Peta says that it hasn’t always been like that. In the past, she had no say in who would be assisting her, or when they would come. Often they were casual ‘fill ins’ that she didn’t know before they arrived, and they were often very late.
‘We had a talk after and we spoke about the support workers that we had just seen. I thought Pauly was very nice, and S, and L. No, not L.’
Choosing your own supports
People tell us that their support workers are often involved in very personal parts of their lives. They rely on them in very vulnerable times when they need assistance the most. They can be the difference between a bad day and an awesome day.
Support workers are often key tools in assisting with achieving goals and getting on with living our best lives. We know that people often spend a lot of time with a support worker, so having the right person is important.
Perhaps you just want to be able to get out of bed in the morning. Do you want to be able to pursue your hobbies, play sports, try new things or learn something new? Do you need a hand to help keep things organised, like your appointments or your bills?
Have a think about what your goals are; what do you want to achieve, what assistance you need and how a support worker might be able to help you to do that
Also think about what you will do in an emergency or if your support workers calls in sick.
3. Decide what skills and qualities you want in your support worker
It is likely that you will spend quite some time with your support worker, so it’s important that they are the right fit for you and for your lifestyle.
If your Plan is NDIA Managed, you will need to choose your support workers from organisations that are registered with NDIA.
If your Plan is Plan Managed or you are managing your Plan funds yourself, you have more choices about who you want to provide your support. You can also try to negotiate more easily. If your support worker is inexperienced, you might not want to pay maximum amounts; or if your worker has loads of experience you might want to pay more.
Note, that for people who have their NDIS plan plan managed, there are upper limits that the NDIA will pay (and they might change over time).
Remember that often there are different rates for different times of the day and week.
Remember that there is also an industrial award that sets minimum pay rates for support workers.
There are laws that set out responsibilities when engaging other people to do work. These laws outline obligations such as pay rates, tax, GST, insurances, what happens if someone is injured, superannuation etc.
These responsibilities change depending on if the person is working as an employee for an organisation or individual or if they are working as self-employed contractor.
It’s important to be clear about your legal obligations if you are engaging your support workers directly yourself rather than through an organisation.
Where to find support workers?
Traditionally support workers worked for disability support organisations and you can find workers by contacting those organisations.
Now, lots of people prefer to find their support workers themselves.
Some places you can look for support workers may also include:
6. Plan for meeting and interviewing
Most people prefer to interview their potential support workers before agreeing to work with them.
You can organise to meet someone by phone, online (through face time, Skype or Zoom), email or in person.
This will give you the opportunity to ask them about:
Also be mindful of things that are not ok to ask in an interview, because they might be considered private or could be seen as being discriminatory.
If you have decided to ask a disability support organisation to provide your support workers, ask the organisation about how you can meet and interview potential support workers before they commence working with you.
Some more tips for meeting, interviewing and deciding on potential support workers
7. Know how to make an agreement
Once you’ve decided on your new support worker/s, it’s a good idea to have a written agreement in place between you and your support worker or their organisation that you both agree to and sign.
The agreement should set out things like:
It wasn't all that easy getting his power wheelchair. He and his mum had to go all the way to the AAT (the Administrative Appeals Tribunal) to get this chair funded by the NDIA.
Below we explore Assistive Technology (AT) a bit more and some tips for getting all your evidence together to get the piece of equipment you need.
What is Assistive Technology (AT):
One way to understand assistive technology is to think of it as a bridge between a person with disability and their environment. For example, a wheelchair can be a bridge to get around in the community.
Generally, AT are gadgets, tools, pieces of equipment that assist people to do something more easily or do something that without it, they could not do because of their disability.
The best starting point to thinking about AT and what the NDIA might fund, is to think about your goals and what you will need to help you to achieve those goals. Perhaps you need to be able to move around in your community and you need a wheelchair to help you to do that. Perhaps you want to be able to help other people to understand you, and you need an app that helps you to communicate. Or perhaps you want to be safe when you have a shower, and a shower chair would help you to do that.
When thinking about using your NDIS Plan to help you to buy the AT you need, it helps to think about it in terms of risks and cost.
Low risk (Low cost) items:
There are items that the NDIA considers to be low cost and low risk. Many people might find a reference to those in their plan in relation to core funding. The NDIA says this includes items that are:
This might include items such as:
Many of these AT tools cost below $1500.
Generally speaking, you do not need an assessment from an allied health professional. (For items over $500, we recommend that you get an email or something from your allied health specialist saying why this item is necessary and reasonable for you and that you need it because of your disability. This email or letter doesn’t need to be very long, just a couple of paragraphs).
If you have ‘low cost, low risk consumables’ in your plan and your plan is agency managed you need to go to a NDIA registered provider to buy the piece of equipment (your allied health person can help with that).
If you have ‘low cost, low risk consumables’ in your NDIS plan and it is plan managed, we recommend that you have a chat with your Plan Manager first and work out the easiest way to get the item you want. You can then also find out if there is a price limit on the specific item. Being plan managed, you can then buy what you need from pretty much any shop, you don’t have to buy it only from a shop that is registered with NDIA.
If you are self-managing your NDIS plan, you can also purchase it from any shop.
Please note that some low-cost AT items are considered high risk and, even if you are not sure if it is or not, you really should get advice from an allied health professional about purchasing your AT.
Higher risk (and higher cost):
Higher risk items include products that
Most higher risk items also come with a higher price tag. But some low costs items can also be high risk, so it’s important to talk this through with an allied health professional who is trained to know about them.
If you think you need a higher risk or higher cost AT item, you will generally need to have it specifically included in your Plan. To get it into your Plan you generally need a report (and a quote) from an allied health professional saying why you need this AT.
It’s also important that you remember to also get funding to:
After months and months of pressure from the community, the Independent Assessments are on hold.
One of the players that helped put the pressure on was the Independent Advisory Council (IAC).
That Council advises the NDIA Board on issues affecting participants, carers and families.
They wrote a report and recommended that:
“All elements of the independent assessment design, including the toolkit and practice guidance, should be designed in partnership with the disability community to deliver flexible approaches to the greatest extent practicable for the most complex participants that do not have supports, have experienced trauma or have complex behavioural support needs.”
The IAC also spoke to what many of us have been feeling, which is that there has been a massive erosion of trust between the disability community and the NDIA, government and the disability services system more broadly.
A speech made by the Minister since the announcement to put things on hold gives us all an idea of what’s on her agenda:
So be prepared and expect to hear lots more about
More information and resources about Individual assessments
From the NDIA
Since the pause button has been pressed the NDIA website shifted basically all of their information about Independent Assessments to a section of their website they call ‘History of the NDIS’ (funny how quickly something becomes history).
You find some historical information here https://www.ndis.gov.au/about-us/history-ndis/independent-assessments-proposal
From Every Australian Counts
This grassroots organisation (together with most disabled people led organisations) have led the campaign against independent assessment. Their “Hans of our NDIS” Campaign is not just about independent assessment, but also talks about many of the other issues floating about.
Check out their website