This is the first post in a six-part series of confusion-clearing and myth-busting pieces about the NDIS! We hope it is helpful. As always, your feedback is welcome – particularly feedback where information you’ve received differs from what we’ve written here.
This piece is a confusion-clearing piece regarding the float for people who self-manage their NDIS funds.
Belinda Rogers, member of the Greens party and transitioning to the NDIS herself, recently spoke with InCharge intern Katy Gagliardi to clarify the confusion around the float for people managing their NDIS funds.
Prior to the July 1, 2016 rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), a float was made available to people in the trial regions who chose to self-manage their funds.
The float was one month’s advance payment so that people self-managing their funds could pay for various services and items in a timely manner. At the end of the month, payments made from the funds were reimbursed so that someone who is self-managing would never be out of pocket for expenses incurred, and that various providers would be guaranteed timely payments.
The confusion around whether the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) would continue to provide a float for people self-managing their funds has continued. This is because the information provided in Module 2 by the NDIA currently states that the float will continue, whereas this advice differs from what people have been advised verbally by the NDIA.
Belinda spoke with Ian Maynard, Deputy CEO of the NDIA, who confirmed via email that the information stated in Module 2 is now out of date and incorrect – and that a float will not be made available for people who are self-managing their funds.
Instead, the following two options are available:
- The NDIA will reimburse participants via the portal, or
- Participants will need to have an account with service providers.
This change, as you may already know, raises a number of issues that potentially make self-management financially untenable for many people.
Although the NDIA have attempted to mitigate these issues by allowing for people to apply for an advance emergency payment where needed, this flies in the face of the ideological premise of the NDIS: Choice and Control. Instead of being able to pay providers on time without hassle, people with disability are once again in a position of ‘welfare recipient’ – reliant upon an external body to judge whether they are the ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’ poor. Given that justification for needing these funds upfront has already been provided, this money should be readily available. Instead, the decision to remove the float subjects people to continued lack of dignity around funds that have been taken away without consultation with primary stakeholders from the outset.
In any case, if enough people self-manage their funds and apply for emergency payments, this would create a backlog that would create further work for the NDIA – thus making the original plan of having a float more viable for everyone concerned.
If the NDIA reimburses participants via the portal, that means that participants will need to initially pay service providers and other relevant expenses out of pocket. This arrangement relies on a person, who is possibly on partial or full Disability Support Pension (DSP), having the funds upfront to pay for the very services, etc, that the NDIS was designed to pay for.
Alternatively, service providers will be out of pocket until the participant receives the funds via the portal, which has been problematic in and of itself since the rollout of the NDIS. In addition, given that the ideological premise of the NDIS is that people with disability will have more choice and control – if a person chooses to purchase continence aids from Aldi, it is not likely that Aldi will set up an account for a person self-managing their funds through the NDIS. What is more likely is that people who self-manage their funds will be forced through circumstance to continue to use disability-specific providers for items that they could otherwise get from Aldi and other mainstream stores.
In addition, small businesses and individuals – including self-employed support workers – may not be able to afford to have people running accounts with them, which makes it harder for these providers to work with people who self-manage their funds due to this legislative change.
This all provides a major disincentive to people to self-manage their NDIS funds. As a result, the premise of ‘choice and control’ for people with disability is eroded, and the existing paradigm of ‘choice and control’ for the funding body is once again reinforced instead.
People who are currently self-managing their funds and have experienced the benefits of this are working to have this decision reversed.
Self-management, when effectively communicated and implemented, provides huge benefits for everyone: it is a true opportunity for choice and control to occur more and more in practice, and it would be a real shame if legislative requirements continued to make self-management more difficult than it needs to be.
A ‘call to action’ for people interested in working to overturn this decision is planned for the near future. Watch this space!
EDIT: In the meantime, if you would like to express your displeasure with this decision, the best people to contact are (either/and):
- Your local Federal MP. You can search for yours here
- The NDIA feedback line: firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 1800 800 110
- Greens Senator Rachel Siewart: (02) 6277 3587 or email@example.com
UPDATE FROM BELINDA AT 24 AUGUST:
“The Deputy CEO of the NDIA, Ian Maynard, rang me this morning after receiving my email yesterday. He is taking this very seriously and recognises the barriers this policy places in the way of people who want to self manage. He has set up a meeting with the Finance Controller of the NDIS in early October to review and change the policy. At this stage he is talking about altering it to ensure that anyone who has costs in their plan that could result in an out of pocket expense will be able to set their plan up to have that money available as a float. It won’t be done under a ‘hardship’ provision and although it is a somewhat cumbersome way of going about it and he acknowledges it is less than perfect, it is certainly better than being out of pocket or having to ask service providers to run an account for us.
I discussed the Victorian ISP model with him and he will also be looking into that as a possible example of how self management may be done. (Slightly mind boggling that the NDIS hadn’t actually explored all previous systems before going ahead….. )
He will be confirming our conversation by email and will be keeping me in the loop regarding the meeting in October and consulting with me regarding possible changes as they arise”
UPDATE FROM BELINDA AT 14 SEPTEMBER:
“(I have received) confirmation of the meeting with the Independent Advisory Council meeting in November to look again at the policy and confirmation that participants can ask for a forward payment of an agreed amount of an upcoming cost (physio account, etc) with one weeks’ notice to avoid being out of pocket. But no actual reinstatement of the float.”
UPDATE FROM BELINDA AT 20 OCTOBER:
“As many of you are aware during the trial period people who self managed received an advance float of one month’s funding which was topped up monthly. As of July 1 this was scrapped and people either had to pay up front themselves and be reimbursed or apply a week in advance for each line item and then wait for the money to be deposited up to a week later to cover costs. This would be incredibly time consuming, difficult, prone to error and creates ridiculous obstacles when the NDIS is supposed to be about flexibility, choice and control.
I have been in many conversations with Deputy CEO of the NDIA, Ian Maynard, regarding this and have been talking to various politicians too.
Tomorrow Senator Rachel Siewert from the Greens is taking it to Senate committee hearing and pushing to have the policy overturned. I have filled her in on the impact this has been having on so many of us (whilst respecting everyone’s privacy) and will let you know the outcome as soon as I hear.”