News | 27 April 2020

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

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Photo of a hand holding an iPad. The screen has a blue background with the Apple universal access symbol, and the NDIS logo.

After a couple of weeks of confusion, anxiety and worry, the National Disability Insurance Agency confirmed this afternoon 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. There are instructions on the NDIS website about what should be included in the letter.

The NDIA say they are doing this to make sure people talk to their providers to make sure they get a device that has all the features they will need. For example they don’t want you to blow your dough on a device that does not support the apps or programs you will need to use.

While there are no specific price limits, the website says people should generally not spend more than $750.

And if you are buying a tablet for telehealth or therapy, the advice is a standard tablet should be enough which not cost more than $600.

And funds can’t be used for (and this is a big one) devices that have inbuilt mobile connections (like a SIM card). You have to get something that will connect to the internet using wifi only.


So how do I do it?

Devices or tablets can be bought with core funds. You need to have at least $1 in your consumable budget – and then you can use core for the rest.

If you don’t have a consumables budget, you will need to wait until May 9. On that day the NDIS will introduce a change to their system so you can use another category in core.

If you don’t have enough funds in core, you can use capacity building funds. The NDIA have introduced a new line item in the latest Price Guide (COVID-19 Low Cost AT to support Capacity Building support delivery 15_222400911_0124_1_3).

Plan or self managed participants can buy from any provider. Agency managed participants will have to buy from a registered provider – for example from a therapist or even a support coordinator (if you have one). And we also know that a couple of the big electronics retailers are NDIS providers.

You need a letter from a provider confirming you need the device or equipment. The letter can either be uploaded to the portal or you can email it to with the subject line ‘Low cost AT flexibility evidence’. Or get your provider to do that for you.

And the critical bit – you have to use existing funds. The NDIA are not increasing plans to cover the cost of devices. And they won’t do a review if all you are looking for is a device.

If you don’t have enough funds for your overall support that is a different story. Then you will have to put in for a review as usual.

The NDIA have flagged this is all temporary – the policy is in place until September, and will be reviewed again at the end of June.


And it is just not about devices …

The NDIA have also answered questions about gym equipment and children’s play equipment.

Short answer on gym equipment – you need to talk to your therapists before doing anything. And then make sure you look at all alternatives such as renting.

Play equipment is an even shorter answer – a straight no.


And finally …

While we don’t want to finish on a downer we gotta say – this has been a whole bunch of stress, worry and anxiety. And for what? We reckon the purchase of a device was the same as anything else covered by the NDIS legislation. We reckon if you could answer the usual checklist “can I buy it” it was probably reasonable and necessary all along. And we always reckon the vast majority of people are trying to do the right thing.

And if you have never seen the “can I buy it?” checklist make sure you check out the NDIS guide to self management. Even if you don’t think you will ever self manage, there is heaps of good information that all NDIS participants will find helpful.


Other links you might find useful:

The announcement by Minister for the NDIS Stuart Robert

Frequently asked questions about using your budget on the NDIS Coronavirus pages

NDIS website Price guides and pricing page

Our interview with the NDIA CEO Martin Hoffman

Our Zoom forum with Scott McNaughton from the NDIA

Our NDIS and Coronavirus resources page

Our NDIS and Coronavirus FAQs page


Page updated May 7 2020

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