As you probably know, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is rolling out across the country and Your Life Your Choice is bridging the gap in Queensland until our full NDIS rollout here. How’s it going? Well, despite some backlash and negative reports about payment processing delays and the unwillingness of some Local Area Coordinators (LACs) to meet face-to-face, the end result should still bring a new sense of freedom to so many recipients who will now be able to self direct their funding and therefore determine their own care, support and activity plan.

The NDIS puts government funding for disabilities straight into a person’s pocket and will allow them to self direct more easily. Basically, it means that recipients will get to decide what carers they’d like to work with and how they would like them to operate. The sky will be the limit, the NDIS representatives say, but, should everybody living with a disability choose to self direct? And how do you choose the best path as either a family member, carer or person living with a disability?

Interestingly, “Looking to the experience of other countries tells us three things about how this is likely to play out. First, we can expect that the take up of full self-management to be low. Second, it’s likely to be very uneven. Third, it’s likely to be highly disruptive to models of service provision and employment,” says Luke Bo’sher, a key player in the development of the NDIS. At the time that James wrote this, in February 2015, “…only 3% of NDIS participants fully self-manage their plans. This rises to 31% of participants when we include those who self-manage some funds and leave the Agency to manage the remainder…”

Like everything in life, there are pros and cons, and it’s in a recipient’s best interests to weigh these up when deciding whether to continue to work with a service provider or whether to self-direct. To kick-start your own funding thinking, here are some pros and cons for whether you should self direct or not self direct your funding…


1. Reasons to Self Direct your NDIS funding

Self direction is a relatively new option that seems to be (mostly) working well for people living with a disability. As the NDIS continues to move forward, the funding is being placed in the hand of the individual and it’s opening up a world of options to best suit each person’s needs. People living with a disability are becoming the drivers of their own lives. They are able to choose the disability support that works best for them with the help of the people that they want to work with. In a sense they now have the option to choose their own staff and the one’s that are already operating that way, say it’s the best decision they’ve ever made. It may seem like rhetoric, but there are plenty of good news stories out there. We heard recipients telling their success stories at the Queensland Disability Conference in Cairns recently and we’ve also included some more case studies below.

Nerissa, is one example of someone who has chosen to self-direct. She has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and uses an electronic wheelchair. She’s been working with the Queensland Government initiative, Your Life Your Choice, since April 2013 and in that time says she’s seen her business and personal life flourish. She has been able to surround herself with carers that work to her schedule as opposed to their own. According to Nerissa, her staff are committed to her vision and her goals and they’re doing a good job of understanding what makes life good for her. She’s able to manage a social life and make any decision she wants without having to seek permission from a service provider. It’s a newfound freedom that has changed everything, including her mental and emotional well-being.

Lachlan and Grace, aged eight and nine, are another example of self direction success. Both are living with Down syndrome and have been able to create their own weekly ‘adventures’ because of their funding freedom. For mum, Kathy, having the funding go directly to the family and enabling them to make decisions has seen both her kids much happier. She says their social skills have improved and each of her children has gained a sense of independence. Their carers have become their friends and Lachlan and Grace have the option to continue to work with the same people long term. As the NDIS continues to move forward, the options for these two kids is only going to expand.

But while there are many positives in being able to self-direct, some industry professionals still have concerns. Disability support worker, Rachel (not her real name), says that complete freedom for her client, Andrew (not his real name), might not be the best option for his mental health. By working with a service provider, Andrew is actually monitored more closely and as a result is unable to make any decisions that could be detrimental to his life. While she agrees that independence is a good thing and definitely something that should be worked toward for those living with a disability, she also believes that it’s vital that hosts, family, friends and others involved in care of a person are aware of the mental health struggles that they are facing. Rachel says it’s often better for her client to be involved with a Service Provider because it ensures that he is monitored effectively.


2. Reasons to work with a Service Provider for your NDIS funding

Disability support services are there to provide higher levels of support to help people with more complex needs. They can provide accommodation, community access support, case management, various goods and equipment and even respite services to give the primary carer a break. Choosing to work with professional services allows people with genuine industry experience to assist those who need it.

The service provider has more control and as a result, some people living with a disability may feel like their care is not specifically tailored to suit them. The changes that will come with the NDIS will see funding shift to the individual and as a result will most likely alter the way many service providers deal with their clients. More resources and investment will be required in order to make sure larger companies are hearing the needs of each individual user of a service. With the client in control, funding will be less secure for many service providers, but in turn, working with them under the new scheme will give every person with a disability to have a stronger voice when it comes to their care.

While it all seems well and good, it does mean that government funding goes directly to a provider who decides the who, what, when, where, why and how of just how it is passed through to the care of a person living with a disability. Those under the care of a service provider are subject to working within the availability of the organisation as opposed to being able to choose the people they want at a time that works for them. But if you’ve ever lived with someone with a very complex disability, you might say that finding a quality service provider who can provide 24/7 care and support is a gift, not a burden, and you might be happy to decline self-direction if it means your service provider continues providing excellent care to your loved one.


Your decision

There are different needs for different people and what will work for one person may not be the best course of action for the next. The most effective thing carers, families and those living with a disability can do it ensure that they are communicating openly. As the NDIS continues to roll out the options are great for those living with a disability, there is still a place for quality service providers. So, weigh up your options, seek advice and do what’s best for you/your loved ones to enable the highest quality of life possible.