The NDIS Planning meeting is guaranteed to cause a mixture of happiness, fear, excitement, nervousness and sheer terror. Participants' experience of NDIS planning can really vary depending on the pre-planning support they have received, the skill and mood of the Planner and how they themselves are feeling on the day. I personally have sat in on planning meetings across the full spectrum of experience and cannot understate the importance of planning ahead.
While the NDIS offers a limited number of information sessions, the bulk of pre-planning work tends to fall to organisations to provide. Although this work is unfunded, at DSC we reckon providing pre-planning support is hugely beneficial to both participants and providers.
So how should you be supporting participants to pre-plan? Below is a guide to the key steps you should be taking to support participants to get the most out of their NDIS planning experience.
Before the Meeting
Step 1: Explain the planning process.
Assist the participant by explaining how the meeting will work, why the meeting is occurring and how it may help them feel more in control and in charge of their life. If you're unsure of the process, check out the Planning FAQs we wrote last week.
Step 2: Explore support needs.
Explore the areas of life where the participant needs support. Don’t only focus on the parts of their life where you or other organisations provide them with support. Ask questions that prompt the participant to look at their whole life, like:
What types of support do you need in your daily life, for example do you need support at home, work, school, in the community?
Do you need any equipment or aids or consumables?
Do you need assistance with transport or vehicle modifications?
Do you need any housing or housing modifications?
Step 3: Discuss the supports they are currently receiving (if any).
Guide participants to draw up a list of all the providers who currently support them or who they may like to receive support from in future. From there, they can call each one and ask them what services they can provide under NDIS. Better yet, get them to provide a quote of their NDIS services to give to the Planner.
This is also a good opportunity to explore the informal supports a person may have by talking about who the important people are in their life and how they support them. Note any safety considerations if applicable.
Step 4: Start exploring long and short term goals.
"What are your goals?" is a simple question that most of us find incredibly difficult to answer. Certainly in my experience supporting NDIS participants, it is a critical question that few people have intuitive answers to.
Take the time beforehand to support participants to think about their goals and it will make the planning meeting a much better experience. Explore with the participant and their support people what is important in their life, asking questions like:
What are your dreams, interests or things you love doing?
What do you want to do with your life?
What currently works well with your supports? What doesn't?
Step 5: Keep a record of all pre-planning activities.
You can support the participant by writing down, recording, taking pictures, mind mapping and gathering quotes and other evidence of need. There are a heap of planning tools available online to assist you. Some of the guides that we really like are:
At the meeting
The participant is welcome to bring anyone they like to their planning meeting, including someone from a service provider.
At the meeting, the NDIA Planner or Local Area Coordinator (LAC) will ask a series of questions about the participants functional capacity. This gives the NDIA guidance for how much support the participant may need over the next year.
NDIS use either a WHODAS or PEDI-CAT assessment of need. It can be difficult to answer these questions, as not all questions will be applicable to the person.
In addition to the questionnaire, here are the topics participants should be ready to discuss with the Planner:
1. Goals for this Plan
Usually NDIS like for participants to have two goals per year but there can also be longer term goals built into the plan. Most goals are fairly broad to allow the opportunity to use funding to best suit the persons needs.
2. The important people in the participant's life
The participant should be clear about who the important people in their life are and how much support they provide.
3. Services currently in the participant's life
Participants should advise Planners what services they currently receive and if possible provide quotes from each provider.
4. Supports needed
Participants should identify their areas of unmet need to Planners. If necessary, they can ask NDIS for assistance from an Allied Health Specialist to work out what they need, for example, a Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Behavioural Specialist or other Allied Health Professionals. The Allied Health Professional will then submit their recommendation to the NDIS.
5. Support needed to implement the NDIS Plan
Participants have three choices for assistance with helping get the plan set up.
The participant can set up their own NDIS plan and supports
The participant can get assistance from a Local Area Coordinator
The participant can get assistance from a Support Coordinator
If participants want support beyond what a LAC may be able to provide, it is critical that they request Support Coordination hours during the planning meeting.
6. Choice of funds management
There are also three choices for assistance in managing plan finances:
The participant can self manage your plan finances
The participant can use a Plan Manager
The participant can have the NDIA manage their plan finances
We recommend that participants understand their options and have already decided prior to the Planning meeting. While Planners should be equipped to discuss these options with participants, this is not always the case.
After the planning meeting
After the meeting, the Planner will take the information supplied and forward to an NDIS "Delegate". The Delegate is someone from the NDIA who writes up the plan based on what was discussed in the meeting. That’s why it important to make sure you provide as much written evidence as possible that is easy to understand and clearly shows what supports are needed.
Generally, the participant will receive a paper copy of their plan in the mail. They will also receive a letter with an activation code to link their myGov to the NDIS Portal.
Participants will first need to check that the plan has the things discussed in the meeting. If they are unhappy with the plan, they can request a review within 3 months.
Unfortunately, in the rapidly changing and complex system that is the NDIS, we cannot rely on planners to ask all the right questions and perfectly understand and anticipate participant needs. That's where pre-planning steps in and as Faye wrote in her earlier article, pre-planning is about showing participants that you have their backs; that you understand them and you are prepared to invest the time and energy to support them through this period of change. Holistic pre-planning that covers all their supports can be the perfect way to convey this message.