The minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, yesterday announced further initiatives to support participants and disability providers during the coronavirus pandemic.
For the next five months, eligible participants will be able to flexibly use existing NDIS plan funding to purchase low-cost Assistive Technology, including smart devices, to enable continued access to disability supports through telehealth and telepractice while physical distancing regulations are in place for coronavirus pandemic. This new development is important for ensuring NDIS participants remain connected to their services and disability supports.
Further information on this from the NDIS website is as follows:
Participants can now use their existing NDIS funding to purchase an item if:
- it will maintain funded NDIS supports like a program, therapy or requirement (for example physiotherapy or Auslan interpreting provided via video conferencing), and
- the provider of supports has confirmed in writing the device is necessary to continue supports and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements, and
- it is the lowest specification that will maintain funded supports, and
- they do not already have the item, another suitable item or access to the item, and
- the item has not been funded by another service system (such as education), and
- the item or circumstances are not specifically excluded.
Participants are able to spend up to $1500 on low cost AT items from their existing budgets. Participants should not spend more than $750 on electronic devices needed to maintain existing services.
In the case of computer tablets or iPads for telehealth and care or participating in online video classes, advice from AT specialists is that most NDIS participants will not need more than a standard tablet, which costs no more than $600.
Participants can use their funding flexibly to purchase low cost AT using funding in their core – consumables budget. Plan managed or self-managed participants can purchase these items from any provider, and Agency managed participants can purchase these from any registered NDIS provider (this could include a therapy or support coordination provider).
This is a time limited policy which will be in place until September 2020 and will be reviewed at the end of June 2020.
Further questions on using your budget for low cost AT and other consumables are answered on the NDIS website here.
Other initiatives announced are, new support items for Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers are now available where a participant has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, including higher intensity support and professional cleaning services. This is to ensure minimum service disruption and the continued delivery of services.
Lastly, to ensure all eligible Australians continue to be able to apply for access to the NDIS, downloadable Access Request and Supporting Evidence Forms are now available on the NDIS website.
These initiatives build on previous coronavirus-specific supports announced for NDIS participants and providers, including outbound calls to high-risk participants, special teams of planners to assist participants, flexible use of funding to access disability supports and for providers, cash flow assistance and a 10 per cent COVID-19 loading on some services.
Since the announcement of these initiatives on 21 March, almost $600 million has been paid in one-month advance payments to almost 5,000 providers to offer immediate cash flow relief and ensure services could continue. Whilst, as of last week, more than $300 million in weekly provider payments were processed, indicating the majority of services are continuing and participants are still accessing the disability supports they need.