Introduction to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

Child doing therapy

Child doing therapy in the home with a speech therapist

If your NDIS child has a permanent disability or medical illness that affects his/her aptitude to attend to daily tasks, they may be eligible to receive NDIS funding. NDIS is the relatively novel strategy realized by the federal government that enables Australians living with a disability (up to 65 years old) to make use of supplementary services and supports to enhance their freedom, choice and independence. One of the dominant tenets of the scheme (introduced in 2013) is that people (who are termed ‘participants’ under the NDIS) can decide and select the services that they wish to work with so that they can fulfil their goals (both personal and health-related) and partake in their everyday lives, as well as engage with their community.

Participants receive NDIS funding in three key divisions: core supports, capacity building supports and capital supports. Below describes what the different types of NDIS support categories involve:
– Core supports provides funding to purchase services to help with everyday activities (e.g. support workers, basic and necessary aids or equipment, such as nappies)
– Capacity building support is funding to engage in therapies and services to advance a person’s skills (e.g. speech therapy, physiotherapy, psychology)
– Capital supports involve a budget for higher risk equipment, modifications (home or car) and assistive technologies that are essential for the person to live their everyday life.

Child in a wheelchair receiving support services by the NDIS

The amount and nature of funding for NDIS children (i.e. what category or categories receive the funding) are contingent on the type and severity of the person’s medical condition or disability. It is important to highlight that the NDIS only provides funding for supports and services in areas of a person’s life that are significantly impacted by their medical condition and are not being addressed by other (informal) supports. For instance, NDIS children with an intellectual disability not requiring any additional technology or equipment might only receive core and/or capacity building support funding, and may not need any funding in the capital support budget.

How does my child become part of the NDIS?

NDIS children must first be assessed by an assessor from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA, the government agency responsible for implementing the NDIS). To arrange this and make first contact with the NDIS, visit the official website. Parents and carers of NDIS children must demonstrate to the NDISA that the child has a significant disability that impacts on their everyday functioning. For the NDIA to make this determination, the application must provide written evidence and proof of the NDIS child’s condition, most commonly through assessments, reports and letters from doctors and other health workers. Once the NDIA is satisfied that the requirements for serious disability have been met, the assessor will co-act with the child’s parents, carers or other important supports to ascertain what the child’s most immediate needs are, as well as identify their main goals. From here, a budget for funding will be devised for NDIS children. Most NDIS children receive an NDIS plan for a duration of 12 months, but there may be variations to this.

The essential factors that the NDIA looks for when considering an application are whether the child fulfils the benchmarks for disability, including the durability of the condition (i.e. if the condition is likely to be life-long), its effects on the NDIS children’s everyday activities and functioning, and if the child can live without additional supports (e.g. equipment or modifications), and how much assistance they require in their daily lives from other people (level of independence).

NDIS children information

In the health and disability sectors, the most crucial stages for children’s development are often regarded as the early childhood era, commonly the timeframe between 0 and 6 years of age. Under the NDIS, the Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) resolution is the primary approach for supporting families with children with permanent illness or disability. On top of this, it is also a good resource where families with concerns about their child’s developmental functioning can seek assistance or guidance, even if an official diagnosis has not been made. Hinging on the child’s unique needs and circumstances, the NDIS can be a gateway for NDIS children and their family to receive psychoeducation, information, support, intervention or therapy, or referral to other more appropriate services. Of course, while the early childhood phase is crucial in health care terms, NDIS children over 7 years old continue to be suitable for the NDIS if they meet the eligibility requirements for the scheme.

What help can NDIS children get?

As already alluded to, the variety of support NDIS children can receive will rest on their funding capacity in the three main categories of funding. Below describes examples of the types of supports NDIS children may receive in their funding:
Core supports may include:
– Basic aids such as pads or nappies (or other low-cost and low-risk consumables)
– Support workers to help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as showering, dressing, feeding, or to enhance their participation in their community
– Transport costs to attend appointments and social events

 therapist for children

Capacity building supports may include:

Occupational therapy to help with driving, building various skills (e.g. self-care or social skills)
– Physiotherapy
– Speech therapy to improve general communication
– Psychology sessions to assist with behavioural difficulties and general coping skills
– Music therapy
– Support coordination funding for a service to help you find appropriate services and organise allocated funding

Capital supports can involve:
– Purchasing various equipment and assistive technology tools such as hearing aids, speaking devices, wheelchairs
– Home modifications such as railings, ramps, shower modifications
– Vehicle modifications to enable drivers with physical disabilities to drive safely
It must be noted that NDIS children funding is meant to provide necessary support and services to children to augment their skills, self-efficacy and general quality of life. However, it is not meant to be used for non-essential or supplementary items, such as home renovations.
Once you have decided on how you want to utilise your NDIS children funding, you will need to contact and arrange meetings with suitable services and providers. With the number of NDIS children and other participants rising over time, the number of services is also growing. There are assorted ways and modalities that services may be delivered – online (telehealth), through a clinic or centre, or mobile services.