This Background section aims to provide principals with an understanding of why their school may be experiencing an increase in requests for NDIS funded therapists to provide therapy on school grounds. It outlines some of the opportunities the NDIS offers to school-aged participants to enable them to achieve their goals.

Terminology used throughout this guidance is defined under the Definitions chapter.

Introduction to the National Disability Insurance Scheme

The NDIS is the most significant social policy and funding reform in Australia since the introduction of Medicare in 1975. It is a Commonwealth Government scheme that aims to provide eligible persons with significant and permanent disability (known as ‘participants’ of the scheme) with greater choice and control over how and by whom their disability supports are delivered. It is a whole of life approach to the support needed to help a person to participate in the community and achieve their goals. The Commonwealth Government has established the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), to administer and deliver the NDIS.

To access the NDIS and become a ‘participant’ in the scheme, a person must meet a number of legislated residency, age and disability criteria. The person must:

  • be under 65 years of age and
  • live in Australia, be an Australian citizen, a permanent resident, or hold a Protected Special Category Visa and
  • have an impairment or condition that is likely to be permanent (lifelong) and that provision of early intervention supports for the person is likely to benefit the person by reducing the person’s future needs for support in relation to the disability or
  • be a child under 6 years of age with a disability or developmental delay and the delay means the child usually needs more help with self-care, communication, learning or motor skills than another child of the same age.

The NDIS operates under an entitlement system. Once NDIS eligibility has been determined, each participant creates an NDIS plan with the help of NDIA planners or Local Area Coordinator (LAC) partners. Funding is provided for a range of ‘reasonable and necessary supports’. A plan will include informal, mainstream and community supports as well as the supports to be funded by the NDIS.

NDIS plan

The NDIS plan enables participants to have greater choice and control over what, when, where and by whom most of their disability support is provided.

The pathway for a school-aged participant to build their NDIS plan typically involves the following stages:

  1. Students, with their parent(s), create a participant statement with broad goals they want to achieve to increase their independence, inclusion, and social and economic participation.
  2. Once goals have been developed, students meet with NDIA planners or LAC partners to determine reasonable and necessary supports to help them achieve these goals. These supports may include therapy to build capacity in areas such as mobility or speech and language development.
  3. Supports that are deemed reasonable and necessary are funded under the NDIS.
  4. For most participants, after 12 months an annual review occurs with the NDIA planner. At the plan review stage, the student’s progress towards their goals and outcomes are measured which may involve a change to the reasonable and necessary funded supports in their plan.

Students, parent(s), or carer may provide a copy of a student’s NDIS plan to complement holistic student planning. However, it is important to note that students are not compelled to share their NDIS plans with schools.

Therapy in schools

Therapy to enable access to education

If therapy is considered to be a reasonable adjustment that is required for a student to access their education, the school is legally obliged to provide the student with access to this therapy. On this basis, schools should ensure therapists are available to provide educational supports to students. Such therapists may also be accessed from Student Support Services.

NDIS funded therapy

The therapies funded by the NDIS are related to the participant’s functional whole of life support needs, and not for educational purposes.

The NDIS works as a social insurance scheme. As such, if the NDIA decides (after consideration of relevant evidence, such as special reports, assessments and advice from the student’s parents) that a particular therapy is a ‘reasonable and necessary’ support for the student, the NDIS is obliged to fund that support as part of the student’s NDIS plan.

Participant ‘choice and control’ is a key benefit of the NDIS, which means participants and their parent(s):

  • have greater choice and control over how and by whom NDIS funded supports are delivered and
  • can choose how their NDIS plan will be managed. They can choose to self-manage the funds, have the funds managed by a financial intermediary, or have the funds managed by the NDIA. They can also opt for a combination of these methods. Payment to providers for supports are made through the NDIA’s portal system.

As a result of the emphasis on choice and control under the NDIS, schools have seen an increase in the number of parent(s) seeking approval to have NDIS funded supports for students delivered in schools.

Refer to: Principles to determine the responsibilities of the NDIS and other service systems (PDF)External Link for further guidance on what the NDIS will and won’t fund in schools.

Chapter in the NDIS guidelines outlining the reasons why schools may be experiencing an increase in requests for NDIS funded therapists to provide therapy on school grounds

Reviewed 28 September 2021

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