10393 – Individual submission
In 2016 when transitioning to the NDIS had pre-planned before the planning meeting to make sure I had everything ready for the planning meeting and that I was ready to let the Local Area Coordinator know what I want in my NDIS plan. When giving the Local Area Coordinator the information for the pre-planning I thought that everything that I was funded for my ADHC would successfully transfer across to the NDIS. When I received my first NDIS plan and my state funding ceased that I was previously receiving from ADHC when the plan arrived in the mail saying “your plan has been approved” I thought that I would have the same flexibility that I had with ADHC and that I would be not worse off and disadvantaged under the NDIS. Could not utilise NDIS plan at all and over the 12 months that it was valid for could not use any of my funding at all as the NDIS would not fund what I was previously funded for by ADHC. Had applied for a review and explained to the planner that I can’t use all the money in my NDIS plan as the NDIS is not funding what I asked for. The planner added my conference registration fee is a one off and said “I am happy to fund your conference registration fee as a one off”. I asked the planner “who is going to pay for my flights and accommodation”? The planner said “I would have to pay for my flights and accommodation”. I said the cost of the conferences were previously paid for by ADHC. The NDIA planner said “The NDIS does not fund conferences do you attend day programmes at all, social activities or recreational activities”? I said “No I don’t attend day programmes, social activities or recreational activities conferences are my community engagement that is what I do”. In 2017 I was able to find an organisation that was able to help me cover the cost for flights and accommodation had the organisation not been able to pay for my flights and accommodation I would have been stuck and not able to attend the 2017 conference. The organisation said “we can help you with the cost of your conference for this year (2017) but we won’t be able to fund you financially in the future”. When I had my 2017 planning meeting I could not use any of my funding in that year either as the NDIS would not fund what I wanted this was my 3rd plan and I had only been on the NDIS 1 year at the time. In early 2018 after I had my planning meeting for 2017 with the plan valid for the next 12 months I applied for a review of a reviewable decision as I felt that my goals were not being supported the NDIS said that it is not reasonable and necessary for the NDIS to fund my conferences that I have been speaking at for the past 6 years contacted and NDIS Appeals Support Officer and said “I am not happy with my NDIS plan the NDIS will not fund my conferences the NDIS appeals support officer filled out an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, booked me in to see one of the solicitors, filled out a application form to see a solicitor at Legal Aid NSW and arranged appointments with the registrar at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to discuss the matter. The application was considered by the Department of Social Services and not approved as the Department of Social Services did not see the matter as novel and complex. The NDIS appeals support officer wrote a letter to the person at Department of Social Services explaining how my matter is novel and complex asking for a review the second time the application was considered and approved to receive free legal assistance/free legal advice from Legal Aid NSW. Legal Aid NSW was notified and I was placed on a waiting list to be allocated a solicitor while waiting the NDIS appeals support officer said about a lady at Legal Aid NSW who knows a lot about the ADHC transition and was helping another client with a similar issue to get something reinstated in their NDIS plan that was previously funded by ADHC. The solicitor was able to help the client to get what they were previously funded for by ADHC reinstated in their NDIS plan, the NDIS now funds what they were previously funded for by ADHC, the NDIS appeals support officer said “the solicitor is aware of your case and situation”. When talking to the NDIS appeals support officer I asked “does the solicitor know this is for me to be funded for my conference and not for a support worker to be funded”? The NDIS appeals support officer said “Yes the solicitor is aware of your case and situation and knows it is for you to be funded and to have your conferences reinstated in your NDIS plan”. From March 2018 to September 2018 had case conferences face to face and via phone with the registrar at the AAT, NDIS appeals support officer and myself. Later the NDIS appeals support officer notified the registrar at the AAT to advise them that I have been successful for funding to receive free legal advice/free legal assistance from Legal Aid NSW and we are waiting for a solicitor to be allocated for the next meeting. The next meeting was not scheduled until a solicitor was allocated, met the solicitor and spoke about the case/matter and the outcome I am looking for. The solicitor filled out a statement of lived experience and identified legal issues before supplying the evidence to the AAT and the solicitor that was allocated for the NDIA. Both parties/both sides had 6 weeks each to submit their submissions the solicitor kept me up to date regularly on where everything is at, made times and dates to call me, would let me know of the offer from the NDIA, asked me if I accept it, explained that if I accept the offer that is made that is the agreement and the case is not discussed any further. The first offer that the solicitor contacted me about I said no when she asked me if I accept the offer the case continued and when we had the next session she explained to the solicitor that was allocated to the NDIA that we considered the offer and decided not to take it as it will leave me in the same situation next year. Later another offer was made and the solicitor said “the NDIA has made an offer to fund your flights, accommodation, registration and related travel for your conferences do you accept the agreement”? I responded and said “yes that is perfect that is the outcome I am looking for we can’t get any better than that the main thing is we have taken all the steps and procedures to take it to the AAT”. The solicitor said “exactly”. Explained to the solicitor how important it is for my conferences to be funded she said “I know how important this is to you and how much it means to you”. The AAT also said “I know how important this is to you and how much it means to you”. The registrar at the AAT and the AAT listened to everything very well and used alternative communication strategies and alternative communication methods. The solicitor then contacted the solicitor representing the NDIA to let the solicitor know not to worry about putting in his agreement and that we have come to an agreement. This took 6 months to come to a resolution and an outcome. It took a long time and while it was worth it. I asked the solicitor and said “Does the NDIA know what a conference is and what I do at the conference”. The solicitor said “the NDIA have agreed, the NDIA know what you do and what the conference is about”. Then I waited for the approval to pay for my 2018 conference and when I was given the approval and the documents were received supplied the information to the NDIA letting the NDIA know the outcome from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and after seeking legal advice. The documents were uploaded onto my file and the NDIS funded my conferences for the first time since transitioning to the NDIS. mentioned to the solicitor it is not something to be funded as a one off it is something that I attend and speak at annually (once a year) the solicitor responded and said “exactly”. Explained to the NDIA the importance of the conferences being funded on a continuing basis and not as a one off. When I found out the outcome I was really happy and relieved that the NDIS would fund my conferences the NDIS Appeals Support Officer said ” had I had a different solicitor from Legal Aid NSW from the same division my chances of gaining the outcome that I did would not have been as high”. I really had to self advocate, get a message across the importance of the conferences being funded with my NDIS appeals support officer providing individual advocacy as well as me to help me stand up for my rights and speak up on my behalf as well as a solicitor supporting me, representing me to help me to come up with a resolution, solution and outcome that both sides/both parties can agree to and the solicitor being able to identify legal issues and how what I am asking for fits in with the legislation. At the moment there are more people with disabilities fighting for their rights to get what they need funded in their NDIS plans and have their goals being supported instead of being able to use their NDIS funding flexibly and getting the most out of their NDIS package. Without changes there will be more and more and more and more cases where NDIS participants and those applying to access the NDIS will be appealing decisions having to seek more legal advice from a solicitor and get approval from the AAT the highest external department/body an external reviewer. If the NDIA is going to continue sending NDIS participants and people with disabilities applying to access the NDIS to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal then there is no point in NDIS participants having a planning meeting and to have an NDIS plan developed. It wastes people’s time and the NDIS is messing everything around for people as it is not working the way it is meant to work. NDIS participants do not want to have to waste their time and energy to go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and if things continue the way they are now without any changes being made to the legislation then people with disabilities and NDIS participants will have no choice except to go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal every year to get an agreement for something that is already agreed to instead of only taking any new matters to the AAT that has not already been agreed to and approved by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.