Understanding How to Purchase Equipment Using your NDIS Funds – The recent changes as of December 2019
By Lynn Tullock (Physiotherapist) and Polly Cartlidge (Occupational Therapist)
As you may be aware as an NDIS participant, there have been some recent changes from December 2019 on how you may be able to purchase some types of equipment you may need. We thought this would be a perfect time to review the whole current NDIS equipment framework and put it into simple language to help our clients best understand how to navigate the system.
So, what’s changed? In a nutshell, equipment which is deemed as low risk (we will talk about this later) and over $1500 always required a AT Assessor (eg Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist etc) to submit an Assistive Technology (AT) Form following an assessment of your needs. The AT Form is a detailed report which can only be completed by a AT Assessor outlining and justifying the functional needs and risk assessment for a specific piece of equipment. Often the assessor would be requested to provide trial details and detailed information on other considered solutions as well and providing invoices from equipment providers for the costs of the equipment. The information on the AT Form was considered by the NDIS and release of funds for purchase (what we call approval) was made. This can take between 2 weeks or up to 12 months.
Recently, the NDIS has released that the $1500 figure has now been increased to $5000. This means that low risk equipment under $5000 no longer requires an AT Form under the following conditions:
- the equipment has to be specified as reasonable and necessary in your plan
- the equipment needs to fall under one of the following 9 categories with the correct codes attached to it in your plan
Taken from the NDIS Support Catalogue 2019/2020
This could save our therapists hours of work and you, as the participant, lots of money. It is likely to also hugely speed up the process enabling you to purchase easily and quickly.
If I don’t need to submit an AT Form, do I still need an assessment by a health professional?
What is extremely important though is that you are not left in the dark about what equipment best meets your needs. Even though an AT Form is no longer needed for certain pieces of equipment, you will likely still require a skilled assessment by an AT Assessor such as an Occupational Therapist for a clear outline of the equipment specs, cost and where to purchase. There are so many products on the market with subtle differences and functionality which can make an enormous difference to you as the user. Our therapists keep abreast of what’s out there and have excellent relationships with equipment providers making it easy to trial pieces of equipment.
What if the equipment item I need is not specified in my current plan?
Your AT Assessor will contact your Planner/Support Co-ordinator with the appropriate information about your equipment needs for this to be included in your next plan.
If the equipment falls out of this funding range, your Planner/Support Co-ordinator will discuss when you would need to provide an AT assessment and quote to the NDIA for review before an AT support can be included in your plan.
What pieces of equipment are included under the changes to the 9 codes?
The NDIS are not currently identifying specific equipment under each of the 9 codes however do provide a description of equipment in the category (see support item name in table above)
What is a low risk item?
NDIS have four levels of risk when it comes to looking at Assistive Technology.
Levels 1 and 2 do not require an Assistive Technology report to be submitted by your therapist to NDIS.
A low risk item is a simple low risk product or service that you could easily access and buy from a chemist or hardware store with no assistance required from a therapist to set up or use. These items are usually low cost.
NDIS examples are a non-slip bathmat, doorbell, long handled reacher
A standard piece of equipment that can be bought easily “off the shelf” at an equipment supplier. You should be able to trial it before purchasing and may need assistance to set it up.
NDIS examples are a bath seat, handrails and ramps
What if the equipment I need is high risk?
If your equipment is a high risk item, you will need your AT Assessor to submit an AT Form. This is very important as the NDIS need to consider clinical justification for equipment that could potentially cause harm if not prescribed appropriately. This rule is here to protect you, the participant.
Often, our therapists may need to trial various pieces of equipment to make sure we are selecting the correct one for you. The equipment technology market is exploding and you’ll need a health practitioner who keeps abreast of what’s out there.
Does it matter if I am Self Managed, Plan Managed or NDIA Managed?
Yes, there are some important differences. See below.
What is ‘consumables’ and how do I access these funds?
Consumables are everyday use items you require to manage your personal disability related needs. Many of them are disposable items or are consumed (such as specialised food supplements). These can include continence products, home enteral nutrition (HEN) products and low cost assistive products for eating and drinking.
Its tricky to know how much funds each participant has in their consumables budget and you, the participant may need to contact your planner or support co-ordinator to find out.
If you are an NDIS participant with equipment needs, we urge you to get in touch with us today. We are more than happy to discuss any questions you may have prior to organising an initial assessment.
Please note, this information is correct as of January 2020.