Last Wednesday evening I accepted Guide Dogs NSW/ACT invitation to attend an information night on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Canberra is becoming one of the trial sites in July so I thought I should start to educate myself on what that might mean for me.
The NDIS approaches disability support in a whole new way. Instead of providing bulk funding to providers funding will be allocated to an individual. With the support of a planner they will be encouraged to formulate goals and a plan to help them achieve them. The plan will take into consideration actions the individual can take, support from friends and family as well as the financial support needed which will be provided by the NDIS.
The meeting was attended by all the local Orientation and mobility instructors, plus several Guide Dogs staff from head office in Sydney, including CEO, Dr Graeme White. I think this indicates how determined the organization is to support their clients through the transition.
Also in attendance were representative from Disability ACT and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). Their presentations were very interesting and it was great having someone there who could answer questions.
I love the concept of the NDIS but change, any change is scary and there is going to be a big change in how I access training, equipment and support from Guide Dogs. At the moment all I have to do is phone them and put in a service request. In the future I will need to put in an application to the NDIA, consult with a planner, formulate goals and objectives, figure out exactly what it is I need from Guide Dogs and and cross my fingers for funding. Once approved I can engage the services of Guide Dogs to provide me with the equipment and training that I need.
The good news is that Guide Dogs will have someone available to walk me through the whole process, including filling forms, submitting an application and sitting in on the planning meeting. Knowing that help is available makes me feel so much better.
I can either elect to manage my allocated funds myself, in which case Guide Dogs would invoice me and I’d pay the bill. Alternatively I can get the NDIA to invoice Guide Dogs directly.
There were a couple of things I didn’t know about – including. if you access NDIS funding you will no longer get Mobility Allowance and no one could confirm or deny if there was going to be a change to the taxi Subsidy scheme. With Mobility Allowance the point was made that the plan should cover all mobility related costs so would compensate for the loss of income.
At the moment I can’t think of anything I would need to receive funding for except Orientation and Mobility services. I won’t apply until I have a need for training or equipment. By then I am hoping some of the inevitable teething issues might have been sorted out.
One very important point made at the meeting is that Guide Dogs will continue to provide all their services (including all training and equipment) free of charge to anyone who isn’t covered by the NDIS. No one will be left to fend for themselves. This is very important considering a lot of their clients are over the age of 65 and therefore not eligible for cover. Also some people may put in a application which for whatever reason is rejected, regardless of the reason Guide Dogs will still work with them.
During question time there was some obvious concerns and anxiety about the new system. I completely understand why people are worried, accessing information, filling in forms, researching etc is more difficult for people who are blind or vision impaired. I hope the answers given made anyone with apprehensions feel a little better.
Personally I see it as a positive step forward. Although Guide Dogs NSW/ACT services/equipment are provided free of charge there are other non orientation or mobility related services or technology, such as screen readers, that individuals currently have to buy themselves -if they can afford it. Some of these may now qualify for NDIS funding, giving blind or vision impaired people more options and support.
I am also pleased that Guide Dogs will finally be getting some government funding. With an ageing population and ever increasing demand for services it is going to become very difficult for Guide Dogs to continue to provide the same high level of service without some government funds. I know most of their clients won’t qualify for coverage but at least the small percentage of clients that do get funding can help off set some costs.
I am a little worried that the public may stop supporting Guide Dogs as they believe NDIS will cover all their operating costs. In reality it is very important the public continue to support Guide Dogs with donations, bequest etc so they are still able to help their non NDIS eligible clients. Hopefully Guide Dogs will be able to get that message across to their supporters and the general public.
I am so pleased I made the time and effort to attend the information session, not only did I learn about the NDIS I also caught up with a couple of Vision Impaired friends. That is always a highlight for me at any event hosted by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.
PS: Wiley was a very good boy. He slept soundly through the meeting and worked well despite the distraction of a number of other Guide Dogs. I was expecting him to be a little off his game as we don’t usually go out in the evening. I guess it doesn’t really matter if you sleep in a meeting or at home 🙂