NDIS phone-calls have begun

Valmar Support Services CEO Hugh Packard.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) roll-out in Tumut is due to begin on July 1, but the phone calls that mark the start of what is a long and complicated process have kicked off already.

The first step for most people with disabilities to access the NDIS is a call centre phone call from the National Disability Insurance Agency confirming that they are a person with a disability.

According to Valmar Support Services CEO Hugh Packard, however, many people have gotten this phone call, assumed it was a scam (as many of us do when we receive an unexpected phone call from a call centre), and hung up.

Mr Packard said if you do receive a phone call from a service claiming to be the National Disability Insurance Agency, it most likely is, in fact, the NDIA, and to hear out what they have to say.

“By this time next year everybody who has a disability should have been contacted, and if they haven’t they have the right to log on to the NDIA portal and register themselves,” he said.

“If you haven’t been contacted yet though, don’t worry – it seems to be happening at random in the area, so it could take up to a year to hear something.”

He also recommends people with intellectual disabilities contact a person or organisation they can trust to help them through the process when they receive the phone call.

Receiving the appropriate NDIS funding is contingent on the next step in the process, a conversation with a Local Area Coordinator (LAC), so it’s a good idea to begin preparing for this meeting and planning what you’re going to say with a trusted friend, family member, or support worker.

“One of the fundamental problems is that the NDIS seems to presume physical disability, not intellectual disability, so it’s not great at communicating with people with low-level cognitive abilities,” Mr Packard said.

“The sad reality is that a lot of these people don’t necessarily have an outside support person they can contact. They live on their own and manage relatively well on their own, but coping with something like this is really difficult for them. So it’s these people who are falling through the cracks.

“But you are allowed to take a support person into the LAC meeting with you, like someone from Valmar for example, although we obviously can’t be seen to be trying to sway them in any way.”

The next step in the process, after you receive a phone call, is to arrange a meeting with a Local Area Coordinator, who will assess your level of disability and work out a plan.

Mr Packard said in previous NDIS roll-out areas, LACs have been pushing for these interviews to take place over the phone – but that it is the person with a disability’s right to request a face-to-face meeting.

“It makes a big difference,” Mr Packard said.

“It shouldn’t, but it does. It’s hard to tell what level of disability someone has over the phone, and a lot of time it’s clear just by looking at or talking to a person how much they’re impacted. So you shouldn’t be afraid to tell them you want a face-to-face meeting.”

Following the meeting, which should take up to three hours, the LAC will hand what they think your plan and funding level should be over to the NDIA, and your NDIS plan and funding will begin.

These plans will be reviewed yearly.