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Stating the case for supports – functional capacity assessments

A woman in a wheelchair cutting fruit in a kitchen.

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding is designed to support you to live life the way you choose, as an active member of the community and doing meaningful things that are important to you.

To understand what level of funding and supports you might need, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) needs evidence of your disability and information about how it changes your day-to-day life.

That’s where functional capacity assessments come into play.

The NDIA funds people with ‘permanent impairment’ that impacts their ability to do certain things. This means the person may need to do things in different ways, or with different supports.

To receive NDIS funding, the Agency says the impairment needs to be permanent and ‘substantially reduce’ functional capacity (the way you are able to do things) or ability to undertake activities in one of the following areas:

  • Communicating
  • Socialising
  • Learning
  • Mobility, or moving around
  • Self-care
  • Self-management (if older than six years)

That’s why a functional capacity assessment can be particularly useful in summing up your disability and how it changes the way you live your life.

A functional capacity assessment reports in a dispassionate way and helps someone who doesn’t know you, for example an NDIS planner or a local area coordinator, to understand what your life is like and what supports you need. It helps to inform the NDIA about your capacity and where you need more help.

Completed by an Occupational Therapist (OT), functional capacity assessments usually take place at your home. Your OT will spend several hours with you (and perhaps with your family members or support workers) to understand how you live and the supports you have and/or might need.

You’ll normally be asked questions about your life and how you complete everyday tasks, like getting up in the morning, using the toilet, showering, dressing, preparing meals and moving around your house. You might be asked to show the OT how you do these things or where you need support.

You might also:

  • Show them around your home
  • Talk about the supports you need
  • Discuss your goals
  • Explore what you’re doing to increase or maintain your independence

The OT may also take photos of you and your home to use in their report. They’ll ask you for your permission to take these photos, and it’s up to you if you agree.

After the functional capacity assessment, your OT will write up a detailed report. It will outline all the information about you and your day-to-day life and make recommendations based on what they learned during the assessment. The OT will be able to send the completed report to you and the other people you’d like to have copies – like your family members and support coordinator – and you’ll be able to use it as part of your application for NDIS funding or during a plan reassessment.

You can find an OT in your area by searching Occupational Therapy Australia, the peak body for OTs.

You may be able to claim the cost of a functional capacity assessment from your current NDIS plan (if you have one) so you have it all ready to go for your next plan reassessment, but you should check with your plan manager (like My Plan Manager!), your support coordinator or the NDIA.

You can find out more about the NDIA’s position on functional capacity here.

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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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