The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a new way to provide funding to support people with disabilities. (See What is the NDIS? for more information) There’s been a lot of talk about the NDIS, but will it really be the “…the most significant social reform package in Australia since the introduction of Medicare in 1975”? (Reference: KPMG report on the NDIS, 2014)

If you are one of the 460,000 Australians with a disability, then your answer might be, yes. But it might not feel like that right now. As any system this big is introduced, there’s likely to be negative reports about problems (such as recent payment delays) or the impact of the system on individual service providers (who now have to up their game in terms of service provision), as the new system has its teething problems. It’s also natural to be anxious about the uncertainty of change.

But when you listen to some of the stories from NDIS rollout participants, there are at least ten great benefits of the NDIS to be excited about:

1. You can tap into the increased funding for disability

Government spending on disability services will double as a result of the NDIS. When it is fully rolled out, it is estimated that around $16 billion each year will be spent on disability support services.

2. Your care arrangements don’t have to change

If you are happy with your current service providers, you can keep using them. You don’t need to make any changes to who provides your care or which supports you receive. The NDIS provides you with the ability to make changes in the future, if your needs change.

3. You have an individual plan and funding to meet your goals and needs
Your individual goals and needs are taken into account in preparing a plan for your support. You can use your NDIS funding to pay for a wide range of supports to help you to be independent and participate in the community. Prior to the NDIS, you were out of luck if the service you wanted wasn’t funded in your area.

4. You can access mainstream services

You don’t have to use disability services if there are better options available. Colin is in a wheelchair and needs help with shopping. Colin used to give his support worker a shopping list each week and she would get his shopping for him. His service provider charged $35 for the support worker’s time and he also had to pay a mileage fee to cover petrol. Colin has begun using online shopping. There is only a $10 delivery fee, which is cheaper than paying a support worker to do his shopping and it leaves Colin with more funds to use on other needs. As well as saving money, Colin likes having the flexibility to shop when he needs to instead of having a weekly schedule.

5. You can choose your own  support staff

As you know, it is really important to have support staff who you are compatible with and who understand you. The NDIS gives you the ability to find and employ your own staff. Natalie wanted someone to help her with minor renovations to make her home safer. She wanted to have the same person doing all the work, rather than having different people coming into her home each week. Natalie has employed Scott, a retired handyman who lives down the street. Scott has developed a good understanding of Natalie’s needs. Recently, Scott noticed that Natalie was having trouble getting mugs down from the cupboard and suggested putting up some hooks for the mugs, making it much easier to reach them. Scott is also happy to be flexible to fit in with any appointments Natalie has.

6. You can take your funding with you if you move

NDIS funding is portable. If you move home, your funding moves with you. This makes it easier for people with a disability to move between areas or States. Since you are in control of the NDIS funds, you can arrange support services before you move, just like you would arrange for electricity to be connected. Don’t forget to let your existing providers know your plans too. Your service contract should have details of how much notice you need to provide when you don’t need services anymore.

7. You can more easily arrange support services when you go on holidays

Portable NDIS funding could also make a big difference if you decide to go on holidays. Martin needs help with showering and dressing. He has had services provided at home from a local not-for-profit service provider for the past eight years. He wants to visit his daughter who lives in Victoria but his service provider doesn’t operate in Victoria so they wouldn’t be able to provide support while he is there. But Martin has found a service provider who will provide his care for two weeks while he is at his daughter’s house. Martin has arranged for details of his care needs to be sent from his existing service provider to the new provider and has asked for a male support worker. This makes things so much easier for Martin to take a holiday to visit his daughter.

8. You should receive better service

The NDIS will have a profound impact on the disability industry. By giving you and other service users control over funding, the NDIS is boosting consumer power. Service providers will begin to compete to get your business by offering better quality, more flexible or cheaper services. More businesses will seek to offer services to people with disabilities. As a result, the market should become more responsive to consumer needs and wants – providing more of the services that you and others want and less services that aren’t popular. We’ve heard that some disability services which were previously funded by the government have closed in the NDIS test sites as a result of the NDIS. It seems that some people who had attended these services before, have now found better ways to spend their NDIS funding, which is sad for the services that closed, but potentially positive for other providers who are providing better service(s).

9. You can change your service provider if you aren’t happy

If you get a bad haircut or your hairdresser keeps you waiting for ages, you could complain or you may just decide not to return. Under NDIS, you now have the same power if you aren’t happy with your disability service provider. If your support worker is rough, late or forgets to get in the washing, you can complain to your service provider, request a different support worker or look for another service provider. You can also change service providers if you feel they are charging too much and you find a different service that provides better value for money.

10. You are assessed more equitably

Previously, disability funding was provided by State Governments. This meant that the amount and types of services provided different between States and also varied depending on the cause of your disability. Since the NDIS is a Commonwealth program based on an insurance model, it is a fairer system. You will receive the same level of funding and support regardless of where you live or the cause of your disability. The NDIS will be available in all areas of Australia by 2019.

So, when you are preparing for the NDIS, think carefully about your goals and what you would really like to achieve. This will help you to decide how to spend your funds to achieve the best results for you. We’re hoping to see more great benefits of the NDIS as more Australians get access to the scheme. We’ve heard some early good news stories from participants in the NDIS test sites and we look forward to hearing your stories too.