Holding onto the heart of the NDIS: How the NSW planning process is shaping up

An image of a love heart lodged between two branches

An image of a love heart lodged between two branches

In this piece I hope to provide a run down of what it looks like we can expect from the NSW NDIS planning process. And some suggestions for how to make the most of the process.

It is taken from direct experience, information sessions where National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) representatives have spoken, and feedback from people who have already had a planning meeting.

If you have further information that you think should be shared, please be in touch as I am doing my very best to share correct information.

The transition to full scheme starts on July 1 2016. By July 2019, it is estimated that 141,957 people will transition to the NDIS in NSW.

The ‘rollout’ of NDIS in NSW is starting with people who currently receive government supports. The first groups moving to the NDIS will be those people living in large residential centres, group homes, hostels and receiving in-home support.

Image of order of how people will enter the scheme in NSW

Image of order of how people will enter the scheme in NSW


It appears planning meetings have already started for some people in these first ‘categories’.

What happens for people not currently receiving supports is a very good question! I attended an NDIS meeting on the 31st May, where an NDIA representative said that they were looking at 6,000 new people entering the scheme in the first year, but that there was still no agreement on how those 6000 people will be prioritised.

We encourage people to test access to the Scheme regardless, and fill out the forms after July 1. Don’t sit in wonder or in hearsay from others. Test eligibility for yourself.

This is especially the case for those people who are nearing 65 years old.

Some initial information to look out for

The process for my brother (and confirmed with other people) has been to receive two letters and then phone calls.

One letter is the from NSW Ageing Disability and Homecare (what we call ADHC) and one is from the NDIA (Remember the NDIA is the Agency in charge of implementing the NDIS)

These letters basically say ‘we know you exist and we will be in touch with you’.

Please pay attention to letters!

Then there is a phone call from the NDIA asking you some questions.

I understand this is a call from the NDIA Access team, with questions to check access, understanding they are joining the NDIS, and gather information for the planning process and are not over-the-phone eligibility questions (taken from an NDIA representative at a meeting on the 31st May hosted by National Disability Services (NDS))

Then there is a call to organise the planning meeting with you.

What happens if this has not happened for you yet? Don’t panic. It’s probably that you are further down on the ‘phase in’ plan.

The NDIS ‘Pathway’

The NDIA has produced this information about what the process is for becoming a participant in the Scheme.

In this information, the words My First Plan are used. This hasn’t been used before in NDIS trial sites (For some analysis on My First Plan, you can read here and here).

In the NDIS pathway document it says, “To create your first plan you will have a conversation with an NDIS representative about your current situation and supports.”

Who are the ‘representatives’ you are likely to meet?

Two organisations in NSW have been contracted to provide something called Local Area Co-ordination (LAC). They are Uniting and St Vinnies.

The LACs have a big role to play in planning. They are not NDIA employees, but it appears their role is to collect the information necessary for a plan to be created by the NDIA.

Depending on answers to questions in your access phone call, it may mean you end up meeting with an LAC at your planning meeting, and not an NDIA Planner. My understanding is that people who have more complex needs are allocated an NDIA Planner.

A photo of a slide explaining the Local Area Coordination function

A photo of a slide explaining the Local Area Coordination function

The meetings look to be around 90 minutes and move through a series of questions.

Feedback about these questions are that they involve asking about the details of a person’s day, and what supports they need during different times of the day.

The LAC role is to conduct information gathering on behalf of NDIA  only. They ask the person and/or their nominee a set of questions which will inform their NDIS plan. This information is sent to NDIA to develop a plan for the person.

As the slide above indicates, a large number of people will then see an LAC again to assist with implementation of their plan.

Doing all we can for our First Plan

OK, so how can we take maximum control of this process?

The heart of the NDIS has not changed

Thinking about your goals and reasonable and necessary supports to achieve these goals are still entirely relevant.

Here is some recent information on Reasonable and Necessary.

Here is information on what the NDIS will fund.

The process the NDIA outlines on page 12 of their pathway documention, is actually a good set of questions to get started with.

We must take this ‘heart’ in to our planning meeting.

Being prepared

As meetings are relatively short, it is important to do some thinking before hand.

My own experience and feedback from others has been “thank goodness we created a document and did our thinking beforehand, or we would never have thought of it all in the time”.

Getting some things down on paper means that you may feel shaky but your voice is strong. Be confident in your goals for yourself.

It also seems that the emphasis in meetings is on documenting what people already receive.

While this is very important, it is also equally important to think about any areas of unmet need:

  • take care to make sure you discuss all services you have received. Some things are ‘block funded’, some things appear just to have been provided for free. But these will all need to be funded now if they are to continue. For example, you may go out with friends, but is this funded and supported through an organisation? If you didn’t get this support, would you still be able to go out with these friends?
  • are there things you think are missing in your life?
  • are there times you don’t have supports during the week and specific times in a year?
  • times when you are receiving family support and this is not a reasonable level of informal support (especially if you are an adult and your parents are supporting you a lot)
  • things you would like to change
  • what is stopping these things from happening and how could NDIS funding assist?
  • new things you want to learn and do

Here are some ideas from one of our Facebook posts that might give you some more ideas in this area.

