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The top five questions participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) ask, and why

Understanding clients is key to providing better service. That’s why My Plan Manager recently interviewed Emma, Managing Director of One Tribe Australia, to find out what questions clients are asking – and why.

Fifteen years after establishing One Tribe Australia – a multidisciplinary provider offering everything from support coordination and social work to disability support work and coaching – and several years spent working as a support coordinator herself, Emma tells us these are the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) she most often hears.

FAQ 1: What’s your experience as a support coordinator?

Why clients ask this

Clients want to know that their support coordinator has the right skills and experience to provide a great service. This is important because there are a wide variety of areas that a support coordinator can specialise in.

Whenever a client asks this question I:

  • explain how long I’ve been working as a support coordinator, and the areas I specialise in – like mental health and autism;
  • cover my qualifications in social work and allied health, and explain how they provide a strong skill base to draw from; and
  • talk about my past experience in rehabilitation counselling, which is relevant to support coordination (rehabilitation counsellors support injured workers to build capacity and return to meaningful work activities, so we have really strong case management and complex report writing skills, and we provide services as part of a large multidisciplinary team).

If I feel like our team isn’t the right fit for a client, I will always point them towards a better match – like a support coordinator who has specialist skills in a specific physical disability such as a spinal cord injury or cerebral palsy. I will never take work that doesn’t fit my team’s experience, because it is important that the client is able to access supports from people who are highly skilled and knowledgeable about their unique situation. Our role is to assist people to maximise their plan so they can live their best life and to do this well, we need to have a strong understanding of the barriers they may face so we can identify creative ways to support them to achieve their goals. This additional knowledge only comes from experience.

FAQ 2: Can I change my supports?

Why clients ask this

Everyone’s needs evolve over time, especially when it comes to allied health services. Clients want to know that they can change supports if and when they need to.

Whenever a client asks this question, the answer is ‘Yes, of course’. We look at their goals and the funds in their plan, and then we work with our client to find another provider to use those funds up. This shows the National Disability Insurance Agency that the client’s level of funding is appropriate, and they’ll have less chance of losing it at their next plan review.

FAQ 3: What happens if I lose funding in my next plan review?

Why clients ask this

This is a common concern, because a lot of clients depend on their funding to do everyday tasks – like getting out of bed, preparing meals and getting to and from appointments.

Whenever a client asks this question, my team of support coordinators and I reassure them that we will gather all the evidence and data they need to support the continuation of their funding, or to establish the case for a funding increase – depending on their circumstances. I may also talk about my experience in allied health to reassure them that I won’t miss a thing during the process.

If a client has a funding change, increase or decrease, we will talk about the next steps – whether that’s helping them to review their National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan or lodge a change of circumstance to get their plan adjusted. We’ll then look at what’s required to do that – whether it’s more assessments, more support letters, or better summaries from allied health providers to demonstrate their needs.

The reality is, you can provide all the evidence in the world, and the NDIS may still come back and say they’re not going to fund a particular support. You have to be persistent and not just accept it, but say ‘Ok, what else do we need to get this over the line?’.

FAQ 4: Do I have enough funding for the services and supports I need?

Why clients ask this

This is a common concern because a lot of clients depend on their funding and don’t want to see it dry up. Whenever a client asks this question, we look at:

  • what their NDIS plan covers;
  • when it’s set to expire;
  • their plan management or NDIS statements to see what they’ve spent and what’s left in their budget; and
  • what services they want, how often they want them, and whether they have adequate funds.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to get this information from the NDIS, which is where My Plan Manager’s client portal is really useful. It shows a client’s budget in a snapshot to easily see what funding they have, where they can spend it, and how long it will last. A lot of plan managers don’t have this technology, which means we have to fill out consent forms for the NDIS (forms we often have to chase up and resend) in order to access the information we need to review our clients’ funding. Having great technology that lets you access client information quickly and conveniently is incredibly important.

FAQ 5: What can I use my flexible funds for?

Why clients ask this

Clients want help working out what they can do with the funding they have. Within a Core Supports budget, there are certain services or items that a client can purchase, like support work, assistive technology, cleaning, or gardening. Unlike a Capacity Building Supports budget, a Core Supports budget can be used flexibly, meaning a client isn’t locked into spending a set amount of funding on each service or item.

Whenever a client asks this question, we’ll find out what supports they want to access, and what bucket of funding these would come out of, and we then support them to choose which options they want. For instance, a client may choose to engage a support worker for six hours a week or they may want a support worker for four hours a week, plus a cleaner for two hours, and with the right planning and budgeting both options are achievable.

We plug this information into spreadsheets that pop out the cost of each support across the duration of their plan. This means we can work with our clients to plan for the future and give them greater choice and control, which is really empowering.

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