. And don’t wait – get onto it quickly (just in case the review takes a while. Can’t imagine why we think that …)

You can find more information about this on the NDIS – what happens when page and on the NDIS – FAQs pages.

I have support workers who can’t come to my house now. What should I do?

If you have a provider (or providers) you need to talk to them about what your needs are and what you need workers to help you with. And you need to do it fast – don’t wait. They need to know exactly what your needs are so they can do some planning too.

They have a responsibility not to leave you in the lurch. If your regular workers are sick or can’t come for any other reason, they should be helping you find others to fill those shifts.

But even though that is true, we also reckon it is better to be safe than sorry. Start thinking about what you might do if that happens. Who can you call in an emergency? Is it worth setting up a bit of a pool of emergency replacements now so you are ready if it happens?

If you employ your own workers – do you have a couple of workers you can contact in an emergency? Do you have a couple of workers who can fill shifts quickly for you? If you don’t, now might be a really good time to organise a few in case you need them.

There are also platforms out there like that can help you find workers. Now might be a good time to check them out – don’t wait until you get stuck.

And this is a bit scary but it is a good idea to start putting together an emergency plan. Who amongst your family/friends/neighbourhood/community could help you if you really got stuck? Not everyone has these people in their lives. Who is a trusted person you could call? Start having those conversations and collecting those phone numbers now.

You can find more information about this on the NDIS – what happens when page and on the NDIS – FAQs pages.

Can I use my funds to ask support workers to work with my child over Zoom or Skype or FaceTime?

Lots of therapists have already started using Telehealth to work with kids and adults. (It’s often the only way to reach people who live in rural and remote areas.) And now with the need for people to stay home, lots more are getting onto it very quickly.

We know it won’t work for everyone. And it won’t work for some kinds of therapy – hard to get a physio to help keep you mobile when you can’t be in the same room. But there might be other things that you can do that will help you keep safe and well.

Same goes for support workers. Have a talk to your child’s workers about what they might be able to do with your child using Zoom or Skype or FaceTime or one of the many other programs. Is it a chance to learn something new? Play a game? Work on an app? Sing or dance?

It definitely won’t work for everyone. And it assumes you have internet and some kind of device like a phone or a computer. And functional internet (NBN anyone?). There’s some big assumptions right there. But we finally have some good news on devices for accessing supports online – scroll down to the next question for more info.

Can I use my NDIS funds to buy a device like a laptop or tablet or iPad to access supports online?

After a couple of weeks of confusion, anxiety and worry, the National Disability Insurance Agency confirmed on April 27 that NDIS participants CAN purchase a smart device to help them with their disability support during this period.

And while the answer has always been a general yes, we have all been waiting for the fine print.

So here it is.

You can purchase a device such as a tablet if:

✅ You need it for your disability support during this period. Things like therapy or Auslan interpreting for meetings. So again – not for bingeing on Netflix.

✅ You don’t already have something that will get the job done.

✅ You don’t have access to something that will get the job done through another system. On this one they are really talking about education. Or if you are a parent – your personal laptop or computer.

✅ The device is the “lowest specification” necessary to get the job done. In other words, this isn’t the time for a fancy upgrade.

✅ And you have something in writing confirming you need it. Doesn’t have to be a full blown assessment from a therapist but just something in writing to say it’s necessary. Just an email will be OK.

Check out our news article from April 27 for more details.

I can’t get any of my regular workers to come any more. But I still need help. Can I pay a family member?

This is a tricky one. Under normal circumstances, the answer is generally no. The NDIA don’t allow payment of family members. And they have lots of very good reasons for that rule.

But we get that now is not exactly normal. What we can tell you is that the NDIA are still telling people that you can’t employ family members. But if you find yourself in “exceptional circumstances” give them a call and talk to them. You will need to explain and show why no other options will work for you.

If your circumstances really are very different as a result of the virus, it might also be worth checking whether your family member is eligible for the Carer Payment. There is more information about the payment on the Services Australia (Centrelink) website.

You can find more information about this on the NDIS – what happens when page and on the NDIS – FAQs pages.

I’m really worried that because all of my activities are shut down and I am not using much of my NDIS funding, it will be cut next time I have a review.

We get that. People talk about “use it or lose it” a lot. But the NDIA keep saying they will not look at unspent funds when working on your plan and budget next time. In their words – the funding “will be determined by your disability-related support needs not by assessing unspent funds”. Feel free to take a screen shot of that on the and take it with you to your next planning meeting. 😜😜

All jokes aside, there is something else you can do. Keep a few notes about what is happening at the moment – what you have cancelled and why. That way you will have it at your fingertips when your next meeting comes around. It will help you to explain why you didn’t use your funds – and what you need now.

