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Need a better funding package? Find a great support coordinator!

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Support coordinators play a key role in the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), supporting people to implement their plans and exercise choice and control over the supports and services they choose.

They’re also vital supports in helping to secure the funding you need to achieve the goals in your plan, as well as better outcomes and more independence.

But, as we all know, support coordinators and their clients can take every measure to secure funding and it still may not come through from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

What do support coordinators need to do to aid their clients in putting forward the best case for a funding increase? And, if you don’t get it, or your funding is cut, what happens next, and how can a great support coordinator help you get back on track for success?

We invited one of our support coordinator editorial roundtable panel members – Zena Dyson of Esteem Care Services – to discuss this important topic. Here’s what she had to say.

Zena Dyson

Q. What do you believe are the biggest factors that influence a participant’s NDIS plan and the funding allocated to them?

A. The number one factor that influences a participant’s NDIS plan and the amount of funding they receive is EVIDENCE, EVIDENCE, EVIDENCE, related directly to the participant’s disabilities, which proves that their daily living is affected by their disabilities. The newer the evidence, the better!

Q. What steps can a participant proactively take to help themselves achieve the funding they need – both in their first plan and their subsequent plans?

A. The participant can proactively help themselves achieve the funding they need by asking their GP, specialists, allied health professionals, or any other services involved with them in regard to their disabilities for current reports, recommendation letters, or test results that prove their incapacity to complete their daily living tasks.

Q. What role do support coordinators play in helping their clients to secure the funding they need to achieve the goals in their plan, better outcomes, and more independence?

A. To help my clients to secure the funding they need to achieve their NDIS goals, I encourage them to gather all the correct, relevant evidence directly related to their disabilities and their NDIS goals combined.

To do this, I advise my clients of what they need to relay to their health professionals and service providers for better outcomes. If the participant does not have the capacity to do this, I ask if they would like me to attend appointments with them, if they would like me to write down information to give to their service providers, or if they would like me to email all their service providers with the correct information required for the best outcomes.

Q. What is the expectation of providers in this regard – how can they assist their clients to put forward the strongest case for supports and funding?

A. Service providers can assist their clients to put forward their strongest case for supports and funding by offering comprehensive reports and recommendations for further funding for their clients’ NDIS supports.

I also expect service providers to relate their reports directly to the client’s NDIS goals.

Q. How can support coordinators and providers work together to ensure the best funding outcomes for their mutual clients?

A. I always ensure I have supplied the client’s NDIS goals to all their service providers, so they can best support our mutual clients to achieve their goals.

Communication between myself and my clients’ support providers is a huge key to ensuring the best funding outcomes for all clients.

Q. When it comes to planning meetings, reviews, reassessments, and everything in between, how important is the relationship between the support coordinator and the NDIA planner in achieving a positive outcome for your client – and what tips can you offer other support coordinators about building strong working relationships?

A. The relationship between the support coordinator and the NDIA planner and/or their partner in the community, such as Carers QLD – who often conduct plan meetings – is extremely important. Respect goes a long way within these relationships, as well as effective communication, great rapport and knowing the NDIA’s rules and responsibilities.

I have built wonderful working relationships, particularly with many of the Carers QLD Local Area Coordinators (LAC), from Rockhampton to the Gold Coast, to the point where they contact me with many referrals of NDIS participants for support coordination.

Q. During your career in the sector you must have seen times when things have not gone according to plan. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen made that have negatively influenced the outcome of a participant’s plan/funding – and what can people do to avoid making similar mistakes?

A. The single biggest mistake that participants make is filling in the NDIS access request form and sending it in themselves, or getting help from people who do not have the knowledge of what is required, and submitting it without any evidence to support their needs associated with their disabilities.

These access applications generally come back from the NDIA unapproved or with the absolute least amount of funding to support the participant to achieve their NDIS goals.

To avoid making this mistake, the participants must source help to apply for the NDIS from either an NDIS partner in the community, such as Carers QLD, or a support coordinator who is willing to help with this process, such as myself.

