NDIS News & Analysis

NDIA Covid Response

Team DSC

Last updated: 22nd Sept 2021

To say it’s a frightening time for disabled people is an understatement. Additionally, providers are having a difficult time responding to the needs arising from the pandemic, which must only compound feelings of insecurity. The NDIS has responded to an ever-changing environment with measures that are designed to support disabled people to get vaccinated and ensure service continuity while we endure the pandemic. But do they go far enough? 

The COVID measures are scattered throughout various price guide addendums and Agency announcements. I have consolidated and paraphrased these measures into the list below, noting whether they were available this time last year and/or now.

I have tried my best to reflect current information. But this is a fast-changing space, and I ran out of chocolate. So do cross check the NDIS website and/or brave the 1800 number for up-to-date information. If you see any anything I’ve missed, please contact [email protected], and our lovely team will do their best to update these measures. 

 

COVID support for participants

Participant check-ins by NDIA staff
Sept 2020 Specific participant cohorts
Sept 2021 🟡 Only for those directly impacted by COVID-19 in NSW

Flexibility to use Core funding for Support Coordination
Sept 2020
Sept 2021 🚫

Deep cleaning of participant’s residence in the event a support worker returns a positive COVID-19 test, claimable once per eligible participant
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021

Automatic 12 month plan extensions
Sept 2020
Sept 2021

Can purchase PPE from your plan (eligible only for people with a minimum of one hour per day of face-to-face; meets reasonable and necessary; used while your worker is there; should not be more than $50 per week)
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021

COVID vaccine eligible to participants and carers over 16
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021

Expanded Pfizer vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021

Meal prep and delivery to those who live in an area with stay at home orders in place
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021

The Agency has responded to community concerns about the availability of PPE with various measures to enhance access. Deep cleans are another valuable and much-needed response. Notably, deep cleans are available once per participant whose worker tests positive. It’s unclear whether participants are paying the cost of a second deep clean if another worker tests positive at a later date.

On Support Coordination, with only two days’ notice, the Agency announced earlier in the year that participants could no longer use Core funds to pay for Support Coordination (which was previously a COVID measure). With significant community pressure, the measure was extended… for one month. Budget flexibility within Core for Support Coordination is critical for those transitioning out of lock-down, as disabled folk begin to physically (re)connect with their communities, workplaces, education, and other services.

Does it strike you as mischievous that the Agency branded 12-month plan extensions as a COVID measure? Reducing planning meetings where plans that participants say are working for them can only be a positive thing, and extending plans automatically also reduces work for the Agency. If the Agency wants to signal that it is serious about plan flexibility, reinstating the measure allowing Support Coordination to be paid from Core would be a good starting point.


COVID support for providers

$100 payment per COVID- 19 vaccination for each eligible worker in the 12 LGAs of concern
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021 (NSW)

$150 Vaccine Enablement Payment for organising COVID-safe transport both ways, staff to support the participant to attend in COVID-safe ways or obtaining vaccination consent
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021

Provider directly invoicing the NDIS for PPE
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021 (NSW)

Providers charging participants for PPE, up to $27 per day, while delivering supports in one of three registration groups, with participant agreement
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021

Support worker claiming PPE to participant plans (conditions apply)
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021

Additional support of $1,200 a day for SIL participants, from the date participant infection is confirmed until participant is no longer infectious (usually up to 14 days). This is on top of the cost of usual SIL supports and covers increased costs for staffing, equipment, laundering, and more.
Sept 2021

A “clinical first response service” response for advice to supported independent living providers if COVID-19 is detected
Sept 2020
Sept 2021

Contingent care panel to help providers in residential settings directly impacted by a COVID case
Sept 2020 🚫
Sept 2021

Providers in hotspots able to claim an allowance of $1.70 per hour of support delivered in the Activities of Daily Life Support Category, to cover the cost of PPE for workers, paid directly by the NDIA.
Sept 2020
Sept 2021 🚫


10% COVID loading payment to registered eligible NSW providers (only where the loading is over $2,000)
Sept 2020
Sept 2021

One-off advance payment to registered providers, automatically paid to active providers to help with cash flow
Sept 2020
Sept 2021 🚫

10% increase in the price limit of some Core and Capacity Building Supports
Sept 2020
Sept 2021 🚫

Extension from two to ten business days cancellation rule, or provider gets 100% of scheduled fee
Sept 2020 🚫 (active March-July 2020)
Sept 2021 🚫

Medium Term Accommodation cap extended from 90 to 180 days
Sept 2020
Sept 2021 🚫

A COVID addendum to the price guide can be found here.

On 3 September, Senate Estimates heard that only 34.1% of participants are double vaccinated. Senator Jordan Steele-John noted that this is less than the national average. The $150 that the NDIA is offering providers is evidence that policymakers are paying attention to the urgency of vaccinations for disabled people. This measure is also nice recognition that organising vaccinations take time, money, and thought. Notice, however, that the NDIA has not instigated a direct payment option for NDIS participants (or NDIS-ineligible disabled people) who choose to coordinate their own jabs.

There is also some inequality between jurisdictions with these measures. NSW, particularly Sydney, is in crisis. There is significant need for measures that ensure providers are resourced to ensure continuity of supports, such as COVID loading. It remains unclear, however, why the Agency has not introduced these measures to providers affected by lockdowns or COVID in other jurisdictions. Noticing the difference in policies in each region is not about pitting state against state – it’s about ensuring all disabled people affected by COVID have uniform access to the supports they need, regardless of their postcode.

The current measures are a start. Disabled people need better access to vaccinations, and providers need more help to avoid collapse. Investment in additional provider and participant measures may cost the government in the short run, but bold investment will likely save lives.