Things to know before you apply for NDIS funding

How do I get access to the NDIS? When the NDIS is due to roll out in your particular region, you’ll most likely be contacted directly by someone from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). This is the organisation who’s administering the NDIS. They’ll walk you through a process to decide whether you’re eligible for the NDIS or not. If the NDIS is active in your area and you haven’t been contacted, you can get in touch with the NDIS by calling 1800 800 110 to find out what to do. Who’s eligible for the NDIS? Eligibility is based on the individual needs of your child and the supports they require to fulfil their goals. Individual eligibility can only be determined by the NDIA. The Shepherd Centre can’t confirm eligibility for you. It’s also important to remember that the scheme isn’t means-tested. It’s designed to provide necessary supports to those who need them, regardless of family situation. I’m not an existing client of The Shepherd Centre – how do I access the NDIS? If you’re not an existing client of The Shepherd Centre and haven’t already been linked to the NDIA, you can call the NDIA on 1800 800 110 to ask for an access request form. If you’re interested in accessing The Shepherd Centre’s services, regardless of whether you’re eligible for the NDIS, please contact us on 1800 020 030 or via email to [email protected]. For those planning to access the NDIS, we can discuss with you how best to support your child and family as you transition to the NDIS and set a plan for the future. How will the NDIA know what my child needs? When you’re first in touch with the NDIA, you will be sent a Planning Workbook. You can fill it out on your own or with the help of your therapist at The Shepherd Centre. It asks lots of questions about your child’s situation and guides you through a goal-setting task. These goals are what the NDIA uses to determine what funded supports you need and from which service provider they’ll come from. For more information about the goal-setting process, we cover that further on in this handout. What kind of supports will be funded? Supports are available on the basis of what’s considered ‘reasonable and necessary’. The support items need to be reasonable in terms of the therapy chosen and the price of the service, but they also must be necessary to the needs of your child. Linking your requirements back to your goals and aspirations for your child will add support to your case. Do parents still maintain autonomy in terms of which service provider we choose under the NDIS? It’s up to parents to advocate for their child/family as you know what is best for your child. Your choice of provider needs to directly link to a goal you’ve identified in your plan and we can help you prepare goals. The supports will need to be seen as reasonable and necessary by the NDIA. Is the NDIS for life? You have to be under 65yrs when you apply. Then, once you’re eligible, it’s for life. Does that mean it covers my child after they graduate from The Shepherd Centre? Yes. The NDIS provides support up to the age of 65.

Getting Prepared

Is there anything we can do now to prepare for meetings and decision-making later? A lot of the process you’ll go through with the NDIA is based around goals and it’s important now to be thinking ahead to what the best future looks like for your child. It’s also helpful to consider how the support you already receive from The Shepherd Centre or other service providers is linked to the goals or dreams you may have for your child. Thinking these things through now will help create a fairly smooth transition where the current supports you’re happy with are kept in place and the areas where you may lack support are identified and addressed. The NDIA also has lots of helpful information online for new participants who are in the initial stages of the NDIS planning process. One helpful section is their “Participants” section where you can find information about the planning process and better understand some of the language used around the NDIS. How do I know if a Service Provider is registered under the NDIS? You can check online if a Service Provider has been registered under the NDIS. The Shepherd Centre is a registered NDIS Service Provider.

How the funding works

Are there options for how we receive funding? Yes, funding can be distributed in different ways. The choice will be up to you. The two main options include:

  • Agency-managed – this is the most popular option (approximately 80-90% of families in trial sites chose the Agency-managed option). Under this arrangement the government gives the allocated funds to the Agency (NDIA). The Agency then allocates the funds to each Service Provider through an online portal. Funds are only released to the Service Provider once they have provided the supports required. If you choose Agency-managed, all your Service Provider must be registered under the NDIS. The government regularly audits this process to ensure services are being delivered as promised by Service Providers.
  • Self-managed – you may choose this option if you want total control, more flexibility or if some of your support providers are not registered under the NDIS. In this arrangement, you’re responsible for collecting invoices and paying them yourself. You’ll then get reimbursed by the government.
  • Other options – There are a few more options designed for very specific situations and these can be discussed with you at your Planning Meeting with the NDIA if they’re relevant.

Will I lose my current funding? No. The Commonwealth Government has made a commitment that no one will be disadvantaged by the NDIS. So if you are currently receiving funding, this should continue. There are two categories for funding under the NDIS: Permanent Disability and Early Intervention. What about Better Start? The NDIS is replacing Better Start. This is because the Scheme provides a far more comprehensive, flexible and individualised program for people with a disability. If your child is currently eligible for Better Start, you’ll continue to receive this until they are formally transitioned across to the NDIS. Once your child has an approved NDIS plan, any Better Start eligibility will cease. Your Better Start funding will stop from the date of your NDIS plan approval and you’ll no longer be able to access any further Better Start funding, regardless of how much funding was left over prior to your transition to the NDIS.

