Transition to the NDIS – Barbara’s story
On October 26, 2001, I was seriously injured after falling from the roof of my home. I was cleaning the guttering when I fell and broke my L1 vertebra. Rather than undergoing major surgery, doctors chose to prescribe a back brace for six months, but in July 2002, I fell again – this time at work.
The second fall caused additional damage to my spine and I was in considerable pain. My psychiatrist at the time advised I speak to a surgeon, and they recommended spinal surgery. After receiving a second opinion from another surgeon, I discussed my options with family and friends before agreeing to reconstructive surgery.
I underwent reconstructive surgery on February 14, 2005. After waking up in intensive care, my right leg began to spasm and I couldn’t feel or move it. When I awoke the next morning, I also couldn’t move or feel my left leg. Doctors initially assumed the loss of feeling and control was due to trauma from the surgery. However, an MRI later revealed I was a complete paraplegic from the T10 vertebra. Despite this, I do not regret having the surgery as I experienced a lot less pain afterwards.
I received a letter from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) in December 2016, advising me that my name had been forwarded as a person eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). After providing proof of age and proving my Australian Citizenship, I was accepted as a participant in the NDIS in January 2017. I was advised someone from the NDIA would contact me to organise my plan and decide on the correct amount of funding. I was contacted in April by a Local Area Coordinator (LAC) from Ballarat, who organised a phone appointment to discuss my plan.
Living in Daylesford, a rural area in Victoria, my main concern in transitioning to the NDIS was finding personal and home care assistance. My local council had provided these services for 12 years, but they had decided not to transition to the NDIS. The NDIA failed to consider the remoteness of my location or the fact that some services are unavailable or not within the 50-km radius given to me. For example, my incontinence supplies, not covered under the State-wide Equipment Program (SWEP), come from Melbourne, which is over 50-kms from Daylesford.
Among other things, your LAC is there to assist you in finding suitable service providers to transition to. My LAC gave me the contact details of potential service providers, but was not very helpful in finding service providers for daily personal assistance, so I requested a face to face meeting with her at my house.
My plan was approved on May 3 and I met with my LAC on May 27. At this stage, I was still receiving personal and home care assistance through my local council. My LAC was unable to answer my questions but decided my current plan was not suited to my needs, so requested a plan review. She also gave me the name of an advocacy agency, independent from the NDIS, who work on behalf of those transitioning, to remedy any issues that arise.
After my LAC left I received a phone call from my council to inform me my Individual Support Package funding (ISP), which paid for my personal care, had been withdrawn, as I was now an NDIS participant. I still hadn’t managed to find an NDIS service provider for my personal and home care that was willing to come to Daylesford, and to top it all off, my ISP funding was backdated to May 3, the date of my NDIS plan approval.
As my council is not an NDIS service provider, they are unable to recoup their costs and on-going costs from my ISP funder. I estimate from May 2, 2017, until July 10, 2017 (new service providers commenced July 11), I owe the council some $5,000 for services received, and I am awaiting their account.
This is just one of many issues that can arise while transitioning to the NDIS. I recommended the NDIA adjust NDIS plans to acknowledge the time it takes to find new service providers, especially personal and home care providers. I requested the NDIA pay the council for the above personal care services. If they and my original funder refuse, I must incur the costs. I have also submitted a complaint regarding my LAC, who is no longer in the role. I have no LAC at present.
Transitioning to the NDIS will lead to greater financial freedom. Prior to the transition, I had to pay for home care, as my funding package provides insufficient funding. I also pay for district nursing, wheelchair repairs, and incontinence supplies not covered under SWEP. Additionally, there will be reduced waiting times for things like occupational therapy, garden and yard maintenance, transport costs, home modifications and new equipment. Previously, it could take up to a year to receive funding approval. Under the NDIS, these will all be covered and provided much more rapidly.
There is a high volume of information provided by the NDIA and your LAC, and it is not in plain language or easy to understand. It’s important to record notes, dates and names for every conversation you have, and keep all emails and correspondence received.
Avoid making your NDIS plan over the phone, and insist your LAC visits you in your home instead. When you receive your plan, ensure budgets (for example, assistive technology) are adjusted immediately to meet your needs. It can be difficult and time consuming to have figures increased, so ensure this is attended to as soon as possible.
Ensure, in writing, that whoever funds you at present will continue to pay for those services until you sign up with an NDIS service provider. If you choose to remain with the same service provider, ensure your funding won’t cease during change over and signing of the agreement.
And lastly, organise an occupational therapy assessment, regardless of how recently you had one. An occupational therapist can organise things like new wheelchairs and equipment, home improvements and home maintenance.
Barbara Simpson was an Insurance Broker and Administration Manager prior to acquiring a T10 Spinal Cord Injury in 2005. She is a widow, and lives with her cat in Daylesford, a country town. She has recently transitioned over to the NDIS. Her interests include knitting, crosswords, films, reading and ancestry.