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My NDIS Experience

My NDIS Experience

I have now had my NDIS plan for 3 months, and I’ve been meaning to reflect on the process and share what I’ve learnt. I had anticipated the rollout in my area for some time as there were many services I wanted to access but simply couldn’t afford it. Here’s the main parts of the process and my experiences:

Initial Application and Registration

The first step was to register with the NDIS to determine whether I would qualify. I knew that it was rolling out in my area in July so I went to apply in June, thinking that would be long enough to be approved by July. I went onto their website and could not find the application form to download. I started thinking maybe I just couldn’t ‘see’ it so I asked a family member to have a look for me. It wasn’t just my bad eyes, it was nowhere to be found! I needed to call to get forms sent out to me. So I did. Then I asked if there were accessible options for someone who is legally blind. They said Braille, but I can’t read Braille (yet!). The consensus was someone was going to have to fill it out for me, which being my Beyonce independent self, annoyed me a little. I got the forms in the mail, asked someone to help me grudgingly and gathered together all my ‘evidence’. I included paperwork I had accumulated over the years such as medical reports, Centrelink reports and the tests I’d had done. I emailed my application so I could have a record of it and know it had been received.

A month goes past and I was getting impatient. I phoned up the NDIS and asked them where I was in the process. They discovered that they hadn’t received my application. I insisted I emailed it on this date and time. They then found the documents but said I had to re-fill out the form again. The lady offered to do it over the phone and I obliged. I was back in queue.

Another month passed and I thought I better follow-up again. I was still in the queue. They couldn’t give me an answer of how long it would take, not even roughly, so I would know when to continue to harass them. I ended up calling AGAIN and this time my application was being assessed. A few weeks past and I hadn’t heard and by this time I had them on speed dial, so I phoned again and they said it was almost done. I got the call a few days later that I had been approved, four months after I initially applied.

Planning Meeting

The next step is to have a planning meeting with a Local Area Coordinator (LAC). This is someone who will do an assessment and find out what you want and need, write a report, and send it off to be approved (or rejected). I was pleasantly surprised that I only had to wait a few weeks to have my appointment. In the meantime, I had been researching what was available, what people I knew had received and started to identify my goals and how I would tie this in with the funding I was hoping to receive. I did quite a bit of research and wrote up a list of services and assisstive technology I needed.

On the day of the meeting, I arranged for a family member to be there with me who also works in the industry and knew the ins and outs of the process. In hindsight, I am so glad she was there because the experience was quite confronting and draining. My LAC was a lovely lady who had a background in Social Work. The assessment consisted of questionnaires assessing daily living and needs (quite a few of them) and then identifying goals. The point of the goals is to match up your needs with what you want to achieve. Goals can be things like accessing the community independently or completing a particular course. They also take down a detailed narrative of your situation from who you live with to where you work and what you do for leisure.

When I was discussing what things I wanted, we had to tie it back to goals or my situation. It was like we had to emphasise all the things I couldn’t do. I’m generally a positive and go-getter kind of person when it comes to my vision, and this was confronting. The assessment went for two hours and the entire time was discussing all my struggles, failures and problems. It was no fault of my LAC, it was how the process had been set up. It was extremely draining and I felt as though all the negativity I had worked so hard to put behind me had been brought up and was lingering in the air around me. This is part of the reason why I was glad to have my family member with me as when I was finding it difficult to bring up more of my insecurities, she was there to help me see both sides. In the end, we had expressed most of what I was hoping to receive and put a plan together that tied in with my goals. I did feel as though my LAC didn’t have much experience with vision impairment specifically, and I had to share the information on funding for Lacey (Guide Dog) and mobility/orientation. As people with vision loss have unique needs, it would have been good it the LACs were equipped with some specific information on what could be accessed.

After the meeting, I was absolutely exhausted and slightly depressed. The last two hours had made me realise all the things that I was struggling with – from simple tasks like walking down stairs to making a cup of tea, and accessing the places I wanted to. I felt like I wanted to scream all of my achievements out loud just to make myself believe again that I am competent and successful. I debriefed with my family and then took myself to my room to do a bit of mindfulness and chill out from the experience. Being able to reflect with someone about the meeting was essential as it gave me a way to talk about how it made me feel and to see that there was more to me than not being able to cut vegetables without cutting myself.

Plan Approval

My plan was approved within two weeks of having it submitted. This was the quickest part of the whole process! I opted to go ‘self-managed’ and set up my online account through My Gov (same website for doing your tax, Medicare and Centrelink). Being self-managed, I have to pay for my services upfront and then get reimbursed. It is up to me to organise my services and then put a payment request through the My Gov site. I chose this way as I wanted to have the control over what service providers I used and to keep track of what I had spent/how much I had left. I knew that I would have to come up with funds myself, but thought that if I put a sum of money aside just for NDIS it would work and act as a mini savings account.

My First NDIS Purchase

My first NDIS purchase was a set of wireless earphones I’d been hanging out for. I was forever being tangled by earphones and my multiple devices and also wanted something I could use when walking with Lacey. I also had a few invoices I could claim back from support workers who had helped me around the home. I logged onto the portal to upload my request with my receipts ready. It was honestly the easiest thing I have ever done – all I had to do was input the date of service, amount, what category it belonged to (my planner went through this with me in a subsequent meeting after my plan was approved) and tick a box. I didn’t have to upload my receipt or provide any extra documentation. Within 24 hours I had received the reimbursement back into my bank account. I was absolutely shocked! I thought I’d be waiting days or a week for it. Every purchase since has taken one business day after the payment request is put through to be complete. I keep a spreadsheet where I enter all the request details, what it was I bought/accessed and where the receipt is so that if I am ever asked for the documentation I know where it is.

Three months on

It was a rocky start with the long wait and confronting planning meeting, however, it has been a breeze since. I am really enjoying having the freedom to purchase products and services I need and know that I can access funding for things as they come up – for example I broke my laptop charger and I could purchase one straight away under my Assisstive Technology budget. This has given me peace of mind that I can buy the things I would otherwise save up for or not be able to afford like gadgets, and organise support workers who can assist me with cleaning or driving to appointment without having to rely on family members. I also received funding for Lacey’s ongoing costs which is brilliant as I can get her the little extras and not have to stress about the costs that come up having an (extra special) dog. My ongoing experience with the NDIS is quite empowering as I can choose what I want and who I want to provide services for me which has been a source of frustration in the past. I will keep you all updated on how it goes over the rest of the year!

 

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