The rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is an exciting time of change but it can also be overwhelming.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) monitors frequently asked questions that are coming through on social media, posting responses up on their website. We are reposting this information to help keep you up to date.

For more information, please visit the NDIS website.

Q. What do I do if I’m having difficulties uploading files to the participant portal?

A. We know the portal isn’t perfect, and we’re working really hard to make it better. You’ll start to see gradual improvements over the coming months, and we appreciate your feedback and patience.

The truth is, there are a bunch of reasons that this could be happening, such as:

  • The browser you’re using isn’t ideal for using the portal. See the Participant Portal User Guide for a list of the browsers we recommend
  • There are a lot of people on the portal at the same time
  • The portal itself is having a bit of a moment for some other reason
  • The document is really large
  • Factors to do with your internet connection. For example, if the bandwidth is under a bit of strain at the time – with multiple users on your connection – it might have issues

You can give the following a go to get it working:

  • Log out, give it 10 – 30  minutes and have another go
  • Quit and restart your internet browser or try another browser
  • Disconnect and reconnect to your internet connection
  • Turn your computer off and on again
  • Compress the file you’re trying to upload

If these don’t work, we suggest giving the call centre a ring on 1800 800 110 to try to troubleshoot the issue over the phone.

Q. How does the AAT work and how do I make an application?

A. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) (external) is a court dedicated to appealing decisions made in the area of Administrative Law – the kind of law that covers decisions made by the Australian Government.

Before you take matters to the AAT, you can apply for an internal review of a decision made by the NDIA.

If you’re still dissatisfied with the decision following the internal review, you can then apply to the AAT (external). Unless you have an extension granted, you have to do this within  28  days of receiving the result of your internal review.

How that works is up to your particular circumstance and the AAT. The AAT uses a lot of different methods – called alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods – to resolve disagreements over decisions. The focus early on is on case conferences. These are open conversations between all parties, either in person or by phone, where matters under review are discussed in a casual setting.

A lot of the time, the best way to deal with the application is found at conference. If the matter can’t be settled at conference, the AAT will explore other forms of alternative dispute resolution, or if it is appropriate, the issue will be listed for a hearing.

The AAT has a special team of people who are experienced in working with people with disability who do this work.

You can find out more information about what kinds of decisions the AAT can review, how to apply, and how the review will be conducted, at the Review of National Disability Insurance Scheme decisions (external) page of the AAT website.

Q. If you are self-managing and need to pay bills, do you pay and it gets reimbursed to you? Or do you request payment and then it goes into the allocated bank account and you pay it that way?

A. Either of these options can work, and it is important to keep your service provider in the loop on which option you choose, so that they know when to expect payment.

You can only make a claim for payment once you’ve received an invoice or receipt from the provider you have chosen to use.

Once you have the invoice, you then have two options:

  • You can make the payment and then claim reimbursement of the funds from the NDIA. The money will be deposited in your nominated bank account.
  • You can claim the expense first – the money should be in your account within 48 hours, depending which bank you use – and then use those funds to pay the invoice.

For more information on this, see the Self-Managing budgets in your plan guidelines available for download on the NDIS website.

Q. Will my son, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), be able to get a mental health plan to see the psychologist, and Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) for speech therapy, or do these have to be included in his plan?

A. Medicare benefits are available for children with autism to access a full or partial refund of the cost of a range of allied health services. These will still be available to your child, even if your child becomes a NDIS participant.

A GP can help a child with autism access three types of health supports:

Your GP can help you figure out what Medicare benefits are best for your child based on any health or mental health needs they might have.

Children with autism who are NDIS participants can also access funding in their plan to support goals that increase social participation and independence in daily life.

If you haven’t had your first NDIS planning conversation yet, you should start working with your son to think about his goals for the next year, and what supports he will need to achieve those goals. You will then be able to talk about your son’s particular needs in your first planning conversation.

During your planning conversation, you and your child will talk about what their goals are, and what supports they need to achieve those goals. This will include identifying appropriate supports that are available in your community and mainstream services, and any appropriate funded supports that your child needs to meet their goals.

Q. Can my NDIS plan cover ASD swimming lessons?

A. Where there are barriers to you taking part in daily life and achieving your goals because of reasons directly relating to your disability, then the NDIA will consider supports that will help you have the same opportunities to reach your goals as everyone else has.

That means that if the swimming classes help you reach your goals of social particpation or independence, your NDIS plan might cover whatever extra supports you need so that you can take part in those lessons, but it won’t pay for swimming classes themselves.

