Support a victim survivor with disability to access the NDIS and develop an NDIS plan – or find out what supports are available if they’re not eligible for the scheme.
Access process and eligibility for the NDIS
Any person with a permanent and significant disability can apply for the NDIS. Victim survivors may be eligible if they are under 65 years old, meet the residency requirements and require supports or equipment related to a permanent or significant disability. Local Area Coordinators (LACs) support people with disability (aged 7-64) to understand and access the NDIS. Children under seven years old access the Early Childhood Intervention (ECEI) pathway. To find the LAC or ECEI partner in their area, victim survivors can search their postcode or suburb via this link.
Oppressed groups may experience additional barriers when accessing the NDIS. To increase support for First Nations Australians with disability, the NDIA has engaged the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) to deliver the Aboriginal Disability Liaison Officers (ADLO) program. ADLOs support First Nations Australians with disability to link in with “community partners” (i.e., LACs and ECEIs) and assist throughout the NDIS Access process.
Wherever possible, family violence and sexual assault workers should offer to complete the forms and gather the paperwork required to access the NDIS, and empower the victim survivor to make decisions and control their future supports.
Victim survivors of family violence may not know about the NDIS for a variety of reasons, including perpetrator tactics to control them. Or they may feel intimidated by the complexity of the system and the paperwork involved to apply.
Some victim survivors may not know if they have an NDIS plan or may not have access to their plan. This may be due to the impact of trauma on memory or difficulty remembering because of cognitive disability. It may also be due to the perpetrator’s controlling tactics.
If the victim survivor has not accessed the NDIS and does not have an NDIS plan, they may be eligible for NDIS funding and supports to increase protective factors. For example, to gain independence from a perpetrator who was also providing unpaid care or to increase social inclusion through addressing disability-based barriers to employment, housing or community participation.
To begin the NDIS access process, potential NDIS participants self-refer to the NDIA via the National Contact Centre or their local NDIS office and complete an Access Request Form (this form can be completed verbally if required).
Prospective NDIS participants need to provide evidence to support their access request. This evidence can come from relevant health professionals, such as general practitioners, speech pathologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, neuropsychologists, psychologists or psychiatrists. You can find out more about the evidence requirements of the NDIA via their website.
There are language conventions for NDIS applications to convey the potential NDIS participant’s needs and condition. This fits with a deficit and medical model of disability – not a social model as endorsed by disability rights groups. Health professionals responsible for providing supporting evidence for access to the NDIS sometimes need guidance about how to convey the person’s needs for the purpose of accessing the NDIS. Summer Foundation’s ‘Getting the Language Right’ is a guide for health professionals on the language and terminology to use when submitting NDIS applications.
People with mental health challenges or psychosocial disability face unique barriers when accessing the NDIS. The NDIA improved the process for this group by providing a tailored ‘evidence of disability’ form for people with psychosocial disability. You can find out more about this process via the NDIS web page ‘Mental health and the NDIS’. North East Healthy Communities have created several helpful resources related to accessing the NDIS for people with psychosocial disability, including information about collecting evidence. This information can be passed on to relevant health professionals compiling evidence required for access.
Neami National, EACH and ACSO are delivering the Mental Health NDIS Access Support program throughout Victoria. They can provide NDIS access support for people with psychosocial disability to complete the Access Request Form, gather evidence and deal with reviews and appeals of access decisions.
If you feel an application has been unfairly rejected
Decisions about access can be reviewed by the NDIA internally or appealed externally by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). For more information about internal reviews and external appeals of access decisions, see the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations’ Disability Loop webpage.
What family violence and sexual assault workers can do
- Workers should provide the victim survivor with accessible information about the NDIS, eligibility and options so they can make an informed decision. Here are some useful resources about the NDIS that are designed for potential NDIS participants (including Easy English versions for people with a cognitive disability):
- Women with Disabilities Victoria (WDV) has created a factsheet for women with disabilities on the NDIS. This resource explains the NDIS system with a gender lens and includes information of relevance to safety and family violence.
- The NDIS has created a series of booklets (including Easy English versions) that explain how the NDIS works.
- The NDIA has created the ‘Getting started with the NDIS’ booklet for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants (including an Easy English version).
- If the victim survivor is unsure if they have an NDIS plan, they will need to contact the NDIS’ National Contact Centre and find out if they are on the system. They can also request access to their plan. Family violence and sexual assault workers can use DV Vic’s ‘Navigating the NDIS’ tool for tips about who to contact about access and to find out if the victim survivor has an existing NDIS plan. For a copy of the tool, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If the victim survivor wants to apply for NDIS supports, family violence and sexual assault workers can assist with the access process and ensure the victim survivor has appropriate, safe support if needed. The Summer Foundation’s step-by-step guide to completing the Access Request Form is a useful resource.
- During the access process, family violence and sexual assault workers can support victim survivors with referrals to appropriate health professionals if they are not already linked in with them. They can advocate with these health professionals to provide appropriate evidence of disability and consider family violence related disability needs. For example, advocating with health professionals to write quality reports (see the Summer Foundation’s resource ‘Getting the language right’).
- Family violence and sexual assault workers can aid urgent requests by writing support letters to accompany access requests and requests for unscheduled plan review. DV Vic has developed a tool to help specialist family violence workers write these support letters. For a copy of the tool, email email@example.com.
