Participants with adequate funding in their Plans are critical to your organisation’s future success. So is your organisation investing in educating and upskilling your customers ahead of their first Plan or Plan reviews? If not, then you are failing to invest in your own financial sustainability.
As the NDIS rollout continues, some clear trends are emerging that correlate the quality of Participant Plans with organisations that are thriving in the NDIS environment. Conversely, there are also indications that organisations that fail to invest time and effort into Pre-Planning are more likely to experience difficulties during transition. This makes sense- the more supports Participants have in their Plans, the more funding they have to spend at your organisation.
Moreover, there is, of course, an ethical incentive to support Participants with Pre-Planning. The NDIS Planning process was meant to ensure that Participants receive funding according to needs and goals, thus improving equity in outcomes. However, as a result of poor and rushed Planning processes, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Participants and families who are better able to research and prepare are achieving more favourable outcomes. Those who are not able to adequately prepare due to the nature of their disability, lack of education or information, time pressures, or English skills, are being left behind. This runs counter to some of the fundamental principles of the NDIS.
In my role as a consultant and parent, I have been fortunate enough to witnesses a vast variety of Pre-Planning processes. This was immensely helpful to me when preparing for my own son's first Planning meeting. As a result, we achieved life-changing outcomes for him and our family. However, over the past few months, I have seen many other Participants that have been left with Plans that fall well short of being life-changing and, in some cases, leave the Participant worse off than they were before NDIS. When investigating why this occurred, in most cases, the trail leads back to a lack of preparation before the Planning meeting. If the Participant does not understand the NDIS, then how can they be expected to know what evidence to provide and how to ask for what they need?
So what should you be doing to achieve better outcomes for Participants and your organisation?
Here are some steps that, as a parent, I would like to see organisations take to prepare Participants ahead of Planning meetings. It is important not to rush this process, as it can often take time to gather all the necessary evidence. I would recommend starting at least 3-6 months before the Planning meeting is likely to occur.
1. NDIS basics. Take the time to explain to Participants and families what the NDIS is, how it works, the Planning process, reasonable and necessary, NDIS language, the Price Guide and fund management options. All this information will be overwhelming for anyone. So make sure you consider the language you use and the format you present it in.
2. Sample Plans. I believe it is important for people to see what the ultimate outcome during the early stages of the education process. So walk Participants through a sample Plan, familiarising them with what it looks like and the different categories and line items.
3. Fund Flexibility. Explore the different levels of fund flexibility in each of the three support purpose types- Core, Capital and Capacity Building. You should also explain the different levels of flexibility that come with each form of fund management. This will help Participants determine which type of fund management works best of them.
Once you have explored all the background information that Participants will need, then it is time to support Participants to prepare for their own unique meeting.
4. Goals. Goals are the secret to success in the NDIS. Participants need to understand the relationship between their goals and funding outcomes. Generally, Participants are allowed 2-3 short-term goals and 1 long-term goal. These goals need to accurately articulate what the Participant wants to get out of the Plan, using NDIS language when possible. Remember: better goals lead to better outcomes.
5. Evidence. Participants will need to collect key pieces of evidence that articulate the justification for the supports they are requesting. Documentation that they will need might include:
- Doctors’ reports;
- Diagnosis documentation;
- Allied health reports;
- A daily/weekly roster – this should detail what a typical day looks like for the Participant and what support they need in that time. Ideally, it will be broken down into 1-hour increments;
- A list of all medical, allied health and support people that are involved in the Participant’s life;
- Justifications for any specific requests – for example, if the Participant wants a specific number of community participation hours to align with an activity they want to do, then they should outline what the activity is and how it relates to their goals.
- If the Participants wants to self manage their Core supports, then the Planner will request the name and contact details of their proposed Support Coordinator. Therefore, Participants will need to do their research in advance and identify a Support Coordinator they would like to work with.
6. Justifications. Participants need to be prepared to justify their requests. They should have an understanding of how the supports they are asking for relate to the reasonable and necessary criteria and have all available evidence to back it up on hand. Chances are that if Participants are equipped to back up their requests, then they will receive the supports they want.
7. Disability statement. Participants should be mindful of the fact that Planners encounter a wide variety of disabilities. So it is unreasonable to expect them to have expert knowledge of every disability. A disability statement can support the Planner to understand the impact that the disability has on the Participant’s life. Asking the Planner to read it at the start of the meeting can set the tone of the conversation. Written statements can also be helpful for Participants that struggle to verbally communicate these sensitive issues.
There is no denying that it takes a lot of effort on the part of providers to ensure that Participants are ready for their Planning meetings. However, it is an investment that pays itself back when your customers are fully funded and loyal to your service. In this competitive NDIS environment, the question you should be asking yourselves is not whether you can afford to do Pre-Planning with your Participants, but whether you can afford not to.
NDIS Planning: Really Useful Resources
DSC has developed a stack of terrific Planning Resources
We just love the Growing Space and its approach to planning
My Choice Matters is really good, and
the NDIA recently released a bunch of new Planning Resources