NDIS planning meeting: How Chante aced her interview
Chante Masset is looking forward to the year ahead. The 20-year-old, who sustained an incomplete C5 spinal cord injury in a pool accident when she was 11, is hoping she might begin learning to drive.
“Just being able to have the opportunity to have an occupational therapist (OT) teach me how to drive would have a huge effect on my life,” she says, her voice warm with anticipation. “I want to be able to live my own life, and to do it independently, without having to rely on my family.”
While her wish to drive is not new, the likelihood of her embarking on that journey soon is new. It has arisen from her engagement with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), for which she attended her first planning meeting in September 2018.
At the meeting, she says, she listed her goals as:
- To increase my capacity for independence in the home and the community.
- To be supported in my studies.
- To learn to drive.
And she brought with her a full accounting for her present support needs, and for the added supports that she believed would contribute to her pursuing those goals.
“I seriously went in with a folder of paperwork,” Chante reports. “I just gave everything to the planner. Like, ‘This is what you need.’
“She was like: ‘You’re the most organized person I have ever met.’
“My meeting would have finished in half an hour if we hadn’t taken breaks for chatting about other things.”
Chante expects to hear early in 2019 whether all the supports she sought have been approved.
But she says that even if some are not approved, she will have the satisfaction of knowing that she had made the most of her opportunity at the planning meeting, giving it her best shot.
She contrasts her preparation with that of some other people with SCIs whom she knows of, near her home in Melbourne’s outer southeast.
“Other quads I know who live around here – none of them knew anything about that NDIS thing,” she says. “All they knew was that they had to go to a meeting. They had no preparation, nothing. It’s quite sad, really.”
Was Chante clairvoyant? Or unusually studious? No. But she was well connected. A long-term carer had told her all about what she needed to do, and she had listened with growing excitement.
Over the past two years, Chante has been cared for each night at bedtime by the same disability support worker, Julie Templeton. Julie’s son was an early starter with the NDIS, and so Julie had already attended two planning meetings.
Late in 2017, Julie told Chante that the NDIS was due to roll out in her locality about the second half of 2018.
“She was explaining to me how I needed to start preparing for it,” Chante says. “How I needed to start looking up what I thought I would need, and how I needed to start reviewing what I did have already.
“She told me that the funding they give you needs to correspond to what you are going to achieve in life.
“You can’t just say you want a lump sum of money and not have any goals.
“I didn’t quite understand that at first. But she kept explaining it to me over and over again. And I would ask her questions about it.
“I just needed to know exactly how it worked.
“These are things where, as an adult, you have to take responsibility.
“For me, if I want to get the NDIS package right, where I can get these goals achieved, I had to make sure I was looking at everything properly.
“I wasn’t just looking at short-term goals – I was also looking at long-term goals.”
How do I want to live?
Chante has had funding from an Individual Support Package since her childhood accident at a friend’s birthday party. She believes she fell awkwardly while playing near a backyard swimming pool. “It was an above-ground pool,” she recalls. “And I didn’t dive.”
The funding, overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria, had been sufficient for her needs as a child, she said. But she would need more support if she were to live independently, moving away from the home that she has shared with her mother and sisters.
With guidance from Julie, she began preparing for her planning meeting in 2017 – long before a date had been set.
At first, she says, her preparation was exclusively reflective: thinking about the life that she wanted to lead, and about how she could achieve it.
The hardest part was prioritizing her goals.
“As a quad you have multiple goals in life – so how do you prioritize three goals a year?” she asks rhetorically. “Because for the NDIS, you only get three goals a year really.”
A key to that process arrived with her attending an NDIS information session run by southeast non-profit Windermere, from which she arranged a private consultation with a consumer engagement coordinator.
The coordinator helped Chante to express her goals in language general enough to allow flexibility, but specific enough to justify specialist supports where required.
“A week after the information session, I sat down with a lady at Windermere. She said, ‘How far have you got into your planning, and what have you got so far?’ I told her what I had, and she told me what I had to get and what I didn’t have to get. And then she helped me formulate the goals.”
Helping yourself, and other people
Chante has embarked upon a study program in events management, a field in which she hopes to work.
She says she has been inspired by her contact with the Starlight Children’s Foundation,
which among other activities seeks to help sick and disabled young people fulfil a fantasy. Chante’s wish, granted when she was 15, was to meet the British boy band One Direction.
“Oh my god it was amazing!” she remembers. “It was the best experience of my life, meeting them. It was so special because, like, they also gave me money to spend on shopping, I had a hair and make-up artist come, I stayed at a hotel in the city for a night …
“I just want to be able to do that for other children.”
Among other possible employers, she believes, would be the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald Foundation.
She also thinks she might start learning to cook.
“I want to be able to get up each day, go to work, and come home for dinner,” she says, summarising her long-term outlook. “Have people obviously to help me, to do washing and stuff, but other than that, I want to be able to do things for myself.”
Meanwhile, she is helping other people in her locality prepare for their NDIS appointments, connecting with them through mutual carers and emailing to them copies of the costings and other documents she has accumulated to back her own application.
“NDIS is kind of a big deal,” she observes. “I know your first plan is always not going to be perfect, but you still need to know about it to be able to achieve something in it.
“My learning from Julie was very informal. But if I didn’t have her, I would have been going in blind myself.
“And if you’re going in blind, you’re definitely not going to get half of what you need.”
- Chante has now received her first NDIS plan – and begun preparing to live independently, with its support.
Author Ian Baker is a content writer for AQA.
AQA is registered with the NDIS to provide a range of services including Support Coordination, Peer Support, and Personal Care Services. We use a lived experience approach to help you start and implement your plan to achieve your personal life goals, find and connect with appropriate services, and help you with preparing for your plan review as it comes due. We also provide Pre-Planning and Troubleshooting as a free service to our community. You can contact us here, or phone AQA.