1. Contact the NDIA to get started with NDIS support
Call the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) on 1800 800 110 to get started with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for your child. The NDIA runs the NDIS.
If your child is younger than 9 years with disability, developmental delay or developmental concerns, your child might be able to get support through the early childhood approach. This will be with an early childhood partner in your area.
If your child is 9 years or older and has disability, the NDIA will set up a meeting between you and your child and a local area coordinator to talk about your child’s and family’s needs.
If your child is eligible for NDIS support, an early childhood partner or a local area coordinator will work with your family to develop your child’s NDIS plan.
If there are no early childhood partners or local area coordinators in your area, you’ll work with an NDIA planner.
When you’re getting started with the NDIS, it can help to read about the NDIS, including the terminology the NDIS uses. You can also get information about the NDIS from your GP or child and family health nurse, an Aboriginal Medical Health Service, a local council, preschool or school, or other parents of children with disability.
2. Look into local and non-local services for your child’s NDIS plan
Your child’s NDIS plan describes the supports and services your child needs to work towards their goals. If you live in rural or remote Australia, your child’s plan can include NDIS funding for supports and services that:
- are available in your area all the time
- might visit your area sometimes
- aren’t available in your area.
Local services and services that visit sometimes
You can get information about local and visiting services from many people, including an NDIS representative, a GP, your local health service and other parents. An example of a local service might be a local support worker who helps your child at swimming lessons. An example of a visiting service might be a physiotherapist or speech pathologist who comes to your area for a clinic once a month.
Services that aren’t available in your area
If your child needs or wants services that aren’t available in your area, there are ways you can use these services. For example, in your child’s NDIS plan, you might be able to include the costs of NDIS providers visiting your child or the costs of telehealth.
Sometimes NDIS providers will visit your child with disability at home. If you care for other children or family members at home too, it’s good to think about how you’ll manage home visits. For example, perhaps a family member or friend could come to your home at the same time to care for your other children. This can help you get the most out of these visits.
3. Get set up for telehealth
If you live in rural or remote Australia, telehealth is likely to be a good option for using supports and services that aren’t available locally.
Telehealth therapy can:
- give you a greater choice of NDIS providers
- help you avoid long waiting periods to see someone locally
- let your child see a professional without having to leave home
- help you avoid travel time and costs.
You can also use telehealth for training. For example, a city therapist might be able to use telehealth to train an allied health assistant for your child. Or the therapist might be able to train you and your family to use a particular support for your child, like Key Word Sign.
Here are tips to help you get set up for telehealth:
- Make sure your internet plan includes connections and speeds that can handle telehealth appointments.
- Check the equipment you and your child need for telehealth appointments. For example, you might need a device with a camera and a headset. Or if your child has a vision impairment, a screen magnifier might help them use telehealth more easily.
- If internet access is difficult for you, discuss this with your NDIS representative or local community services. You might be able to use the internet connection or technology at a local health clinic, school or community centre.
It’s worth talking to your NDIS representative about whether the NDIS can support you as you get set up for telehealth. In some cases, the NDIS might be able to provide telehealth equipment as part of your child’s plan or help your family in other ways.
4. Include travel and accommodation costs in your child’s NDIS plan
In your child’s NDIS plan, you might be able to include the costs of NDIS providers visiting your child and family. You can talk to your child’s NDIS representative about this. You can also ask whether the NDIS might cover transport for your child to visit services, although this is less common and usually only for older children.
Your NDIS representative will explain how the support budgets in your child’s NDIS plan work and which budget to use for transport costs.
When you’re estimating costs, consider and list:
- how far people will need to travel
- how often people will need to travel
- whether people will travel by bus, train, plane or private car.
It’s good to think about cultural safety when you’re working with NDIS providers. For example, does your provider have cultural knowledge? Do you need an interpreter? You could contact specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services, multicultural services or services for LGBTIQ+ families for help and information.
5. Include equipment needs in your child’s NDIS plan
Your child’s NDIS plan lists the types of supports your child needs for working towards their goals. These supports can include equipment. If you live in rural and remote Australia, your child might have particular equipment needs because of your local conditions.
For example, if your family lives in very rugged terrain, your child might need a particular type of wheelchair. Or a screen magnifier might be important so your child can use telehealth.
If an NDIS provider is working with you either in person or via telehealth to identify equipment and other supports for your child, you could send them videos or photos of your local conditions.
It’s good to think in advance about these things. It means that when you meet with your NDIS representative, they can help you work out the best way for the NDIS to support you and your family.
6. Decide how to manage your child’s NDIS funds
There are 3 options for managing your child’s NDIS funds: self-managing, plan-managing and NDIA-managing.
If you live in rural or remote Australia, self-managing or plan-managing your child’s funds can be good options. Self-managing and plan-managing give you more flexibility because they allow you to use both registered NDIS providers and unregistered NDIS providers. This might be important in rural or remote areas with fewer services than other areas.
- keep working with certain NDIS providers and support workers as part of your child’s NDIS plan
- use NDIS providers who visit your area on a roster
- train and employ local people to work as allied health assistants or in other support roles.
If you’re interested in employing your own support workers but aren’t sure where to find them, you could ask around at playgroup, preschool or school for ideas. For example, you might be able to employ teacher aides outside of school hours, teaching or therapy students, or retired teachers. You could also try posting in local online community groups.
7. Use your child’s NDIS plan flexibly
You can use your child’s NDIS plan in flexible ways. This allows you to spend more money on the supports and therapy your child needs and less on administrative costs.
Here are ideas for using your child’s NDIS plan flexibly and getting the most out of their NDIS funds:
- Consider whether you could get a service by telehealth or a combination of in-person and telehealth appointments.
- Arrange to meet NDIS providers halfway between your home and their usual service location.
- Arrange bulk therapy. This is when an NDIS provider has fewer appointments with your child, but they spend more time working with you and your child when they do visit.
- Arrange for your child to see NDIS providers at school, if possible. If providers can organise to see several children at school on the same day, you might be able to share travel and other costs with other families.
- Think about whether other people in your area could plan a visit from an NDIS provider on the same day. You might be able to share travel accommodation and other costs.
- Think creatively about other ways to help your child work towards their goals, including how you can use community activities and resources. For example, your child might get a lot out of swimming lessons even if regular hydrotherapy isn’t available locally.
As you manage your plan throughout the year, document your experience of getting services and supports and how this affects your child’s progress towards their goals. If you can’t spend your child’s allocated funds or services cost more because of their location, make sure to note this. You could keep private notes and contact your NDIS representative with any questions. At your child’s NDIS plan reassessment, your NDIS representative can help you find more accessible services and supports.
8. Connect with your community and other parents
Connecting with your community can be a great way to find support and services for your whole family.
You could try contacting:
- MyTime – peer support groups for parents and carers of children with disability or developmental delay
- in-person and online parent groups for children with and without disability
- your local child and family health centre.
Other parents, especially those who have similar experiences to you, can be a great source of information, experience and support. If there are no parents in your local area to speak to, you could also explore online support groups for parents of children with disability or developmental delay.