Did you know that Local Area Coordinators – or LACs – provide a completely free service that helps all people with disabilities?
My Plan Manager recently welcomed Georgia, Community Engagement Facilitator at Mission Australia, to explain exactly what LACs do. Georgia spent time working as a LAC for the organisation, which runs local area coordination in South Australia and provides early childhood intervention services nationally to participants aged under seven years.
My Plan Manager: What do LACs do?
Georgia: Firstly, LACs hold a range of discussions to help people understand and access the NDIS. They talk to people who’ve never heard of the Scheme, as well as those who want to know more, or need help in understanding how they may apply. They can help those who are eligible for the NDIS to develop, review and implement their plan.
Secondly, LACs help people who are ineligible for the NDIS, or who don’t want to apply, by linking them to services in the community. For example, LACs can support people with disability to know more about what is available to them in their local community (like what community centres are close by, what volunteer transport services there are in their local area, and what support programs are available for carers). LACs want to make sure that all people with disabilities are well connected.
Thirdly, LAC’s work in the community to grow people’s understanding of disability, the NDIS and inclusion. For example, LACs can work collaboratively on projects with a range of community stakeholders such as people with disability, advocates, councils, job network providers, schools and more.
How easy is it to access a LAC?
Georgia: The great news is, LACs are very accessible! They will often be in community spaces like libraries and community centres, and running workshops where anyone who wants to know more about the disability landscape can drop in and ask questions. They can meet wherever a person is comfortable and can even do home visits.
To find your local LAC office, visit www.ndis.gov.au/contact/locations.
Can LACs easily refer people to different services?
Georgia: If there’s a community or mainstream support that’s not funded through an NDIS plan, LACs can easily refer people to them. It may be that there’s a person with disability who’s on a low income and really struggling to pay their bills. A LAC can connect them to a community centre that has cheap meals, financial counselling and can provide vouchers.
Without a participant’s consent, LAC’s can’t refer them to NDIS providers, but they can help people with disability to find providers using search engines like the provider finder in the myGov portal and Clickability.
What do a lot of people not know about LACs?
Georgia: Local area coordination at Mission Australia is a completely free service, and a lot of people in the community don’t know this. We’ve had participants who didn’t seek assistance earlier because they thought they couldn’t afford it.
Then, there’s limited understanding of the role of mainstream services and the NDIS. The NDIS is going to complement, not replace, the services a person with disability is already getting – like Medicare.
What’s the difference between a planner and a LAC?
Georgia: A LAC is a community support to assist people with disability to understand more about the NDIS and how they may access it. An NDIS planner is a person who works at the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and is a delegated decision maker.
A LAC will meet with a participant for a planning meeting, will gather their information and submit this to the NDIA. Then, the LAC and the NDIS planner have opportunity to collaborate, by discussing the information gathered in the planning meeting and reviewing any progress reports, quotes, and recommendations provided to determine plan funding. If a plan is approved and the participant doesn’t agree with the amount that’s in it, or it doesn’t meet their needs, the LAC can support the participant with identifying their review rights and next steps.
How do you think LACs and plan managers can work collaboratively to create better outcomes for participants?
My Plan Manager: How do you think LACs and plan managers can work collaboratively to create better outcomes for participants?
Georgia: Open communication – it could be a situation where a plan manager says ‘I’m not sure if this is something that the NDIS has approved in a plan, can you please confirm if they can claim it?’. Or maybe it’s a LAC who’s had an implementation meeting with a participant who’s looking at My Plan Manager, and the participant is really nervous to initiate the contact. This is where a LAC can make contact with My Plan Manager and say ‘I just want to give you the heads up, they’re really nervous about this process, here’s what we’ve discussed today. I’ll leave it in your safe hands and please feel free to contact me’. Communicating well can lead to great outcomes.
The NDIS is ever-changing – what resources do you recommend to keep up to date?
Georgia: The NDIS events page, conversations with a range of NDIS stakeholders and close relationships in the community are great points of knowledge. Training – like cultural competency training to support how you connect with culturally and linguistically diverse communities – with the NDIS and external organisations can also be helpful.
Participants can find their local LAC office at www.ndis.gov.au/contact/locations.
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