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Making your NDIS goals work for you

Four friends talking and eating ice cream on an outdoor bench. The ocean can be seen in the background.

The most important thing you and your informal supports need to know when entering the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) or preparing for a planning meeting is that goals are key.

They help to inform what funding you’ll receive and how providers will provide services to you, and they offer an objective measure of your achievements and how well your plan has been used.

We recently spoke with support coordinator, Elizabeth Hickey (AFA Support Coordination) about the importance of goal setting in the NDIS.

Here’s what Elizabeth told us.

The most important thing a participant and their informal supports need to know when entering the NDIS or preparing for a planning meeting is that goals are key.

A participant’s NDIS goals are the key to every part of the NDIS. They help to inform what funding you will receive and how providers will provide services, and they provide a measure as to how well a plan has been used and what achievements have been made.

For this reason, making sure NDIS goals are considered, well written and represent the wishes and needs of a participant is the most important part of the planning process.

When looking at the NDIS Act and how the NDIS manages goals, there are a number of things participants need to know.

  1. An NDIS representative cannot change a participant’s goals without permission – this means if you have provided goals as part of your planning process, the plan should come back with the goals as written – unless you have given express permission for them to be changed. There are times goals may benefit from being changed, but that is your choice.
  2. You are not restricted to a specific number of goals, but remember goals do not need to be specific, they can be reasonably broad and have a number of different components.
  3. NDIS goals inform plan development – if you don’t have a goal relating to a request, it may not be funded
  4. Just because you have a goal in your NDIS plan doesn’t mean the NDIS will be responsible for funding the goal. Remember that the NDIS is responsible for providing funding to assist a person to overcome the impact of their disability – not to fund activities that people choose to do.

When considering your goals, there are a number of different components that go into making a good one.

  1. Having goals that will last the whole of the NDIS plan (and in fact, more than one plan) with many smaller steps is a good way to ensure you have a range of different ways to implement your NDIS plan.
  2. When writing a goal, make sure it is easy to understand – the goal should be written from the participant’s perspective in most cases – this helps to make sure the focus is on the individual.
  3. Having a goal that relates to each of the different impact areas (e.g. mobility, communication, daily living etc) is a good way to ensure you don’t miss anything.
  4. A goal that ensures your informal supports are able to be sustained and receive training is important – informal supports are the people a participant needs to be able to turn to when things go wrong, so making sure they are acknowledged is important.
  5. Make sure your goal has supporting evidence to help you justify how/why you need help. This can be a report from your therapists (make sure you connect your goals to the funding request), it may be a letter/quote from a provider or service (e.g. a community participation activity that focuses on skill development), or it could be a statement from a participant or their informal supports (e.g. parent impact statement).
  6. Remember, a goal can be a development goal where you build skills to become more independent, or a support goal where you get further assistance. The best goals combine both skills/independence development and supports.

When providing your goals, you can give the planner lots of information that will help to inform how you will make it work for you.

The goal

A good example of a goal may be: ‘For Jimmy to be able to communicate his needs, wants and wishes at home, in the community and at school/work in a safe way….’.

How will I achieve my goal?

You can provide information to the planner on how you plan to achieve the goal, such as:

  • ‘Jimmy will participate in therapy to develop skills.’
  • ‘Jimmy will work with therapy providers to assess and receive recommendations for assistive technology equipment.’
  • ‘Jimmy will work with support workers and mainstream providers to put into practice the skills he is developing.’
  • ‘Jimmy will access group environments to practice skills in a safe manner.’
  • ‘Jimmy will be supported by informal supports to implement therapy and practice skills.’
  • ‘Jimmy will be supported by a support coordinator/local area coordinator to connect to appropriate providers and mainstream services to explore support options and access support.’

Who will help me achieve my goal?

This is where you can provide information about who you think will help you achieve your goals.

Some examples are:

  • Therapy providers
  • Support workers
  • Mainstream providers
  • Informal supports
  • A support coordinator/local area coordinator

If you are stuck for what your goals should be, there is a great way to figure out where you need help. Have a notepad and pen handy, and every time you need assistance or find something hard or avoid an activity, write the task down. This can be done over a couple of days or a ‘typical week’ (also think about times that are not typical).

From that list, break things down into the different focus areas (e.g. mobility, daily living, communication) and then use that list to help you see what your goal needs to focus on.

The best bit of doing the list is that you can also use that as the basis for ‘a day in the life of the participant’, which can be included in your planning documentation and gives the planner a great overview of who you are and what your day looks like.

Implementing your goals

Once an NDIS plan and goals are approved, implementation starts, and the people supporting you should develop a plan and budget that utilises your NDIS funding.

Your goals should inform all supports – e.g. a goal around being safe and independent could include everything from cleaning and food preparation, all the way to participating in community activities. Your goals should also inform how you are going to measure achievement – the goal itself shouldn’t identify the achievements in most cases, but a group of achievements should build to achieve or work on achieving a goal. For example:

Goal = young person moving out of home and being independent

Group of achievements = developing skills for independent living (e.g. cooking, cleaning and money management), plan development and connection to services to help access housing, skill development to get a job, employment support to maintain regular income etc.

Reviewing your goals

At the end of your NDIS plan it is a great idea to review your goals. Most of the time a goal evolves – typically they start as a focus on something such as ‘securing safe and secure housing’ and evolve to become ‘maintain my home as independently and safely as possible’. Both goals require many of the same supports, but also require so many small parts to achieve.

Having both your informal and formal supports work with you to identify achievements and setbacks during a plan, along with outlining the changes that have happened, helps to document your journey.

At the end of the day, the biggest thing to remember is an NDIS goal shouldn’t be something small and disability specific, it should be a goal that everyone aspires to, as we are all part of the community, and all have aspirations to be the most amazing humans possible.

While I am not an NDIS participant, I share so many of the same goals in my life as my participants – I have goals around maintaining employment, having a safe home, being able to participate in daily life in a safe way etc.

I believe everyone has a right to achieve the same things – the only difference is how they are achieved!

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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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