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The Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Hon Stuart Robert MP, has announced three changes to help NDIS participants during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Increased flexibility for low-cost assistive technology (AT)
  • New support line items for participants living in supported independent living (SIL) arrangements
  • Online access to the NDIS Access Request Form (ARF) and Supporting Evidence Form

Further detail on the low cost AT changes are outlined below:

Increased flexibility for low-cost AT

To ensure continuity in NDIS funded supports and services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDIA are temporarily broadening the flexible approach for low cost AT items.

Participants will be able to use their existing NDIS funding to purchase an item if all of the following criteria are met:

  • the AT will maintain existing funded NDIS supports like a program or therapy
  • the provider of supports has confirmed in writing that the device is necessary to continue supports and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements
  • the AT is the lowest specification that will maintain funded supports
  • the participant does not already have the item, another suitable item or access to the item
  • the AT has not been funded by another service system (such as education)
  • the AT or circumstances are not specifically excluded.

How will this work?

The NDIA are recommending participants work with their existing providers to discuss the best way to receive services and supports while maintaining physical distancing – this may include using available technology, developing exercise programs participants can do at home or borrowing equipment and keeping in touch over the phone.

  • Plan-managed or self-managed participants can purchase low cost AT items from any provider.
  • Agency-managed participants can purchase these from any registered NDIS provider. A common approach is for therapy providers to buy the AT item for the participant.

How will this relate to funding?

Not all participants have funding available in core budgets for consumables. There will be a system update 9 May 2020 to increase flexible access in plans.

Participants who only have funding in their capacity building budget will be able to use a special line item to enable use of this new flexible approach (more details on this later in the week).

If a specific item is required to maintain supports, written evidence in the form of a letter/email from the participant’s existing provider will be required to support this purchase.

How will payments be claimed?

Providers, plan managers and self-managing participants need to attach this letter to claim payment. The letter/email should include:

  • the participant’s name and NDIS number;
  • that delivery of current support in the plan has been significantly hindered due to physical distancing restrictions (or other element of COVID-19) and that alternate solutions to maintain delivery/outcome have been considered, but not fully addressed the limitations;
  • how the device is necessary to maintain supports and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements;
  • the specific technologies and associated accessories required, and that these represent the lowest specification capable of delivering the benefit; and
  • that the participant is able to use the device/s to access the support.

Before the participant (or nominee) or provider makes a claim for the selected item, the participant should be sure that:

  • the participant does not already have the item, another suitable item or access to the item, and
  • that a similar or suitable item has not been funded by another service system (such as education), and
  • that the item or circumstances are not specifically excluded under this policy.

When will this take effect?

The arrangement will be in place until September 2020, with a review at the end of June 2020.

To be really clear, this policy does not involve provision of extra NDIS funding into a participant’s plan, but rather flexibility to use existing funding.

Where to find more information

Latest news on NDIA initiatives to support providers and participants during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be found on the news and events page of the NDIS website.

More information is also available on the Assistive Technology page of the NDIS website.