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Having a disability shouldn’t affect your quality of life.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) helps more than 250,000 Australians with the support and care they need to live healthy, independent lives. With your own NDIS plan you’ll receive annual funding to pay for services, supports and equipment to promote your health and wellbeing, without placing you in financial distress.

Whether you’re about to organise your first plan, or you’ve been receiving NDIS support previously, the NDIS can change lives – but there is a limit to the funding available. This makes it crucial you understand how to best allocate your budget to support your unique needs and goals.

Offering control and choice over your care, or the care of a loved one, Care Squared is committed to helping NDIS participants and their families get the full benefits of their plan’s funding. Here are our top tips for understanding, accessing and allocating your NDIS budget.

Understand your NDIS funding categories

It’s important to know what NDIS funding is available to you before you start spending it. There are currently three buckets where your funding may be allocated. These are:

  • Core Supports
  • Capacity Building Supports
  • Capital Supports

Let’s break down the purpose of each category before we dive into your specific NDIS funding approach.

Core supports are aimed at helping you in your everyday life. This is broken down into four categories including: Assistance with daily life, consumables, transport, and assistance with social and community participation.

Your core budget is your most flexible as you can typically use funds allocated in each category to purchase support in another category (though this is not always the case. Please consult with your representative of the National Disability Insurance Agency for more information).

Capacity building supports relates to the short and long-term goals outlined in your NDIS plan. This includes nine categories including: support coordination, improved living arrangements, increased social and community participation, finding and keeping a job, improved relationships, improved health and wellbeing, improved learning, improved life choices, and improved daily living skills.

You can choose how to spend your funding to purchase any approved support within each category, but you can’t move funding from one category to the next.

Capital supports are related to assistive support across mobility, personal care, communication and recreation. This includes two categories including: assistive technology and home modifications.

Funds within this budget can only be used for their specific purpose and may not be spent on another category.

Reach out to friends and family before you allocate your budget

Each service provided by the NDIS costs money.

If you’ve got friends and family asking to lend their support you may be able to minimise the amount you spend on non-skilled tasks. This doesn’t mean cutting back on the core services that make your day-to-day easier. But if there’s a loved one who’s keen to donate a few hours each week to help out across basic tasks, it may benefit your NDIS budget to accept.

You’ll be able to direct more money to your core supports services, while giving loved ones a valuable sense of purpose. Your NDIS plan may also provide support for carers which can help protect against caregiver burnout, so including your loved ones in your NDIS journey is crucial.

Get comfortable with NDIS pricing and inclusions

Knowledge is power.

Once you’re comfortable with the categories available to you, get used to the pricing for supports you’re interested in receiving.

You can browse the NDIS price guide 2020/21 on the official NDIS website here.

Carefully review each of your funded supports categories to understand where your money may be used.

The goal of the NDIS is to reduce the gap between having a disability and not having a disability across reasonable and necessary support. If you’re unsure what your funds can be used for, ask yourself ‘would someone without my disability be asked to pay for this?’.

If the answer is ‘yes’ it’s likely your NDIS funding will not cover those costs. For example food, vehicles, and housing are all mainstream costs that non-disabled people also have to cover, and are not likely to be covered in your NDIS plan.

Although there are specific prices and inclusions, the concept of ‘reasonable and fair’ can differ from case to case. What may be considered unreasonable for some may be entirely reasonable for others, so if you’re curious about what your plan covers then bring it up with your NDIA Planner.

Your NDIS plan will include a separate budget for each supports category. Once you have a clear overview of your possible inclusions, the next step is to plan your spending across health assessments and programs.

Create a 12 month spending plan

Most NDIS plans have a 12 month schedule (although 2-3 year plans are available for individuals whose disability is unlikely to change over a longer period of time). Planning ahead and breaking down each month will give you an indication of where your funding will go.

For example, if you have weekly services with a physiotherapist, map them out over 52 weeks to see where your NDIS budget will be going. You should also try and include times where you will be away and modify your 12-month spending plan accordingly. This will help you allocate funds where services are likely to be needed.

Don’t stress if this feels like a lot of numbers and headaches. Using the NDIS myplace portal you can track your monthly spend in real-time to see if your budget is lining up with your actual spending.

Remember, you have control over how much you pay for a service so shop around and compare service rates to stretch your NDIS budget further.

Beware of underspending (or overspending)

Your NDIS plan will be reviewed annually with your Local Area Coordinator (LAC). While it may seem like a smart financial decision to leave a little funding left over for emergencies, a surplus at the end of the year may lead your LAC to reduce your budget for your next plan. Unused funds do not roll over so if you don’t spend your allocation, you lose out on those funds and risk receiving less on your next plan.

Overspending also brings risks as it may leave you to pay for supports out of pocket if your budget has been used already. Early NDIS plan reviews are possible, but with no guarantee of additional funding it’s a risk you can do without. To avoid this problem you can set up service agreements with your providers to arrange a financial safety net. Figuring out what services will be provided, for how long, and at what price, will help you see the overall cost with an agreed amount to spend and cushion you against accidental overspending.

NDIS budget management made simple

Your NDIS plan is there to make your life easier.

Living with disability doesn’t mean you can’t live a fulfilled, socially active and happy life.The key to managing your NDIS plan effectively is to stay proactive. Your NDIS plan is a snapshot in time and what worked for you last year may not suit your needs next year, so it’s important to be flexible with your approach.

Understand your relevant NDIS categories and plan out your 12 month strategy based on your reasonable and fair needs and goals. Remember to track your spending as you go and use friends and family where needed to save on costs, and you’ll be making your NDIS budget work for you.

Care Squared is proud to offer a range of national support services to relieve stress and reduce confusion around your NDIS needs. Reach out and speak to a Care Squared team member on 1300 632 639 or fill in our contact form to discuss your needs and find out how we can help.