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Participant Check-ins: The Reality on the Ground

Thought you understood Participant Check-ins, think again. Lisa & Todd are here to get you across the new policy, practice and of course...acronyms!

By Lisa Duffy and Todd Winther

Updated 15 Apr 202419 Jul 2022

The NDIS is a fast-changing beast. Just when you thought you knew about participant check-ins, the beast continues to evolve. So we are here to update you on the changes you need to be aware of before getting yet another “private number” call.

What Is a Participant Check-in?

Back in May, our colleague and friend Dr Kylie Morgan summarised a new flexible plan review process that replaces scheduled plan reviews (since 1 July 2022, these are now known as Plan Reassessments). In theory, participants receive contact from an NDIA representative to check on their wellbeing, to discuss whether there have been any changes to their support needs or goals, and to find out whether their current NDIS plan is meeting their needs. The outcome of this conversation determines whether they will then receive a

  • Plan Variation: A new NDIS plan with similar supports or minor changes to the previous plan, or a
  • Plan Reassessment: A new NDIS plan where all supports are reconsidered – what we previously knew as a full plan review.

All options carry a default plan length of two years.

What Exactly Has Changed Since May?

Since Kylie’s article, the participant check-in process now sits within new options that exist due to the recent changes to NDIS legislation (and the associated new language), which went live on 1 July 2022.

Additionally, Team DSC has continued to encounter different interpretations and versions of the participant check-in process, as there doesn’t seem to be a consistent standard operating procedure yet. 

Here are some of the changes we have noticed:

  • There are new acronyms and terms to learn (of course!).

o   NPSS – New Plan Similar Supports

o   LTPR – Light Touch Plan Review

o   PSO – Participant Support Office, a (non-delegate) role who can conduct check-in conversations,

o   COG – Core Operating Group, where PSOs apparently live, and

o   ATHM – Assistive Technology Home Modifications.


  • Team DSC has anecdotally heard of participant check-ins happening in inconsistent and unpredictable ways, including:

o   Via email, with no associated phone call

o   Via text message, notifying the participant of an imminent check-in conversation by phone (in one example, the text message alerted the participant that they would be called in 10 minutes, with no reason given)

o   Fully over the phone (via a private number), with the whole thing often over within 10 minutes

In many of the above cases, the three potential outcomes of a check-in were not explained.

And we cannot have lots of changes without a new form! The newly updated Change of details or change of situation form contains explanations of what plan variations and plan reassessments include and walks participants through this application process if they are proactively initiating communication with the Agency about changes separate from the participant check-in process. Remember that participants do not have to wait until they are contacted by an NDIA representative for a participant check-in to discuss a change to their support needs or goals: this request can still be initiated by a participant any time it becomes relevant.

Another Option Entirely: Plan Continuations

There is another new pathway that exists outside the plan review and participant check-in process. The Agency updated the NDIS website on 13 May 2022 to announce that some participants may now be contacted via post with the option for “plan continuation”. It describes plan continuation as “giving more participants the opportunity to simply continue their current NDIS plan, if their support needs are stable and their plan is working for them, instead of having to do a full plan review”.

This means eligible participants will continue to receive the same funded supports as their current plan for another 12 months, until the next plan review (note the different default plan length compared to the outcome of a participant check-in). 

It seems that the only difference between a new plan with similar supports (with a default plan length of 24 months) and a plan continuation (with a plan length of 12 months) is that a plan continuation can happen without the need for a check-in. It is, though, unclear how people are chosen for the plan continuation option.

Participant Check-ins: The Positives

The benefits of the check-in policy are structural for both the bureaucrats who administer the planning process and plan participants. It can also facilitate streamlined participant data collection, which may assist with the hot “Scheme sustainability” conversation.

At their heart, participant check-ins appear designed for participants who have stable support needs and don’t need to update their plans regularly. This avoids the necessity of going through a costly, stressful, and time-consuming planning process, providing the best result for all concerned.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a check-in call could occur three months before a plan ends; however, we would love the NDIA to officially clarify the timing to trigger a check-in conversation. Additionally, such certainty will allow participant goal-setting and suitable evidence to be prepared in advance.

Participant Check-ins: The Negatives

An unexpected check-in phone call could be daunting and lead to unintended consequences if a participant is not prepared. It should also be noted that a lack of clarity could arise from the casual naming of the process: in day-to-day life, when someone  “checks in” on you, you don’t normally assume that a 10-minute conversation can impact your life in ways large and small for the next two years.

Additionally, participants who dread the plan review process will be pleased that they do not have to go through it as often, reducing their stress and anxiety. However, this new streamlined process could potentially be a disadvantage if essential aspects of the plan that require ongoing attention or no longer meet participant needs are skipped when the plan is automatically replicated.

Crucially, if the participant receives the notification unexpectedly, there may not be time to prepare for it and arrange for a supporter to be present for the call.

There are also ongoing assumptions and a lack of clarity that could lead to a sense of powerlessness. For example, at the end of some of the check-in emails and plan continuation letters, the NDIA representative has written statements such as, “If your circumstances have changed and/or your plan no longer meets your support needs, you can request a plan review at any time”, without explaining how to do so. The term “knowledge is power” comes to mind here: how can people have true choice and control unless they are fully informed?

So… Where to from Here?

As information and options continue to change, nothing can beat a healthy dose of being informed. Remember that when interacting with the NDIS, knowledge really is power. Choice and control can only exist when people know and truly understand the choices they have. Team DSC will continue to translate and update you on any changes as they happen!


Lisa Duffy
Todd Winther

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