With July 1st fast approaching, many people across the country are preparing for the long awaited rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which is due to expand from the existing trial-sites from the new financial year. One area where there are a lot of questions is the planning process.
Given the speed at which rollout is fast approaching many areas, there can be an understandable degree of anxiety about not having a plan in place already. So what does joining the NDIS look like and what does this mean for people soon to be participating in the scheme?
We recently attended a forum in New South Wales where the message from NDIA’s representative was loud and repetitive ‘the rollout is not the trial sites’. The intent was to hit home that we should not assume that what happened in trial sites will be repeated in the rollout, presumably to put to rest any concerns based on trial site experiences.
However, trial sites are at this point the only reference for experience, which puts impending NDIS participants in a challenging predicament. Peer and provider experiences in the trial sites are the primary source of information on what to expect and the NDIA is signalling that this should not be relied on for preparation.
Arguably, the advantage of this statement is that it raises the reliance on NDIA while also limiting the power of peer2peer and person2provider support networks. One major difference the NDIA has made clear is the introduction of ‘My First Plan’ as the new process for joining the NDIS.
My First Plan is the plan people will make when joining the NDIS and is expected to largely reflect the existing supports a person currently receives and run for the first year. The headline for My First Plan is that it will not contain goals. Instead it will be focused on maintaining the existing supports in the first year. To quote a slide from the presentation:
“People follow a pathway to access the NDIS and then move into a
12 month planning cycle
First Plan focuses on providing people with the support they need
now and the time to explore all of their options for their next plan”
[Description: photo of presentation slide detailing NDIA’s My First Plan process]
[Description: reproduction of diagram shown in above slide for clarity]
This is obviously a significant change from the previous process, which still appears on the NDIA’s website here and a screen grab of which can be seen below:
[Description: screen shot showing the 5 step NDIS planning process prior to My First Plan]
As the difference between the two diagrams shows, there are no goals under My First Plan (also referred to as simply First Plan in parts of the presentation).
For some who might have been daunted by the prospect of goal-oriented support plans, this may come as a relief. For others who were hopeful for the prospect of more individualised support this is likely to be disappointing.
The rationale given by the NDIA presenter was that the change had come due to feedback that people had found goals based planning too much to deal with in conjunction with all the other changes. Accordingly, My First Plan was created as a means of helping people first transition to NDIS and then use the first 12months to build understanding of the scheme and capacity to develop goals with the support of a Local Area Coordinator (LAC) or specialised coordinator.
There are also some clear benefits for the NDIA in launching the rollout without goal-based plans. This more streamlined approach which will likely improve the speed at which people will be able to be transitioned to the NDIS, will thus also improve the NDIA’s score on any uptake/transition based performance indicators. By removing goals it also removes the premise for changes to current supports, making costs easier to forecast.
A more inclusive approach may have been to make goals-based planning optional. Allowing people who were able to access information from the trial sites and wanted to take the plunge with goals-based plans to do so, while also giving those who weren’t ready to opt-out of goals and take the year to build familiarity with the new system.
The NDIS is after all intended to bring a more person-centred approach to the way we fund supports. Given the dynamism of the rollout, we might still hold out hope for a more person-centred approach of offering optional goals rather than wholesale abandonment of goals in plans.
While the removal of goals and a focus on simply shifting current supports over to NDIS does not bode well for those who were hoping to transform their current supports into a more personally meaningful package, My First Plan doesn’t remove all choice and control. While there is likely to be less room for creativity in defining the ‘what’ of supports, there is still plenty of room for defining the ‘who’.
Even though supports are likely to stay relatively the same under My First Plan, there is still choice and control over who you would like to provide those supports. This means you will still be in charge of who provides your supports and be able to change providers if you are dissatisfied with the service you receive.
For the parts of your plan you choose to be NDIA managed, your choice of providers will be limited to those providers who have met the NDIA’s requirements and are Registered Providers under NDIS. For the parts of your plan you choose to be self managed or plan managed you will be able to choose freely from any provider.
While My First Plan may seem like a step back from the intentions of the NDIS to bring about person-centred supports driven by individual choice and control, the nation-wide scale and scope of the scheme will inevitably face challenges. As a community we might lament these challenges, but we won’t let them bring down this reform. If making this first step smaller is necessary to ultimately achieve the full vision of NDIS, it will be for the better.
Join the call to stop My First Plan and bring back choice and control. There is now a Change.org campaign calling on Ministers and the NDIA’s leadership to stop My First Plan and return the legal right of NDIS participants to have the choice of a goal-based plan.
We are concerned that the NDIA has taken this unilateral, illegal and unethical action. Together we are voicing this concern. If you share this concern and want to protect our NDIS, join together with us and add your support to the petition.