The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been in the news lately. It is a national scheme designed to support people with significant and permanent disabilities who are less than 65 years old. Trials of the scheme are occurring at sites around Australia. One of those trials is in the Barwon region around Geelong in Victoria. At the start of April there were 2117 people with support plans approved by National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) in Barwon.
Signing up to the NDIS
Thomas Banks is one of those people with an approved support plan. Thomas is an actor and writes for the theatre and websites such as DiVine. He is very much into exploring disabilities in his work. Thomas has cerebral palsy that affects his speech and movement. When the NDIS trial began in Barwon he did not think his disability was severe enough for him to be eligible. He attended a few conferences about the scheme but did not want to get his hopes up of being eligible. Only after speaking to some colleagues did he decide to try to sign on for the trial.
Thomas rang the NDIA and the receptionist suggested he use the online access checker to see if he was eligible. He logged onto the NDIS site and answered some simple questions. The checker found he may be eligible and suggested he contact the NDIA for an appointment. He rang them and quickly arranged a meeting where they told him he was eligible for the scheme.
A lengthy process
The planning process then started. Thomas began by making a list of supports he would need for the rest of his life. The creation of his individual plan then went through a number of stages. He found it frustrating that he had to contact NDIA staff and follow up the progress of his plan at every stage.
Thomas's eventual plan included supports such as taxi fares, payment of cleaning bills and gym membership. It also paid for his use of a personal access co-ordinator for up to 20 hours a week. She does things like attend meetings with him to take notes. Thomas says these supports are essential to help him live.
Signing onto the scheme meant he lost his Centrelink mobility allowance but it was replaced with double the amount in NDIS funding. Thomas says he got nearly everything on his list. But he forgot to include speech therapy so he went back and had his plan altered. His plan is reviewed and updated annually.
His plan took five months to create. He is pleased with the result.
Having support and financial assistance from the NDIS has provided me with the opportunity to expand my business and achieve goals beyond what otherwise might have been possible, says Thomas.
Full rollout of the NDIS
The media has been full of speculation about the future of the NDIS. The scheme was designed to begin with a slow rollout. At this stage most of the estimated 420,000 eligible Australians will need to wait from 2016 to 2020 to sign up to the scheme. Some have suggested a slowdown of the scheme's rollout. As one of the scheme's trial participants, Thomas Banks thinks its rollout should not be delayed.