Discuss with the victim survivor a referral for access support to the Mental Health NDIS Access Support program (for victim survivors with psychosocial disability) or the NDIS Community Connectors Program (for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities and carers of people with disability). If a referral is made, continue to work with the victim survivor and the other agencies to ensure family violence risk and safety needs are met.
How to develop an NDIS plan for a victim survivor with disability
An NDIS plan is a written agreement outlining the participant’s goals, the approved ‘reasonable and necessary’ support they need related to their disability and the approved individual funding amounts.
The NDIS planning process involves a meeting with a planner (usually employed at a service providing Local Area Coordinators or LACs) to discuss the person’s goals and disability-related needs, and to develop a draft plan. The NDIS participant can bring any supporter they would like, and they can also bring support letters to strengthen their case. Here are some examples of fictional NDIS plans for adults and children created by the Endeavour Foundation and a de-identified NDIS plan from the North East Healthy Communities.
Victim survivors of family violence and sexual assault can find this process difficult and do not always feel safe. Reasons include:
- There is little time to build rapport with a planner.
- There is a lot to discuss in one meeting that will have big implications for a person’s life and supports.
- Accessibility needs are not always met (such as communication needs).
- Planners have varied levels of family violence knowledge and supporters are not always screened for safety and risk.
- Plans are not always approved and it is difficult to contact the decision makers directly.
Pre-planning is a term used for the preparation before the planning meeting. Some services provide this support and there are many resources and workbooks to help participants and/or their supporters do this preparation.
Approved support in a plan falls into three support budgets (core, capital and capacity building) and include an approved amount of funding tied to them. There are 15 different categories of supports that can be funded. You can find out more about support categories via this tool developed by Ability Options.
Goals and supports that increase safety for victim survivors with disability can be developed in a person’s plan. The NDIS participant and their supporters or supporting documents (for example, support letters) need to establish an argument for supports that are related to the person’s disability and meet the NDIS criteria for ‘reasonable and necessary’ disability supports.
Reasonable and necessary supports:
- are related to the person’s disability
- help them increase independence
- increase participation in employment and the community
- support people to achieve their goals
- are not reasonably provided by informal supports, community or services
- represent value for money.
The draft plan will be sent to the NDIA, who determines if supports are ‘reasonable and necessary’. They will either approve the plan as is or approve an amended plan.
If the plan that has been approved by the NDIS is inadequate in meeting the participant’s needs, is inaccurate or does not reflect the participant’s goals, the NDIS participant may request an internal review (sometimes called a ‘review of a reviewable decision’) within three months of being notified of the decision.
What family violence and sexual assault practitioners can do to support victim survivors
- Family violence and sexual assault workers can support victim survivors to prepare for the planning meeting and prepare to discuss disability and family violence related needs or NDIS goals.
- There are several pre-planning templates and workbooks to support new NDIS participants prepare for their planning meeting. Here are some examples:
- Workers can have a conversation with a victim survivor before the planning process begins as part of ongoing safety planning. This conversation could cover:
- feeling safe in the planning meeting and who the victim survivor will bring as a supporter
- managing safety if the perpetrator is the victim survivor’s unpaid or informal carer
- the victim survivor’s goals and support needs related to family violence safety and disability and the criteria for ‘reasonable and necessary’ supports.
- Family violence and sexual assault workers can advocate for goals and support needs related to family violence safety by writing support letters to be taken to the planning meeting and submitted to the NDIA to strengthen the case for the draft plan to be approved.
Safe and Equal has developed a tool to help specialist family violence workers write these support letters. For a copy of the tool, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if a victim survivor is not eligible for the NDIS?
Not all people with disability are eligible for the NDIS and many have reported having to apply several times before they are accepted into the scheme. Quality applications with good supporting evidence are vital for access. It is important to know that people can apply for the scheme again after being rejected with additional evidence or support.
Decisions about access can also be reviewed by the NDIA internally or appealed externally by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). For more information about internal reviews and external appeals of access decisions, see the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations’ Disability Loop webpage.
In addition, there are alternative pathways into the NDIS service system – including the early intervention pathway that is an option for people under the age of seven. The Centre for Excellence on Child and Family Welfare (CECFW) calls this the ‘Cat flap to the NDIS’ and they have useful resources about this pathway on their website.
Individual disability advocacy organisations can provide information about options for reviews and appeals if someone is not deemed eligible for the NDIS. Workers can find local disability advocates via the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU) ‘Find an Advocate’ web page or via the federal Department of Social Services Disability Advocacy Finder tool.
Other support systems may be able to provide supports to victim survivors with disability who are not eligible for the NDIS. It is part of the role of LACs to support people with disability who are not eligible to find appropriate alternative services. Workers can find a LAC provider. The NDIS also has a web page on supports for people who are not eligible for the NDIS.
Many – but not all – people under 65 who were receiving Home and Community Care (HACC) services for younger people transitioned to the NDIS. Local HACC for younger people services are still available for people with disability who are under 65 years and who are not eligible for the NDIS. Contact a local HACC service provider for more information about access nearby.
People with disability over the age of 65 can access a range of government funded services via My Aged Care. Find out more about this system via the ‘Support for people living with disability’ web page.