Q. What happens if a client receives their NDIS plan and doesn’t agree with the funding that’s in it? What are the next steps and what actions can they be supported to take?

A. If a client receives their NDIS plan and they don’t agree with it, then it is up to their support coordinator to contest the plan with supporting evidence for a review. The participant has three months to do this. If this fails and the NDIA disapproves of any changes, then the next step is to take it to the tribunal.

Q. What are the greatest challenges you and your clients are currently seeing and/or experiencing in the area of NDIS funding?

A. The greatest challenge I am currently seeing and/or experiencing in the area of NDIS funding is with child/teen participants not receiving funding for respite and support workers.

It is extremely frustrating when I see a family suffering and struggling due to their child with disabilities not having the help of support workers, especially where the parents either both work full time jobs or do not have the capacity to support their child’s daily needs due to their own disabilities.

Q. We all know that sometimes the best laid plans don’t turn out exactly as we hope. Can you provide an example of a time when a client had a poor funding decision delivered to them and they and you turned the situation around? What was the challenge and what steps did you and/or your client take to remedy it and achieve the required funding?

A. I have had many clients come to me asking for help because they have put in their NDIS access application and have been denied access to the NDIS, usually due to no evidence going in with the application.

I have then helped the client to collect all the correct evidence and helped them to reapply. They have then received approval for access and gained their first NDIS plan. This happens quite frequently.

Q. As a support coordinator, how do you manage news about a client’s plan funding that’s not positive, and how do you best deliver it to them?

A. I believe honesty is the key in this situation. Explain to the participant why their funding was not approved and explain the next steps to take in gathering evidence etc to try applying again. Do not give up!

Q. We often see stories in the media and elsewhere about NDIS participants who have seen their funding drastically cut. This comes in the context of serious concerns about whether the NDIS is financially sustainable. How do you think things will play out in the long run? Do you believe the Scheme is sustainable – and if not, what needs to be done to make it more robust?

A. The only time I have seen funding drastically cut is when the participant did not use that particular funding prior to their plan review. In this case, I agree their funding should be cut if they are simply refusing support services and not using their funding.

I believe the NDIS is sustainable if the NDIA ensures all participants only receive funding that they absolutely need to support their disabilities and NDIS goals.

Q. The Labor party promised a sweeping review of the NDIS if it was elected, vowing to save money by cutting excessive costs and cracking down on fraud. How do you think the review of the NDIS is going and what do you think the likely outcome will be?

A. I have seen a few cases in the media where the NDIA has cracked down on fraud and exposed people who have been exploiting the NDIS and participant funding, and I agree with the Labor party that cutting excessive costs and cracking down on fraud is correct and justifiable.

These are the types of things that will ruin the NDIS for participants with disabilities that absolutely require the Scheme. Therefore, ‘nipping it in the bud’ now is the correct and the right way to keep the NDIS sustainable.

Q. There’s a statistic that says the NDIS produces more than double in the Australian economy for every dollar spent, creating jobs and better lives for people with disability and their families. What are your thoughts?

A. I would say that is a fantastic statistic, if it is correct.

As a support coordinator, I see the huge differences that the NDIS creates for people with disabilities and their families. I have seen clients go from complete hermits to outgoing community members who now enjoy their life, which would be impossible without NDIS funded support services.

The smile on my clients’ faces when they are achieving in life says it all!

Q. Lastly, what are your top three tips for support coordinators and participants wanting to put forward the best case for a funding increase?

  1. Gain the relevant evidence needed to support your client’s current disability needs and their NDIS goals.
  2. Make sure you attach the relevant NDIS forms, such as change of situation form or home and living form etc, with all the evidence.
  3. Make sure you have a good support coordinator who is interested in putting your best case forward to the NDIA, who cares about your wellbeing and wants you to succeed in achieving your NDIS goals.
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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

My Plan Manager acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.
© My Plan Manager 2020
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