The NDIA has made numerous changes to the role your support coordinator can play to assist you at plan review time. Its important to understand what your rights are and how these changes affect you.
The BIGGEST change is that the NDIA is insisting that support coordinator’s must not advocate about what your needs are. The NDIA wants you to jump through more hoops and get in a disability advocate. It says that it has set up a disability advocacy network for this purpose.
So here’s what you really need to know…
In September 2018 the NDIA said that support coordinators could not advocate for you or be paid to attend your plan reviews. In December 2018, this was reversed and support coordinators can now be paid to support you at your plan review BUT still cannot advocate for you. We believe this is wrong, because apart from you, your support coordinator is the person who next knows your life, plan, goals, providers and situation best – because they are the person who has helped you with all these things (this role is specified in both the NDIS price guide and specific the NDIA publication about the role of a support coordinator).
In due course we expect this NDIA policy will be tested (legally) and found to be both illegal and not fair to you. In the mean time its important to understand this complex area as best as possible.
Disability Advocates were also caught totally by surprise by NDIA with its policy changes. They were not funded for this change and DO NOT have the staff to cope with the serious increase for calls to their services. This leaves you at significant disadvantage in any process either with the NDIA planners or with an LAC partner because advocates need to pick and choose (triage) to represent those people who need their help the most. This means they may choose not to help you – not because they don’t want too – but because someone else’s needs are much more dire. Advocates have been left with little choice but to adopt such processes to help everyone as best they can. IF they don’t take you on it may be because there is more time before you actually need their assistance. IF you are ever turned down by an advocate make sure you ask why and where else you can get some help.
SchemeWise does NOT support these changes as they effectively erode your rights for representation from the people and services which know you best AND are generally involved with you on a longer term and regular basis. We welcome working with advocates if that’s what you choose… but we believe the NDIA should not simply dictate to you that you have one and limit your choice on WHO the advocate is – a family member, your support coordinator, or a specialist advocate. It is SUPPOSED to be your choice… and it has been effectively taken from you! Decisions like this a sheer madness!!
In the meantime however here are some things to remember as they are YOUR RIGHTS:
- Your SchemeWise support coordinator will help you get an advocate involved early. You will need about a month ahead of plan review for this to be helpful to you. Your SchemeWise support coordinator and Advocate will then work together (with you) to prepare for your plan review.
- If you get a call from an NDIA or LAC planner to make an appointment with them within a week or so… YOU HAVE every RIGHT to ask for a different time further away to ensure the supports you NEED are in place for the review to happen – this includes time to engage an advocate. The NDIA is required to ensure continuity of your supports if it is has not planned to provide you reasonable notice to obtain advocacy representation. DO NOT agree to a date if it is less than one month into the future as you will not be able to obtain advocacy support and YOUR RIGHTS will be at risk!!
- When you deal with an NDIS or LAC planner DO NOT accept what they say as gospel. SchemeWise support coordinators are finding that planners are acting against AAT clarifications, not fully giving you an honest view of what is or is not reasonable and may not understand where issues exist for you and will therefore disregard them.
- Planners will try to keep the discussion easy and simple, but this does NOT mean they are listening to you. Be prepared to argue your point and TEST their thinking! If a planner thinks you, your advocate or support coordinator are acting defensively, that’s the planners problem… NOT YOURS… they are required to act reasonably to you and you have EVERY RIGHT to defend your position on ANY matter. Planners tend to just want the discussion to be finished as quickly as possible.
- DO NOT BELIEVE anything that is said to you. If it is NOT in writing. It NEVER HAPPENED. It does not matter what a planner says to you. If you think its wrong or does not meet your needs you, or your advocate, should speak up immediately. Your SchemeWise support coordinator is a great resource in this circumstance because they can help highlight if something is not quite right in case you missed something too. This helps your advocate also by making them aware that a concern has arisen so they can talk about your needs more.
- Your SchemeWise support coordinator will always speak up on your behalf on matters of policy, in reference to guidelines, etc. This is not advocacy – it is highlighting relevant NDIS policy that planners may chose to ignore, forget, or not pay attention too. But just like registered providers, ALL planners must follow due process too consistent with the law and any clarifications to it. For example, while planners must act in accordance with the NDIS legislation and related operational guidelines, they MUST ALSO have regard to any and all clarifications from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and act in accordance with these too. If they are NOT then an NDIA planner is actually in breach of the APS Code of Conduct as they have failed in their duty to provide transparent, fair and accurate advice in their dealings with you. An LAC planner would be in breach of the NDIS Act. They may also have failed to exercise due care and skill when discharging their duties. If you think any of these was the case you can complaint to the Australian Public Service Commission (www.apsc.gov.au) about APS Code breaches by NDIA planners. You should also complain to the NDIS via email firstname.lastname@example.org where you believe your rights were breached by an LAC planner and you can also complain to the ACCC (www.accc.gov.au) as the LAC planners are effectively a contracted service. Your SchemeWise support coordinator can help you do this and navigate these processes too.
- Your SchemeWise support coordinator will ALWAYS ensure that planners are aware of the outcome from last plan and any advice that the NDIS requested (like reports) too. THIS IS NOT advocacy either. It is highlighting to planners that there is relevant information in respect of their processes, support work undertaken with you by your coordinator over last plan, and pointing to information which highlights your reasonable needs. This is an important role for support coordinator’s as they are required to act in your best interest always!
- Your SchemeWise support coordinator will also work with your advocate to ensure they know all about you. Your advocate is the person who will speak on your behalf about WHY a certain service is essential and reasonable, and how not having it will affect you in accessing community, social participation, work, training or daily living. They will tell the planners the EFFECT of certain things on you and help them understand what supports may therefore be required for you to to reach a future goal(s). They will argue with the NDIS/LAC planner about why you have not reached a goal in your last plan and they will highlight what your new goals may be, if you have told them you have some new ones.
Know Your Rights. Understand how your SchemeWise support coordinator will assist you and can work with an advocate to support you the best at your plan review. Be prepared to act where you believe you have been unfairly treated by an NDIA or LAC planner… and complain to protect YOUR RIGHTS also.