You can find more information about this on the NDIS – what happens when page and on the NDIS – FAQs pages.

I put in a request for a review before the Coronavirus started. And I still haven’t heard anything. What should I do?

Reviews should still be going ahead as usual. But we know there has been a bit of a backlog. So it’s a good idea to give the NDIA a call to see where things are up to.

But just remember two things.

First – NDIS plans no longer end. On the day your plan is due to expire it will be rolled over for another 365 days. You will get the same supports and the same budget for another year. You don’t have to do anything – it will happen automatically.

Second – the NDIA are now allowing people to move money between core and capacity building categories. So if you have run out of core funds but still have some in capacity building, you can move it over. But the bad news is that you can’t do that yourself – you have to call the NDIA and they will approve the change over the phone.

We know that won’t help everyone – particularly if you put in a review because you don’t have enough support. But the extra flexibility might help you get scrape through until you hear back about the review.

You can find more information about this on the NDIS – what happens when page and on the NDIS – FAQs pages.

Now that plans are just being extended, does that mean we don’t have to have annual reviews anymore?

NDIS plans don’t end anymore. On the day your plan is due to expire, it will be extended for another 365 days. You will get the same supports and the same budget for the next year. And it will happen automatically – you don’t have to do anything. That’s good – it means you won’t run out of funds or have a gap between plans. Really helpful at the moment.

But that won’t work for everyone. Your needs might have already changed – or your circumstances might have too. Or you might already know that a big change is right around the corner – like leaving school for example.

So lots of people will still need a review to make sure they get the right support in their plan. Those reviews will have to happen over the phone or by email now – the NDIA are cutting down on face to face meetings at the moment (for obvious reasons). But you can still have a review – the extended plan is only so you don’t run out of funds while you are waiting for the meeting.

You can find more information about this on the NDIS – what happens when page and on the NDIS – FAQs pages.

 

General Coronavirus information

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known to cause respiratory infections. This new coronavirus is called COVID-19.

Symptoms range from fever, tiredness, dry cough, aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. Some people recover quickly and easily, and other may get very sick, very quickly.

How is this virus spread?

Coronavirus is most likely to spread from person-to-person by:

  • Coming into close contact someone while they are infectious or in the 24 hours before their symptoms appear.
  • Close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes.
  • Touching things (such as door handles or tables) that are contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person who has the virus and then touching your mouth or face.
How can we all prevent the spread of coronavirus?

Make sure you and people around you

  1. Wash your hands a lot with soap and water, at all times but especially before and after eating, and after going to the toilet.
  2. Cover your cough and sneeze, throw away tissues, and wash your hands.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, nose and face.
  4. Practice “social distancing” – stay 1.5 metres away from people.
  5. Stay home if you feel unwell.
  6. If you have any symptoms seek medical advice – but call ahead first to get instructions on what to do.

State and federal governments now have rules about where you can go. Check your state or territory website to find out about the latest rules in your area.

Where can I get more information?

The Department of Health has a Coronavirus hotline – 1800 020 080 (24 hours a day, seven days a week).

If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, you can use the National Relay Service to access any of the department’s listed phone numbers.

You can also visit the National Relay Service website or call 1300 555 727. If you need translation and/or interpretation support you can there’s help here: Department of Home Affairs website .

The Department of Health has lots of factsheets on their Coronavirus page.

The information includes:

  • Home isolation and care
  • For international travellers
  • For parents of school aged children
  • For aged care residents and families
  • For childcare, schools and higher education
  • For employers
  • For travel, transport and hotel industries
  • Posters

There are also four videos to watch:

You should keep checking back on their Coronavirus page for all the latest information.

Send us your question about the NDIS and coronavirus

Send in your questions and we'll get them answered for you

News

Flexibility and the NDIS – it’s finally starting to happen

It was easy to miss it with everything that is going on at the moment. But late last week the NDIA made a small but incredibly important announcement.

Read more Read more

Statement: Tragic death of Anne-Marie Smith: People with disability deserve answers

People with disability and their families are demanding a full investigation into the horrific and tragic death of Anne-Marie Smith.

Read more Read more

Keep kicking at the bricks …

Yesterday the Joint Standing Committee into the NDIS released a report into Supported Independent Living (or SIL for short). And once again the committee made a bunch of practical and sensible recommendations which would really make a difference to people with disability and their families.

Read more Read more