What the NDIS covers

Are requirements related to my child’s schooling covered? Generally, no. The NDIS is very strict about funding being for a child’s disability as opposed to a child’s health or educational needs. Does NDIS cover parent education? It can. Where it’s linked to a goal, parent education is a support covered by the NDIS. Will the NDIS cover additional speech therapy when my child goes to school? The NDIA will make the final decision but you will need to show there is a need for it. We’re thinking of moving to a regional or rural area but plan to stay with The Shepherd Centre. Will we still be covered by NDIS? Once you have an approved NDIS package, it goes wherever you go as long as the NDIS is offered in that area. With the NDIS being rolled out in phases, you should visit the NDIS website to be sure of where it is and isn’t available at any point in time.

Working with the NDIA

I would find it hard to go to an NDIA meeting and express to them what my child needs. I feel like they should be able to tell me what my child needs. NDIA Planners (the staff who walk you through the NDIS process) are not qualified in the area of hearing loss. They are only there to help you construct a plan for your child’s supports and funding based on the information that you provide. If you feel ill-equipped to provide enough information, it’s wise to reach out to specialists already working with your child and family. If your family is with The Shepherd Centre already or planning on choosing us as your service provider, we’ll support you through the whole process and provide supporting documents tailored to your child’s situation that you can take with you to planning meetings. I’m worried my child’s unilateral hearing loss will be overlooked when it comes to eligibility. What should I do? Providing evidence of eligibility to the NDIA is vital when it comes to gaining access to the support your child needs. If you’re worried about meeting eligibility requirements, it’s a good idea to discuss your concerns with staff at The Shepherd Centre prior to meeting with the NDIA or submitting an eligibility form. The NDIS is designed to cater to your child’s individual needs. When it comes to articulating the reasons why some supports are necessary for your child, it can be helpful for therapists from The Shepherd Centre to prepare supporting documents for you to submit along with your eligibility form. During the ACT rollout of the NDIS we were glad to see that, with our team supporting them, all families with children who have unilateral hearing loss were successfully accepted into the NDIS. Are the people in the NDIA meeting familiar with what a person with hearing loss needs? No, they may have no exposure to hearing loss at all. They’ll be relying on your understanding of what your child is experiencing and what they need. You are the main advocate for your child in this situation. This can be overwhelming but we can help. Before your meeting with the NDIA, we’ll meet with you to make sure you have all the information you need. The Shepherd Centre can also write support letters you can take with you showing research, outcomes and the benefits of what we offer to support your child’s needs. In this way, we can advocate alongside you. Are we allowed to have someone with us in the NDIA meeting? In principle, legislation gives you the right to have a support person with you. In trial sites like in the ACT, the initial meeting has generally just included the family. If you want a support person from The Shepherd Centre to come and be able to explain some of the technical information, talk to the NDIA. As with all your interactions with the NDIA, you’re in control – if you want something, discuss it with them. What do the goals look like for my child? Some examples could include, ‘I want my child to be able to talk to me’ (for younger children) or ‘I want my child to be able to make friends’ (for older children). Alternatively, your goal could be specific. For example, ‘I want my child to go to Scouts but the hall is too noisy’ – in that case, upskilling scout leaders could be covered. The goals can be very broad. One example might be that you want your family to be able to go on an overseas holiday together. This may not have been possible because your child is scared of the associated sounds. In this case, the NDIS won’t pay for the flight but they might pay for sessions that support and equip your child so they can confidently travel in an airplane. If I have more than one child will I have to attend more than one NDIA meeting? It would be best to mention this issue early on when you’re first in touch with the NDIA. Hopefully the Agency will cover all children in your family during the one meeting. Does the planning process only happen once? No. The NDIA will stay in touch periodically to assess progress and re-plan when necessary. Because the NDIS covers 0-65 years of life, many things will change in your child’s life and their NDIS arrangement will be reviewed to suit. If a check-in is required, it’ll be up to the NDIA to let you know. However, if you’d like to reconnect with NDIA due to a change of circumstance or a concern, you can always contact them directly. How often do you have to reapply for the NDIS? Mostly once you’re in, you’re eligible. If you get to a point in your life where you don’t have a need then you can opt out. In saying that, there is always a need with hearing loss – particularly with the replacement of equipment etc. If eligibility is for early intervention only then will they reassess your progress but this doesn’t mean your support will end just because your child has reached a certain age – it will just change as they grow up. How can I know if my child has received enough funding? The NDIA uses basic guides to benchmark service costs across different service providers. These amounts can be arbitrary and may not be representative of the actual value of support. This means one service can seem ‘cheaper’ than another but it may not be the best option for your child. Thankfully, the NDIS is not restricted to funding the cheapest option you can find – it is funding the right option for your child. The cost of support can differ greatly between children and with appropriate rationale, the focus shouldn’t be on how much a service costs but which services are right for each child and achieve the outcomes you are looking for.

