Can I Buy It?” – FOUR Big Questions during COVID-19 for NDIS participants

Apr 04

The legislation hasn’t changed, so all the same guidelines apply about spending your plan funds as before – so get a copy of Booklet 3 and read page 9.

But here are some biggies we’re all hearing over and over due to lockdowns, isolation and business closures.

  1. Can I use my NDIS funds to buy Internet Access?

If you do not have any internet access, and you now need it to access therapy and/or to use support workers remotely or you can’t use a phone because of your disability and require seeing someone’s face to catch up with Aunty Joyce and your brother, this might well meet the requirements set out on page 9 – everyone’s situation will vary. If you want it to watch Netflix, that’s probably not disability related (we all want to watch Netflix and it’s not likely to be a disability related need for most, although there may be exceptions)

For those looking to bump up their current internet, here are some things to think about – would you need extra internet bandwidth if you weren’t disabled? Ie: right now *everyone* is using extra bandwidth – do you have to think about whether the extra use is because of your disability, or is it just because you’re stuck at home like everyone else and want to watch more Netflix or facetime more with Grandma?

  • Can I buy a Laptop with my NDIS Funds?

It would be *very* rare that buying a laptop because of COVID was a claimable disability related expense. If you’re schooling from home and need one, that’s the same as everyone and is unlikely to be disability related. Once again, there will always be exceptions, but they are few and far between.

If you have a disability that make phone communications impossible, and you’ve always relied on face-to-face visits and contact to stay connected, but you haven’t got a smart phone, computer or tablet already, then a cheap tablet might well be claimable – these can be purchased for $400 or less – you probably don’t need the bells and whistles of an iPad to meet your disability related needs. If you want an iPad, you could consider claiming only a portion of the iPad – the same amount as if you bought a cheap tablet. For some people, they *will* need the features an iPad offers (hearing aid connection/guided access etc), but this won’t apply to most participants.

  • Can I buy Gym Equipment or Home Playground or other Entertainment Equipment?

Exercise and activity is vital to physical AND mental health, and for many disabled people, self and other harm and property damage can happen when they’re unable to have their regular routines or exercise.

Some gym or playground type equipment might well be claimable – but think about how to do this – could you rent equipment? Could you purchase cheaper alternatives? Do you really need big-ass equipment, or, with supervision, could a resistance band set and a fitball for less than $100 do the job? Ask an Exercise Physiologist, your personal trainer, or even your physio for help.

And don’t forget to consider online fitness sessions – either live with your PT, or one of the bazillion options on YouTube – mostly free!

I know of one family with a young person with significant behavioural support needs. He usually gets through a heap of bubble mix as a sensory calming thing, but now, stuck at home, he’s blowing (literally) through dozens of bottles of the stuff (careful the bubbles don’t spread any nasties over your fence!). Families with typical kids would not have that expense, so the extra seems like it would be claimable for this lad, in this situation, well above all the other stuff many more typical families would purchase during this time – like a Disney+ subscription or whatever.

Again, use page 9 of booklet 3 to help you make a decision – and consult with your Plan Manager before you buy in case they decide not to reimburse you!

  • Can I Employ a Family Member to reduce our risk at home?

This one is still a hard “no” from the NDIA, and I understand their hesitation, but am pretty confident (and hopeful) there is more work going on the background to look at this. There are risks for many disabled people when family members become financially dependent on the disabled person, and that can be hard to wind back, but these are exceptional times, so I’m hopeful the Agency will start to shift a little, with appropriate guidelines. Fingers Crossed.

In the meantime, consider whether your Family Carer might now be eligible for Carer Payment, or JobSeeker or JobFinder payments. Good luck getting through to Centrelink though!

A few last words – I usually do NOT recommend calling the NDIS Call Centre to ask these kinds of questions – call five times, and you’ll likely get five different answers.

BUT, the NDIA have some folks who do have some higher level knowledge – you have to choose OPTION 5 when you call 1800 800 110 to speak to their people trained around COVID-19 plan issues. (that’s also who you should call if you need to move funds from CB to Core or Vice-versa or switch to Plan or Self Management, or need an urgent plan review as you’re running out of fund due to COVID related issues.)

So, the golden rule – be honest and critical with yourself – ask yourself the question…

During this horrid time, if I didn’t have my disability, would I need to buy this anyway?

If your answer is yes, then the chances are, it’s really not claimable from your NDIS plan.

Disclaimer and stuff:

I want to be really clear – this post is full of my personal perspectives and there’s no professional personal advice offered. I try and take a common sense approach to this stuff, filtered with what I’ve learned from my understanding of the NDIS Act and reading of dozens of AAT Rulings.

This post is copyright The Growing Space, April 2020 – you are more than welcome to share it, but only in full, and with credit and no edits.