NDIS Information Session

Today Wiley and I walked up to the Yass Soldiers Club to listen to an NDIS Information Session. The NDIS is due to start rolling out across NSW in July this year. The ACT has been a trial site and will have full roll out by the end of June. As I moved from ACT to NSW I am now part of the NSW roll out.

Things are going to be different in NSW, the biggest change is the role of Local Area Co-ordination centres (LAC). They will assist people to access the NDIS with the application and plan preparation. Once someone has been accepted as a participant of the NDIS the LAC will assist with the implementation their plan.

The NDIS will be available in Southern NSW from July. People who are currently receiving NSW disability services will transition first. Uniting will be providing the Local Area Co-ordintation support.

The main question I wanted answered was when people like myself who do not currently receive disability supports are likely to be able to apply. On the NDIS website it states people who currently do not receive supports can access the scheme from July 2018, although there is scope for some people to join the scheme from July 2016.

I was informed that at the moment there is no direction on how earlier access will be determined, that information will hopefully be available on the NDIS website sometime later this month.  I am very fortunate as all my current support needs are covered. My plan for the moment is to  wait and access the NDIS in July 2018. That way people who have a more urgent need for support can go first.

I was a little disappointed that despite advising my requirement for accessible information when I registered for the session no accessible information was available. I was offered a printed agenda which was of no use to me. I hope the presenters read out all the information included on the slides but I am not 100% sure as I didn’t have a copy to refer to. At least there was an opportunity to ask questions.

Wiley was very well behaved, sleeping the whole time as usual. It wasn’t exactly hard work getting to and from the venue as like most things it was only a few minutes walk from home. It was nice to get out of the house for a while and have the opportunity to meet other Yass residents, everyone is always so friendly.

First day back in the office

Yesterday was our first day back at the office. Wiley was very excited, as soon as I said ‘find the office’ his tail started to wag, the pull on the harness increased a little and we headed off at a sprightly trot.

As soon as we arrived I took his harness off and he ran around saying hello to everyone. This was great as it gave me a chance to fill up his water bowl and check the bins to make sure there wasn’t anything to tempt him.

My colleagues came and went during the day so there was always someone new for Wiley to greet, I think the highlight for him though was when Jo’s family dropped in for a quick visit, he got lots of pats and attention from her beautiful boys.

Like Wiley I enjoyed catching up with everyone. There was even a present waiting for me. The lovely Jo gave me a beautiful silver bracelet with an infinity symbol. It matches the silver necklace I wear with Khan’s paw print. I’ve always wanted an infinity symbol as it reminds of the infinite bond I have for each and every one of the dogs that have shared my life.

It was good to get back into a work frame of mind. Jo has made great progress on one of our bigger projects, how she gets so much done in a short period of time amazes me. The main reason I went in yesterday was to go to an NDIS meeting. More and more people in Canberra are becoming eligible to participate in the scheme although my age group won’t be phased in until Jan next year.

This year is already shaping up to be a challenging and interesting one.

NDIS Pre Planning Workshop

On Thursday Wiley and I attended an NDIS pre planning workshop. I heard about the workshop via the google group managed by the ACT Guide Dog office. I thought it would be worth attending both for my personal benefit as well as being well informed for my new position.

The  workshops were being held in two locations on several different days over a couple of weeks. I requested attending the one at the NDIS office on Northborne Avenue near the city. This is on my regular bus route which made it very convenient.

The bus timetable meant I was going to be early which was good as it gave me plenty of time to not only find the correct building but also figure out where I needed to go when I reached the NDIA office.

I had pre programmed the address as a user point of interest in my Mobile GEO device. When I got on the bus I asked the driver to let me know when we were at the closest bus stop. Once Wiley and I got off the bus I turned the GPS on, listened to what it told me and gave Wiley the command to go right. We walked along the road for a while but when we reached the next intersection I thought we had gone too far. I gave Wiley the back command and started to walk the way we had just come.

Fortunately I found someone to ask which number along Northbourne Avenue we were standing outside of. It turned out the GPS was a little off and we had gone past the correct building. Following the directions given to me I asked Wiley to find right, he took me up a path and stopped at the steps outside a building. When I heard someone behind me I checked with them that we were at the right place which we were.

I gave Wiley the forward command, we went up the steps and he took me to the automatic doors leading into the building. Once there I was completely lost and had no idea where to go so I couldn’t give Wiley any commands. I should have emailed and asked for more information about where I needed to go once I arrived.