The NDIS and The Shepherd Centre

What does the NDIS mean for The Shepherd Centre? The Shepherd Centre strongly supports the new arrangements of the NDIS and the philosophies underpinning this scheme. It represents a monumental step forward for people with disabilities and will empower them to make their own choices and decisions about matters relating to their condition. Ultimately, The Shepherd Centre will be better off under the NDIS, however it will by no means cover all our service costs. This makes it critically important for The Shepherd Centre to maintain and strengthen our fundraising from trusts, foundations, corporations and the community. Will the NDIS funds be enough to cover the services and programs at The Shepherd Centre? The Shepherd Centre has only ever been partially funded by the government and this won’t change under the NDIS. While government funding covers some of what we provide, there are many more aspects to our work that it doesn’t. Much of the vital work that happens at The Shepherd Centre is funded by the generosity of donors and the acquisition of grants. This makes it possible for us to undertake vital research and consistently improve and expand the service we provide. Overall, the stronger our Centre is financially the more we can invest in aspects such as infrastructure, professional education and programs for families that access our service. This will ensure The Shepherd Centre remains a world-class facility that provides the very best support and outcomes for your child.

Accessing Information

There seems to be a lot of information about the NDIS. How can I be sure I’m getting the right information? The NDIS website contains a wealth of up-to-date information on the NDIS. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for there, send an email to [email protected] with your question. Our team at The Shepherd Centre is happy to help answer your questions as well. We can also liaise directly with our local NDIA Engagement Team if the answer is unknown to us. I have other questions about The Shepherd Centre and the NDIS that haven’t been answered here. Who should I contact? If you have questions or concerns, please contact your nearest Shepherd Centre location. We have ‘NDIS Champions’ at each centre who specialise in the NDIS and are there to help answer your questions. Alternatively, you may find the answer you are looking for on the NDIS website, which features a great deal of up-to-date information. You can also speak to a representative of the National Disability Insurance Agency by phoning 1800 800 110. I’ve received lots of information on the NDIS but I don’t understand it. What should I do? You can bring the information in to one of your sessions with us and we can help you understand it better. If you’re not currently attending The Shepherd Centre, you can call us on 1800 020 030 and we would be happy to assist you.

At what age can a child start?

The Shepherd Centre sees children from as little as one or two weeks old up to the 18 years of age. The most important part is that you contact us as soon as you find out that your child has hearing loss or when you suspect that your child may have hearing loss.

What do I need to bring for my first visit at The Shepherd Centre?

We would require a referral from your doctor. Click here for the referral form online or download your referral form here.

What other things should I be doing to assist my child at home?

As part of our Early Intervention program our staff will help you incorporate your child’s speech and language skills development in everyday routines and will provide advice on working with children with a hearing loss.

What is the success rate regarding children learning to speak?

At The Shepherd Centre 90% of our graduates achieve speech and language skills on par with their hearing peers. Every case is unique and our specialists will work with your family to help you set goals for your child. The most important thing is that you contact us as soon as you find out that your child has hearing loss or when you suspect that your child has hearing loss.

Will my child ever be able to talk?

90% of children with hearing loss are born to hearing parents. With modern technologies and speech therapy techniques the children with hearing loss can achieve remarkable results and depending on their condition can reach the same level of speech and language as their hearing peers.

What happens during my first visit to The Shepherd Centre?

This will be a no obligation visit to your preferred centre, or over video conference or phone if you live in rural or remote area, to discuss in more detail with our specialists what your child and family needs. You can then decide whether you would like us to be your service provider and enrol in our world class early intervention program. With the introduction of NDIS, you would also need to discuss the plan offered by the Shepherd Centre with an NDIS Planner, however our staff can help you with all of your NDIS questions an prepare you for the meeting with the planner.

What services do you provide and how will it help my child?

Children with any degree of hearing loss need help in learning how to hear and speak. Through joining our early intervention program you will have access to all of our programs and services and we will work with you to tailor them taking into consideration individual needs and circumstances of your child and family.

How much will early intervention cost?

In vast majority of the cases it doesn’t cost our families anything to go through the early intervention program. The cost of our services is partially covered by the government funding (NDIS and other funds) and by the generous support of our donors. Depending on your circumstances we may ask you to contribute a small monthly fee to help us with our admin costs, however we would never demand you to pay this fee as we understand the pressure on the families.

What will Medicare cover?

As part of our funding processes, certain appointments are bulk-billed through the Medicare system, other services will be covered as part of our Better Start or NDIS funding.

Can we claim the cost of services from a Private Health Fund?

If you choose to receive some of our services within the private hospital system (for example Cochlear Implant surgery for your child if one is needed), some of the costs may be covered by your private health fund. Our staff will help you navigate through a complex medical payments system. The small membership fee that we charge every month (and is optional for families) is not covered by your private health fund.

Do you do home visits?

The Shepherd Centre’s primary service offering is centre-based and therefore regular home visits are not part of our program, but from time to time our staff include a home visit as part of the service.

Are you open on Saturdays?

No, we presently do not offer services on weekends. However we do have an emergency audiology line that is available to services the hearing devices every day of the week.