For people who wish to access supports through the NDIS, it is important to understand how the scheme works and what supports are available, to ensure that people can exercise choice and control over their lives, as envisaged by the Act. However, many aspects of the NDIS are complex, and the processes of accessing and receiving supports may present significant challenges, whether becoming a participant, developing and managing plans, or making decisions.
This section provides range of tools that may help a person engage effectively with the National Disability Insurance Agency.
Finding a voice
Independent advocacy supports people with disabilities to understand and exercise their rights, free of any conflicting interests. Advocates can assist in putting forward a person’s perspective, making arguments, identifying relevant evidence and ensuring that the person’s voice is heard. They can also assist a person with disability to learn and hone their self-advocacy skills. Independent advocacy support may be provided by independent advocacy organisations, by family members, friends, or other community allies. A variety of independent advocacy organisations, sometimes in combination, respond to the differing advocacy needs of people with disabilities.
When looking for guidance on the NDIS, an individual may find various kinds of support to be available from the person’s community or peers. The Act also allows for the Agency to provide support and assistance to people. Service providers and related organisations may offer assistance with understanding and participating in NDIS processes. A person with disability may wish to consider training or activities to develop skills that may be useful to understand the NDIS, and evaluate needs, express preferences and make choices and plans.
Information about the variety of advocacy and other support options available presents a challenge for the person with disability to decide what sources and structure of support would best help the person navigate the NDIS process. In evaluating options and making choices the person should seek and tailor a combination of advocacy, support, assistance and training that responds to his or her individual needs and preferences. The risks of any potential conflicts of interest should also be considered.
In seeking to protect one’s rights and interests during interaction with the NDIS, a range of provisions, instruments and sources of law should be kept in mind. Within the Act itself, the objects and principles may offer guidance as to how the scheme is intended to operate, and could be used to strengthen arguments for desired outcomes.
Of particular relevance is the first object, which states that the Act is intended to give effect to Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The rights contained in that International Convention are therefore very significant and potentially persuasive in advocating to the Agency.
The objects of the Act also including giving effect to certain obligations, that Australia has under other international human rights instruments. [s3 (i)] The National Disability Strategy and laws against discrimination should also be considered as possible resources. (See this website’s section on making discrimination complaints).
People with disabilities will also benefit from developing a clear understanding of the delineation and interaction between the NDIS and other service systems.