By Tina Kraja
This article is part of My Plan Manager’s guest blogger series.
I want to share how to budget. I hear stories from families who do not know how to share out their funding, saying things like, ‘we used it all in 3 months, there is nothing left’. This needs to change! Many people just do not understand how to budget the funds in their plans. Here are my tips for parents to plan ahead and get the most out of their child’s NDIS plan.
1. Do the sums on regular expenses
I religiously budget down to that last dollar. I divide and conquer, quite literally. I take the full amount in my plan and I divide it by the hourly rate, so I know how many hours I have for a year. I then divide this by therapists, taking into account which therapist we will use fortnightly and who will be more beneficial to use weekly. This way I know exactly how many appointments to book for each therapist, so I get the most out of my plan without overspending.
2. Do your research on providers
I search for good therapists who are flexible to stretch my hours, for instance my physio and occupational therapist (OT) for my six-year-old both do 45 minute appointments, which saves us 30 minutes a week compared to having 1-hour appointments. This means we then get an extra hour a month to use on a weekend group session. Look out for those added extras, like travel charges. These can certainly eat into your funding, so have a look for providers that don’t charge for travel, or go to the office for appointments, as long as it won’t be too tiring for your child or too disruptive to their routine.
3. Look at the calendar
I study the school terms and see where our appointments fall. If we do weekly appointments, I might cancel week 10 as most kids finish early and have a fun day that Friday so OT is pointless this day. For speech therapy, my daughter will be so overwhelmed at the beginning of term 1 that weekly will be too much, but in term 2 and 3 she will be more settled, so more therapy is ok.
4. Getting the best value
There are some other things you can consider to make every dollar go further. Some therapists hold appointments at the school and do not charge travel.
Weekend group sessions are cheaper with our Occupational Therapist, so they are a good option for both the budget and for extra social skills outside of school. We pay for an hour with both the OT and Physiotherapist.
Therapy tools can be purchased cheaply from retail giants like Kmart – just do some online research.
Visit the Special Education Resource Unit (SERU) and toy libraries for therapy tools also.
5. If your funds really won’t last
If you are finding that you’re still struggling to make your funds last you can ask your GP about a Medicare chronic disease management plan or mental health care plan. These can help cover part of the cost of therapy appointments – but they are separate to the NDIS, which means you may need to pay a gap yourself. You can find out more about chronic disease management plans or mental health care plans on the Department of Health website.
My Plan Manager also has some advice about keeping your plan in good health and what to do if you’re overspending.
Don’t let that money fester because you are on a waiting list, get on lots of lists, ask on social platforms. Use My Plan Manager to help you see the most used therapists and ensure you have continuity of therapy. We asked our school which organisations regularly visit, as we knew they were likely trusted in the industry.
Don’t be scared – be smart!
Tina is a mum of two girls: Miss 6, who is on the Autism Spectrum level 2 and also has SPD, severe phonological speech delay and severe anxiety, and Miss 8, who has severe anxiety and has recently been referred for an assessment. Tina loves numbers and is passionate about helping other families to get the most out of their NDIS plans. She is studying to be an individual disability support worker and is awaiting the world to return to normal so she can do some work experience and get her certificate 3. Tina has been a client of My Plan Manager for two years.