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How do Planners decide Support Coordination funding levels?

How many Support Coordination hours people actually receive is one of the great mysteries of the NDIS. Sally has combined a Freedom of Information request and publicly available data to shed some light.


Updated 15 Apr 20248 Sept 2020

Have you ever wondered how planners decide how much Support Coordination funding goes into a plan? It is a question that I have spent the last 5 years asking. At times the process seems about as random as throwing a dart at a board and seeing where it lands. Even the Tune Review famously (or at least famously in NDIS circles) requested the NDIS Rules be amended to “set out the factors the NDIA will consider in funding Support Coordination in a participant’s plan.”

It was in this context that a tantalising treat popped up in my inbox. It was an internal NDIA Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) titled “Include Support Coordination in a Plan,” uncovered by a colleague in a Freedom of Information (FOI) requestion. Its purpose for NDIS planners was to “support you to consider and include reasonable and necessary support coordination in a participant’s plan.”  To say that I was excited would be a major understatement. 

As those of you familiar with the frustrating world of FOI requests might have guessed, the document was heavily redacted. But some pretty exciting pieces of the puzzle slipped passed the censor’s black marker, and I am eager to share them with you. 


Low, medium and high ranges

The SOP tells us that it defines Support Coordination needs into three levels, each with their own range of hours. These are as follows:

  • Low: 1 to 2 hours a month/ approx. 24 hours a year
  • Medium: 3 to 6 hours a month/ approx. 36-72 hours a year
  • High: 7 – 9 hours a month

The SOP also includes specific considerations for each level. Unfortunately, this vital information is blacked out from the document and replaced with the gobbledegook reference code s47E(d), which I interpret to mean the information is potentially too useful to share. However, the SOP does say that the considerations offered are examples only, and the planner is encouraged to use the reasonable and necessary criteria to inform their decision making.

 Using the information about the three levels of Support Coordination funding, we can determine in which level of support, low, medium or high, the planner has placed the participant. This can help us in advocating for re-classification if we believe it is needed.  

Furthermore, we can also take advantage of knowing the full range for each level. The hours of Support Coordination funding in a plan are determined by the planner’s assessment of what would be considered a reasonable and necessary amount in each individual case. But we do see the same numbers come up again and again. Using the information from the SOP, we now know a participant with 36 hours of Support Coordination has been funded at the lower end of the medium level. It’s useful to know that the same level can allow for up to 72 hours.

Typical Support Packages (TSP)

We have long known that planners use a Typical Support Package (TSP) to inform the types of supports and levels of funding that they include in a plan. TSPs are generated based on a person’s age, disability, living situation, functional impairment and a range of other things. This information is used to generate a budget for the planner to work from. While the TSP generates a default level of funding across the plan budgets, the planner should always use reasonable and necessary decision making to determine the actual funding.

Given that it is the starting point, what the TSP has to say about Support Coordination funding is clearly important. While we don’t know the TSP funding levels (we wish!), we do know that the SOP tells planners to disregard the TSP-recommended funding levels if:

  • The participant does not have a LAC or ECEI partner planner, who would fulfil some of the same functions as a Support Coordinator.
  • The planner feels the person needs more funding than the TSP has generated - so basically, whenever they think it is justified! 

What this demonstrates is that while TSPs are important, the planner has a lot of power to make adjustments based on an individual’s circumstances. 


People under 15

The SOP also says that as of September 2017 “the System no longer auto-generates funding for Support Coordination for participants aged 15 years or under.” But again, the planner is encouraged to apply reasonable and necessary decision making when determining if Support Coordination is required. So, Support Coordination for people under 15 is not a ‘hard no.’ But, since it is not automatically considered, the participant will need to build a case for this support. Currently, 7% of 0 to 6-year-olds and 20% of 7 to 14-year-olds are funded for Support Coordination (compared to average 57% across other age groups).

Source: DSC Analysis (Data from FY1920 Q4 Quarterly Report and NDIS Support Coordination Submission Paper)

When supporting younger people to access Support Coordination funding, we would suggest providing evidence of why Support Coordination is necessary for someone under 15 in writing, as the planner might be required to justify expenses outside the TSP to their superiors. 


What does an average Support Coordination budget look like?

Between the recently released Discussion Paper and the latest Quarterly Report, we finally have all the data points we need to see the average hours of Support Coordination by Participant Age. While the Discussion Paper quoted "5 hours per month" as the average for plan and agency managed participants when we actually take all participants into account, the average is just shy of 4 hours per month (around 44 hours per year). Our breakdown of the averages by age and primary disability are below:

Source: DSC Analysis (Data from FY1920 Q4 Quarterly Report and NDIS Support Coordination Submission Paper)

Source: DSC Analysis (Data from FY1920 Q4 Quarterly Report and NDIS Support Coordination Submission Paper)

Like us, you still probably have a lot of questions about how support coordination funding is determined. Given that the NDIA has supported the recommendations from the Tune Review are acted upon, the criteria are likely one day be in the public eye. Until then, we have to rely on putting together pieces of the puzzle picked from heavily redacted documents. 


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