Why is it important for participants to budget their NDIS plan spending? How do they do that and what tools and supports are available to assist them?
KW – As a support coordinator, I believe it is imperative for participants to have a budget planned for the plan period to ensure the level of support they are wanting is within the allocated budget.
This also shows whether a review of decision is needed or if the plan is deemed to be suitable for the plan period.
If the participant has a support coordinator, they should have a template they use to create these and provide that information to the participant in an easy read format.
DB – Avoid any distressing surprises part way through the plan. The obvious answer is so that participants don’t run out of funding.
NDIS funding is provided to assist people to access support services that a person needs to stay well and experience quality of life. If the funding runs out, leaving gaps in services, the person runs the risk of not being able to meet their daily needs or work towards things that are important to them to improve their wellbeing and quality of life.
Aspire Recovery Connection (ARC) is a 100 per cent mental health lived experience organisation that works with people living with psychosocial disability. We understand that having a routine of supports that stays consistent across time assists in recovery and staying well, because it provides predictability in our lives. Sudden changes to routine and social support and having to go without when it’s become a part of our routine can cause significant distress.
In terms of tools and supports to assist people to budget their plan spending, plan manager portals and monthly budget statements are helpful tools. Monthly statements serve as a reminder to check budgets. Portals allows for easy access and present budgets in graphs, which show spending against plan duration. These are really useful tools for conversations with participants about spending. I’ve had participants feed back to me that they find the information presented visually in graphs helpful as well.
Plan managers providing the option for participants to approve individual invoices is helpful in supporting participant choice and control.
Consistency and expectations being met are essentials to NDIS participation (e.g. NDIS price guides).
EH – As a support coordinator, one of the biggest jobs is to ensure that a participant understands how to implement their plan in a reasonable and necessary manner, but also how to make that budget last for the life of their plan. This is due to the fact that one of the responsibilities as a NDIS participant or plan nominee is to understand the budget they have and ensure that the budget will last them the life of the plan.
All NDIS plans are based on what is reasonable and necessary for the participant and what supports they will need to reach their NDIS goals. It also takes into account what other funding is available and what is reasonable to expect a person will fund themselves.
It is not the responsibility of the NDIS to fund everything. As a support coordinator, it is important to work with participants to ensure they are able to justify requests and that they have a realistic expectation of what the NDIS will fund.
As part of the planning process, I work with a participant to develop a request for funding – this then forms the basis of a budget for the next plan. I typically use a really basic excel spreadsheet to create the draft budget with participants on the basis of what the current NDIS plan is. This is then used to inform providers of amounts they can have for service agreements and support moving forward.
By making sure the participant has a document that outlines how the budget is likely to be spent, the participant can be empowered to have discussions with providers around what their service agreement should be – this increases both the participant or their nominee’s capacity and choice and control.
By having a clear picture of the expected budget, participants, providers and the support coordinator can easily have discussions around changing supports and extra supports needed during a plan as everyone is already on the same page.
ZD – It is important for participants to budget their plan spending to ensure their funding does not expire before their plan review date, leaving them with no support services until their next plan.
Participants with capacity to do so, can keep track of their spending by checking in with their plan manager, or by keeping an eye on monthly budget reports sent to their email address from their plan manager.
If their plan is not plan managed, but rather self managed or NDIA managed, then they can check their spending on their NDIS portal.
This is only if the participant has the capacity to do so – if they don’t, then the participant must trust that their main carer, plan manager, or support coordinator will do this for them.