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The proportion of people with disability increases the further you go from the major city centres. With the community feel, space and affordability of rural life, it’s no wonder that families touched by disability often make the move to the country.
There are barriers to accessing support in the country though - limited service choice, the need for travel and difficulties with attracting and retaining professionals are just a few.
With the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), many people have been voicing their concern at applying what feels like a big-city scheme to life in the country. A plan that works for someone in a city of millions is not going to work the same for someone in a town of hundreds.
Many people are wondering what happens if they get funding for services that don’t yet exist near them.
We put this question to our resident NDIS expert Catherine Fairlie who says the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is obligated to look in to it.
“The NDIA have been thinking about this, and that’s why a lot of the really rural and remote areas aren’t rolling out until later,” she said.
“The hope from the NDIA is that disability service providers will be able to see that they can make a go of the system under NDIS funding models and break even in rural and remote areas.”
She has some advice for people who can’t find the services they need locally.
“I would be approaching disability service providers to see what they can do to help. If an organisation can’t help, we can at least help you find someone who can,” she said.
“Where there are thin markets (very few providers, no local providers or a monopoly provider), particularly in many remote areas, specific intervention by the NDIA may be necessary to ensure the delivery of culturally appropriate and relevant supports to maximise achievement of outcomes for participants.” – The NDIA, Rural and Remote Strategy
There has been a lot of discussion around transport (more on that here). To be completely honest, transport funding under the NDIS can be a bit of an issue. Providers and families have let the NDIS know this very loudly.
For now, it’s still a bit of a wait-and-see situation.
In the meantime, Endeavour Foundation is actively engaging with the NDIA, Queensland Government and Federal Government, explaining the major financial impacts and difficulty of accessing supports.
Endeavour Foundation is also looking at a variety of transport models. The aim is to deliver a sustainable customer transport solution that is affordable, safe and accessible. Stay tuned!
Because not everything is always readily available, you may need to approach the NDIS differently if you live rurally.
The good news is that the NDIA is quite open to innovation. The bad news is that you may have to put some extra work in to getting the results you want.
There are lots of ways that people are already solving problems creatively and getting funded for it under the NDIS. The time to start thinking about solutions to the issues you face is before your planning meeting.
Would like to touch on what they should prepare. Identify a need – come up with a solution – address why the supports are reasonable and necessary.
When country families get told that a specialist appointment is necessary it often means planning for a long drive and maybe even having to source accommodation in the city, all of which can really add up financially.
By using the internet to access services, it can eliminate travel (saving time and money) and dramatically increase choice in providers.
Of course, this doesn’t work for a lot of situations, but could save thousands for those that it does.
If it is deemed reasonable and necessary, you may even get funding for technology supports in your plan.
Lots of people who live rurally pool supports. By knowing the people around you, you might find that several people are needing the same service.
Pooling supports often works really well in instances where a professional needs to travel long distances to meet with their clients. By banding together, you can share the costs of their travel expenses.
If you live in the country, you might need the flexibility that comes with self-managing, or enlisting the help of a plan manager.
You can find out about these options here.
A pre-planning booklet to help you to think about the supports you want and need – now and in the future – before meeting with your NDIA planner.
A practical, comprehensive guide to the NDIS, to help people understand the various components of the NDIS and how to access them.
A handy guide of NDIS FAQs and a glossary so you can familiarise yourself with NDIS language before your planning meeting.