It also seems clear, that we cannot expect or rely on the process to bring these things forward. We must name them.

It is also important to think about whether you will need help to implement your plan, find services and supports in your community, help to be included and get your goals achieved. This is called Supports Co-ordination. It is important to develop your own view  – based on your goals, the things you want to achieve, your life circumstance, the skills you have and the people in your life – about how much help you may need to implement your plan.

The NDIA defines this as

“Assistance to strengthen participants’ abilities to coordinate and implement supports and participate more fully in the community. It can include  initial  assistance  with  linking  participants  with  the  right  providers  to  meet  their  needs, assistance to source providers, coordinating a range of supports both funded and mainstream and building   on   informal   supports,   resolving   points   of   crisis,   parenting   training   and   developing participant resilience in their own network and community.”

You can read more about Supports Co-ordination in the latest Price Guide for your state. We will be producing more information on this as well.

A peer-developed resource to help people with planning is in the Files section of the NDIS Grassroots Discussion Facebook page.

Here is a link to our last webinar and information booklet on this topic.

InCharge is assisting people to get ready. We are happy to share our processes with anyone who is in a position to assist people get ready. We have been working with carers’ groups, individuals directly, small groups of people and service providers. We have seen the positive results of our processes in NDIS planning meetings. Contact us to learn more at hello@incharge.net.au

Think about how you want your NDIS funding managed

It is equally important to have done some thinking about how you want your NDIS funding managed.

Remember there are 3 options and you can mix these.

  1. Agency Managed.
  2. Self Managed
  3. Plan Managed.

There is a lot of misinformation about self management and plan management. Self management doesn’t mean doing it all on your own and you can ask for assistance to learn the skills to self manage better. A plan manager and a Supports Co-ordinator are ways that you can have a partner to help you self manage. Again, please contact us to learn more about these.

Here is a link to some Plain and Easy English information on these choices.

Here is some more information on self management.

A plan manager can help you feel more confident to be in control by assisting you with managing your finances and getting your plan up and running as well.

Becoming more self sufficient is at the heart of the scheme. Self management or plan management could allow for more creativity and flexibility in how you can get the goals of your plan met.

Even if you do not get asked about this, it is your right to speak to these funding management choices in your planning meeting. There is a danger this may be decided for you without adequate discussion.

 Tips for the meeting

  • Having a face to face meeting is very important and I encourage you to insist on this (just in case there might be pressure for a phone meeting or an unsuitable meeting being insisted upon)
  • If it takes you longer to speak for yourself, I encourage you to stick with that and to ask that the meeting is long enough for you
  • I encourage you to organise the meeting so that your family member with disability is present if a meeting is something that they could participate in, given the right structure. In this context, it could become easier for a planning meeting to happen without the presence of the participant!
  • Where is the best place for the meeting to take place so that the participant can be included? Ask for this.
  • Who else can participate and be present in the meeting to support and add voice?
  • The meetings appear to be ‘paperless’ but I have asked about people bringing pre-prepared information, and have been told this can be accepted.  However, in practice, knowledge of this could differ from LAC to LAC (or planner to planner). So I encourage you to ask.  I encourage you to ask for the name/s of the LACs or planners, the office they come from, and an email address that you can send your documentation to and how you should “Attention” it.

But also remember

I have never felt that an NDIS will come as a fully-formed utopia that lands in our laps.

Change doesn’t come from the top down.

Any great change I have ever witnessed has happened from the grassroots, where people see a reform as an opening and an opportunity for them to grasp and shape as a way to better their own lives.

We must remain vigilant and not feel pressured into accepting things that really do not feel right. Often when we are faced with authority me may feel we have to agree to things in a rush.

Remember the heart of the NDIS has not changed.

Remember the insurance (not welfare) approach still stands.

Remember the capacity building opportunities to move beyond ‘same same’ are there to be asked if we want them.

Remember we can learn about these in Year 1 of our plan, and so be more ready for Year 2.

Remember we will still have choice of providers once we get our plans.

Remember that there is a complaints process for the NDIS.

I look forward to sharing with you the lessons learned from my brother’s planning meeting, which looks like it may happen soon.

There are many groups of people that it is very clear are at a heightened disadvantage in relation to this process. This keeps me awake at night. If you are in a position to use this information, and to research other relevant information, to assist people feel more ready, I really encourage you to step forward in any way you can.

– Libby.


  1. says

    Great insight and advice to hold the heart of planning as the focus. Regardless of the ever changing NDIS processes, the need for thoughtful planning for a meaningful life is imperative. The NDIS will not create a good life for a person. It is only the funding. It is what people do with the funding that counts.
    The ACT will also be moving to ‘My first plan’ for the remainder of the rollout. Fun times:)
    Thanks Libby


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