It turned out the person I asked if I was at the right building was also going to the workshop so Wiley was able to follow them. We went to the lift, when we exited the lift Wiley took me to a door but it was locked. The door we needed was on the other side of the foyer. The workshop co-ordinator heard us and opened the door – we had arrived – phew!

We entered the room and Wiley took me to a chair. Myself and the other gentlemen were the first to arrive so they were all empty. After I sat down I praised Wiley, gave him a treat, he then promptly crashed out and quietly slept through the whole presentation.

I was pleasantly surprised when the co-ordinator gave me a good description of the room layout without being asked. I was also told that I would be emailed a copy of the handouts as I couldn’t access the printed ones. I haven’t received these yet so will have to chase them up next week. As expected the NDIA staff were well educated about Guide Dog etiquette.

The workshop was interesting and informative. I think most of the other people in attendance was a carer for someone so we spent a lot of time on questions specific to their concerns.

We were told there was quite a lot of information requested in the application for access to the scheme. I asked if this would be provided in an accessible format as being sent a whole heap of paper in the mail would not be at all useful for me. They said that it should be but I might have to specifically request it.

At the end of the session I gave them my details so I could be put on their database. This means that just before I become eligible for the scheme in January 2016 I should be sent out the access approval documentation. There isn’t anything else I need to do for now.

It was much easier getting out of the building. Wiley and I quickly found our way to the bus stop on the other side of the road so we could catch the bus home.

I am pleased I decided to go. Change is always a little daunting, for me the best way to ease the accompanying anxiety is to be well educated and informed about the changes.

The week that was

Radio Interview

The week began with a radio interview at 1RPH for Achilles Canberra. Actually it turned out not to be an interview rather a 15 minute chat between myself and my awesome guide who had kindly agreed to attend the interview with me. I enjoyed chatting about the club and hope we managed to encourage other people to join us for a walk or run. The segment was pre recorded and was put on air yesterday. I didn’t tune in as I don’t like listening to myself speak.

Talks

I had two talks this week. The usual Taxi one and one at an after school care program. Both went well. Wiley was most certainly the star at the school talk. At the end I took Wiley’s harness off so he could be patted. There was a long queue as everyone lined up waiting for their turn. It always amazes me how patient he is.

GPS Training

Wednesday I had another session learning how to get the most out of my Mobile GEO device. It turns out you can put it into virtual mode and explore areas without even going there. That feature will be very helpful when I plan my interstate trip later in the year.

Control and Choice Expo

Thursday Wiley and I headed back to the Exhibition Centre, this time to help Guide Dogs NSW/ACT out at the Control and Choice Expo.

The NDIS trial will start in Canberra in a couple of weeks. The Control and Choice expo was a great opportunity for people with disabilities to meet and talk to a wide range of service providers.

I chatted to lots of people, some who had disabilities and their families as well as staff from the other stalls. It was a really rewarding and interesting event.

I was particularly  impressed with the large number of people who commented they knew not to pat a Guide Dog in harness as they are working. I took Wiley’s harness off for some of the time so he could stretch and say hello to some of his many admirers.

Social Meet Up

Yesterday Wiley and I headed over to Belconnen Mall. My reason for going was to meet up with a friend who is getting their first Guide Dog next week. There were a few bits and bobs I wanted to give them. Getting your first Guide Dog is a very exciting and nerve wracking time. They have quite the adventure ahead of them.

On the way to Belconnen I had to swap buses at the city interchange, this involved crossing a busy road. It is always a difficult road to get across but yesterday it was overwhelmingly chaotic. Thankfully one of the bus staff approached me and offered to help. I dropped Wiley harness handle and took the gentleman’s elbow,. As we were crossing he explained that there were police cars everywhere as the police were looking for someone. It was a relief to finally get on my bus.

I rarely go to Belconnen Mall, in fact I don’t think I have ever stepped inside without sighted assistance. The place I was meeting my friend was close to the entrance and I had good directions so I was very confident Wiley and I could find our way there safely.

The meet up was lovely, we chatted about the impending new addition but lots of other things as well. I also enjoyed one of the best hot chocolates I have ever had.

Running Update

I didn’t have a physio appointment this week, which is just as well as I would have been hard pressed to fit it in. At the moment I am still not running outside, but I am pleased to report my knee is beginning to feel much better.

Overall it was another hectic and interesting week, can’t wait to see what next week holds.

NDIS Information Night

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 🙂