A good pre-planning process can make a big difference to a person’s outcomes in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Leanne Fretten explains Sylvanvale’s experience of working with people before their initial meeting.

The NDIS is the biggest social reform since the introduction of Medicare and, as such, means enormous changes for people with a disability, their families and carers, and for the organisations that support them.

The NDIS recognises that every person’s needs and aspirations are unique, so a flexible approach is needed to make supports as accessible as possible. The scheme is rolling out across New South Wales between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2018.

The NDIS means a significant change in the way that disability supports are funded in Australia. Whereas previously the money to pay for services for people with a disability would go directly to the service provider, under the NDIS the money goes directly to the person. That person can then decide how they want to spend the money.

The NDIS as a positive step towards equality for people with a disability, as it gives them choice and control over their supports and, most importantly, their own lives.

As positive as it is, the process of transitioning to the new scheme poses many challenges for people with disabilities, their families and organisations. Indeed, our customers have expressed a range of reactions about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, from excitement through to anxiety.

As we moved closer to the commencement of the NDIS, it became clear that many of our customers were feeling overwhelmed by the process and by what they needed to do.  We were also hearing stories of people who were losing services because they didn’t know what to ask for, or what was required, when they met with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) Planner.

What became increasingly clear was that we needed to offer our customers a lot of support in helping them transition into the NDIS.

So we set up a Customer Service Team that was focused on helping people through the NDIS planning process. We created a ‘pre-planning process’, where our customers and their support network meet with us to have a discussion and think through all of the things they have now that they want to keep, what they’d like to do differently, as well as taking into account things like equipment and aids.

Our Customer Service Team then prepares a detailed pre-planning document for the customer to take to their meeting with the NDIA Planner. They are now also helping customers put their NDIS plans into action.

While we strongly support the NDIS, the reality is there is no perfect scheme. The NDIS funds ‘reasonable and necessary supports’ and there will always be things that are out of scope and not funded.

What’s more, funding alone will not solve the challenge of shifting society’s attitudes towards people with a disability. There is much work to do in the battle for equal rights for people with a disability and Sylvanvale is committed to creating a shift in attitudes where seeing a person with a disability is no more remarkable than a person wearing glasses.

To date we have assisted well over 100 individuals and their families with their pre-planning.  We have received lots of positive feedback and have many stories of how the NDIS has given people access to supports they never had before. Damon’s case study in Learning to Fly is one of those stories.


How the NDIS and Sylvanvale’s pre-planning process helped improve Damon and his family’s life

When Damon’s family first learnt about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) they had a feeling of uncertainty.

“While the previous system didn’t give us everything we needed, we at least knew what to expect,” says Damon’s mum Emma.

So when Emma heard that Sylvanvale was offering NDIS pre-planning support to help people through the process, she decided to give it a go.

A person-centred approach

Emma was connected with Sylvanvale’s Customer Service Planner, Madeleine. Right from the start, she was impressed with Madeleine’s person-centred approach.

“Madeleine came out to see us on a Saturday morning – driving a couple of hours from her home. She and Sylvanvale’s Service Manager for Teen Time then gave up several hours of their time, asking lots of questions and really listening to what we need and how we want our life to look.”

“After that, Madeleine went away and prepared a detailed pre-planning document for us to take to our meeting with the NDIS Planner. The document was a compilation of all the support needs we discussed during our meeting and the story that Damon and I put together.”

Life-changing results

When it was time for Damon and Emma to meet with the NDIS Planner, they felt well prepared and in control.

“We brought our pre-planning document to our NDIS Planning Meeting and had everything we needed – all the work had been done.”

But the best was yet to come.

“When Damon’s NDIS plan arrived a few weeks later we couldn’t believe it,” says Emma.

“It included everything we asked for. Although we weren’t asking for anything unreasonable, there were things in there that we never dared hope we’d receive.”

“As well as giving us a significant increase in services, our NDIS plan gives us carer support so we can take our first-ever family holiday together.”

“It’s also meant that Damon was able to do iFLY (indoor skydiving – ed), which has been a long-held dream of his. Doing it was one of the best days of his life.”

Emma’s recommendation for other families

“I hope that on reading this, other families will engage with Sylvanvale and access the same wonderful assistance with NDIS planning that I had.”

“I could not have expected a better outcome, nor be better supported by professionals that actually cared about Damon and our family.”

Leanne Fretten is the CEO of Sylvanvale.

Editors Note:

In addition to service providers providing their own pre-planning programmes the NDIS has appointed so far two agencies in NSW (Uniting and St Vincent de Paul) to roll out Local Area Coordinators (LAC) for each region across the state.  The LACs primary role is to engage with the community around the NDIS by providing information, individual pre-planning and plan implementation once the individual’s plan has come into force.

My Choice Matters is also running workshops that cover pre-planning and they produce resources to assist in pre-planning (see My Choice Matters – Training opens Doors page #). The NDIS has also produced a Getting Plan Ready Workbook.

Links to resources can be found below:

Getting Plan Ready Workbook http://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/getting-plan-ready

My Choice Matters Resources & Workshops:

Other resources:

About Sylvanvale

Sylvanvale Foundation (Sylvanvale) was formed in 1947 when a group of parents united to form an organisation that would give their children with a disability a better quality of life through access to education and inclusion. Today it supports over 700 children and adults across Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

Sylvanvale provides a wide range of services and programs including group and independent living, work ready and life skills, children and youth, health and wellbeing, respite, NDIS pre-planning and putting plans into action, as well as social enterprise businesses such as Sylvanvale Catering and our Retail Therapy Vintage & Café shop in Caringbah and Birdcage Café in Engadine.