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Can I buy it? Introducing the NDIS Checklist

The NDIS empowers you to choose supports that help you achieve your goals and live a fulfilling life. However, figuring out what your NDIS funding covers can be confusing. This article helps you work through the 'Can I buy it' NDIS checklist.

Date posted: Author: Nick van Zanten

The guiding principles behind NDIS funding

Reasonable and necessary

The most important rule of NDIS spending is simple: everything must be deemed 'reasonable and necessary'. In practice, this means the expense must be related to your disability, and that it must be important for achieving your NDIS plan goals.

Value for money

The NDIS compares prices. Chosen items and services should offer good value compared to similar options. A good rule of thumb is to spend as little as possible while making sure the product or service has all the necessary features, but not more than what you need.

Goal alignment

Supports must clearly tie to your NDIS plan goals. Goals will look different from person to person. Some example goals are: developing better communication, living more independently, and boosting your social participation.

'Can I Buy It with the NDIS?' checklist

Daily necessities: Can I use NDIS for...

Groceries, housing costs, or general items I’d buy regardless of disability?

No. While these are important, the NDIS will not fund everyday expenses. Everybody incurs everyday expenses, regardless of disability. Income from other sources (jobs, pensions, allowances) needs to cover these.

Utilities (power, water), if related to needing specialised equipment due to disability?

It’s very unlikely that your utilities will be covered by the NDIS. However, if your bills are more expensive than a normal household because you use a specialised item to manage your disability, you may have a case. For example, if you use an electric bed and this makes your power bill skyrocket, you may be able to claim the cost.

Assistive technology & equipment: Can I use NDIS for...

Mobility aids, wheelchairs, assistive devices for tasks of daily living?

As long as you can prove that you need the item for your disability, you should be fine. Proof is provided via assessments from allied health professionals. Again, a good rule of thumb is to purchase the least expensive item that meets your needs. Seek advice from your support network if you’re unsure.

Home modifications (ramps, bathroom renovations, etc.) to increase accessibility?

Home modifications can be covered by the NDIS, as long as you can prove the purchase is reasonable and necessary. Getting approval often involves providing assessments from allied health professionals to support your claim that you need the modification.

Communication tools, screen readers, other tech if aiding disability needs?

Again, this shouldn't be a problem if you can provide proof that you really need the item.

Therapies and allied health: Can I use NDIS for...

Speech therapy, occupational therapy, psychological support?

Yes, as long as the support is outlined and budgeted for in your NDIS plan. If a certain support will help you achieve one or more of your NDIS plan goals, there’s a good chance it will be funded. However, not all NDIS plans are created equal (and not all plans get it right the first time, either). If you believe a support is reasonable and necessary for you, but it isn’t included in your plan, consider seeking a review.

The best way to make sure you can access these supports is to carefully check the wording of your NDIS plan. Some plans will dictate the specific supports you can access. Other plans will allow you to choose the allied health disciplines you engage. Ask your Support Coordinator, Psychosocial Recovery Coach, Local Area Coordinator, or NDIS Planner if you’re unsure.

Skill-building sessions (cooking, social skills, community outings)?

Many NDIS participants access skill-building sessions! Approval will depend on the support being directly linked to your disability and NDIS plan goals. 

Alternative therapies (music/art therapy)?

Niche therapies will be harder to get approved than broader and/or common ones. You need to make a good case as to why this type of support is necessary for you. Other allied health professionals, or your GP, can help if they agree with you.

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    Transport Support: Can I use NDIS for...

    Can I use NDIS for...Taxis or rideshares (if unable to use public transport)?

    Transport funding does exist under the NDIS for those whose disability makes it too challenging to use public transport. It is offered on three different levels:

    • Level 1 - up to $1,606 per year for participants who are not working, studying, or attending day programs, but want to improve their community access.
    • Level 2 – up to $2,472 per year for participants who are working or studying part-time (up to 15 hours a week), participating in day programs, or who are engaged in other goal-related activities.
    • Level 3 – up to $3,456 per year for participants who are working, looking for a job, or studying for 15 or more hours a week.

    This means an average of $30 - $65 per week, which can be used fairly quickly on taxis or rideshares.

    The NDIS will consider more funding than this for people who have exceptional circumstances. However, you’ll need a lot of supporting evidence to access a higher level of transport funding.Transport funding is paid in regular instalments throughout the year. This allows you to use it as needed on taxis, rideshares, private car services, or buses.

    You can also access transport funding to pay Support Workers to help you get around, though this will depend on your needs and goals.

    Driving lessons if these allow for greater independence?

    Learning to drive carries a cost regardless of whether or not you’re living with a disability. If one of your NDIS goals is to get around by yourself, and it is possible for you to learn to drive, you may be able to access funding to support with lessons.

    Car modifications?

    You may be able to purchase car modifications or even a modified vehicle. Check to see if you have ‘Assistive Technology’ funding under your Capital Support Budget. Of course, eligibility will depend on relevance to your goals.

    Personal/Support Workers: Can I use NDIS for...

    Assistance with bathing, dressing, meal prep, daily chores, etc.?

    Support with bathing, dressing, meal preparation, and daily chores is a core part of the NDIS. Most people with NDIS plans have funding to access these supports, referred to as “Core Supports”. The amount of funding will vary from person to person and depend on their needs, as assessed by the NDIS.

    Support in the community (going to work, appointments, outings)?

    Helping people living with disability to access their community is another significant part of the NDIS. Most people will have this support funded in some form, as long as it will support their goals. The amount will depend on the NDIS’s assessment of your need.

      The grey areas – can I use NDIS funding for…

      Education & tuition

        Primary, secondary, and tertiary tuition is not usually funded by the NDIS. There are a few reasons for this. First, these are regular personal expenses that you’d incur regardless of your disability. Second, there are other financial supports available for these costs.

        There are some exceptions. For instance, specialised adult education may be eligible if you can clearly tie it to your NDIS plan goals. Think about how a possible course could help you achieve your employment or independent living goals and go from there.

        Holidays & entertainment

          This is where it gets really grey! Remember, the NDIS aims to meet your needs, not your wants. This means trips and outings that are not related to your goals will probably not be funded. However, if attending something helps you achieve a specific goal, it could work. For example, community outings for a participant who is otherwise quite isolated may be OK.

          Another support that somewhat fits this category is respite. Essentially, respite is a service that gives your carers a break. It covers all your essential support needs and provides you with a short time away from your usual home. Many NDIS plans include funding for respite, so be sure to check the wording of your plan to see if you can access this.

          Pets or service animals

            While the NDIS will not fully fund a pet, it might be able to fund some of your support needs related to having a certified service dog. When seeking approval for this, be very specific about how it fits your goals and why the expense is not an everyday expense that you would incur anyway. Providing supporting evidence from allied health professionals will also be necessary.

            Before you buy - pro tips

            Ask your planner

              If you’re still in doubt, contact your NDIS planner or LAC. They can advise if the purchase aligns with your specific plan.

              Get it in writing

                When talking to a provider, ask for a quote to show the cost breakdown. Also ask for some kind of written documentation on how this service will support you and help achieve your NDIS plan goals. This can be used as evidence when seeking approval.

                The takeaway

                Empower yourself to live your best life by understanding what’s possible with the NDIS. In the future, check this "Can I buy it with the NDIS?" guide to help guide your decisions.

                Remember, stay focused on necessity. Consider how purchases will help you achieve your NDIS goals, and always double-check with your planner for the most up-to-date guidance.

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