The types of supports will vary in each plan, depending on the plan goals, the individual needs and the supports you need to reach your goals.

During your planning conversation, you (and your child, if that’s who you’re asking for) will identify your goals and the supports you need to achieve them. Sometimes this includes looking into mainstream and community supports, too.

In children’s plans, the NDIA considers what costs any parent is expected to cover in caring for their children. This would usually include things like housing, clothing, food, and opportunities for playing, doing activities outside school, and socialising. Parents are usually responsible for paying for sports, social or recreational activities for their children. As we said above,  if your child requires additional supports on top of the cost of the classes, their NDIS plan might include those additional supports relating to their goals.

Q. If the NDIA requires a new full Autism assessment under the DSMV to establish someone’s eligibility for the NDIS, shouldn’t the NDIA fund that assessment? And even if they do, what about six year olds who are deemed to have a “mild” disability under DSMV but still require the early intervention work that the NDIS funds?

A. Children 0 – 6  years old don’t have to be diagnosed with a disability to receive Early Childhood Early Intervention supports through the NDIS.

The NDIS is committed to making sure that all children aged 0 – 6 who show signs of developmental delay that significantly impacts on daily life, and who need early intervention, are identified early, with or without diagnosis.

This is important so that children can receive the supports they need as quickly as possible, rather than waiting for assessments and diagnosis.

Children over 6 years of age must have a diagnosis of a disability that significantly affects their daily life and functioning in order to access the NDIS. It’s the role of the health system to provide the assessments and disability diagnosis required to determine access for the NDIS.

Each Australian state and territory has publicly funded free diagnosis services for children who may be presenting with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). You won’t have to pay for these services, but there may be a wait.

There are also Medicare rebates available to assist with paying for a private assessment (The Helping Children with Autism Access to Diagnosis and Treatment Plan (external)). This can be arranged with a referral by a paediatrician or psychiatrist. For assessment pathways in your state or territory, please follow the link on the Raising Children website: services path finder (external).

When it comes to the complexities of diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder, you’ve highlighted something that is an issue across the health and disability sectors. You might have seen the recent SBS Insight episode, ‘Diagnosing Autism’. It gave a really good snapshot overview of the many mainstream and disability services involved in the process. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out at the link above or on SBS On Demand.

Q. I live in Sydney and my baby was just diagnosed with a permanent and significant disability. When can I access the NDIS? What kinds of supports can I get until then?

A. NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) providers are your first port of call to find out more information about the supports available to you right now.

The ECEI approach is designed for all children aged  0 – 6 , and your child doesn’t need a diagnosis to access the supports. This is the best way for you to figure out what pathway forward is best for your child when it comes to accessing the NDIS.

When you can access ECEI depends on where you live. ECEI is currently available across a number of locations in NSW, including many in Sydney. You can find out if this is available in your area on the NSW transitional approach to delivering ECEI page of the NDIS website.

The ECEI Providers in NSW page shows you who the ECEI providers are in your Local Government area, and their contact details.

Through these supports, you’ll be able to access immediate and short-term supports, and determine whether continuing with ECEI, or applying to become an NDIS participant, is the best option for your child.

Q. Are iPads approved in a plan in special circumstances, and if so, can we buy it first and then get reimbursed?

A. Generally, the NDIS won’t fund the purchase of an iPad. If there are certain apps that relate directly to your goals and support needs, and are beneficial to reaching those goals, the cost of those apps can be funded by your NDIS plan.

All approved supports need to meet the criteria of Section 34 of the NDIS Act (2013) (external), which is about Reasonable and Necessary Supports.

In order to be considered reasonable and necessary, a support must:

  • be related to the participant’s disability
  • not include day-to-day living costs that are not related to a participant’s disability support needs
  • represent value for money
  • be likely to be effective and beneficial to the participant, and take into account informal supports given to participants by families, carers, networks, and the community.

An iPad can be a great educational and communicative tool for a lot of people. Some people use certain iPad applications to help them overcome barriers they face in society because of their disability. The device is not what helps people reach their NDIS goals but rather the applications specific to the disability.

The device itself is something widely used in society. The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014-15) (external) reports that 86% of all households have access to the internet at home, with 62% of households accessing the internet via tablets. This is why they are considered everyday items.

The iPad may be more appropriately funded by other systems such as education (many schools provide computers or tablets to students, or even set iPads as required purchases on students’ school material lists) and employment (many employees are provided with electronic devices such as computers, tablets and mobile phones).