When a child or young person enters care and is identified as having a significant developmental delay or disability, the department is responsible for making sure they receive support to achieve their full potential. This often includes accessing supports through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

As a carer, you play an important role in this process. We know that you are often best placed to provide important information about the child’s strengths, interests, goals and required disability supports. By working in together, we can make sure that children and young people in care with a disability receive the specialist supports they need.

For resources designed for carers of children and young people with a disability, visit Children and young people with disability in 'Resources for carers'.

The NDIS provides access to supports, services and information for children, young people and adults living with a disability.

The NDIS has been designed to invest early, when disability or developmental delays are first identified, aiming to improve long-term outcomes.

The NDIS is managed by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

What is an NDIS plan?

The NDIS takes a flexible, individual approach to planning supports and services for children and young people who become participants in the scheme. The child or young person’s goals and aspirations form the basis of their NDIS Plan.

Details of the disability supports and services funded by the NDIS for a child or young person are documented in their NDIS plan.

NDIS Plans are reviewed regularly, and adjusted according to the changing needs of the child or young person.

What supports will the NDIS fund?

Within an NDIS Plan, the NDIS will fund reasonable and necessary supports that are specific to a child or young person’s disability or developmental delay.

This may include:

  • therapy, skill building and behaviour support
  • connection to services
  • equipment, including mobility aids and assistive technology
  • consumables related to disability (eg continence aids)
  • support to access the community.

Each child or young person must meet certain eligibility requirements to become a participant of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). These requirements vary depending on the child’s age. The child’s age also determines which process, or ‘pathway’, we use to help them access support.

The Early Intervention Pathway (for children 0 to 6 years old)

A child's early years are very important for how they learn and develop later in life. For children 6 years old and younger, we will work directly with an NDIS Early Childhood Partner to tailor support to each child’s individual needs.

We will need to provide evidence of delay in one or more areas of development to use this pathway. In addition, the child must need a combination of therapy and other specialist services as a result of this delay.

The Early Childhood Partner may:

  • connect the child with relevant services in their area, like their community health centre or a local playgroup
  • provide short-term early-intervention therapy support
  • request NDIS access for children who are likely to be eligible for the scheme
  • develop an NDIS Plan for longer-term support and services if access is approved.

The Disability Pathway (for children and young people 7 years and older)

For children 7 years and older, there are 4 main stages for accessing and using the NDIS.

Stage 1: Applying for the NDIS

The child’s case worker will talk with you and the department’s disability experts about whether the child or young person may be eligible for the NDIS. They will then complete an ‘NDIS Access Request’, which is submitted to the NDIA.

As part of the NDIS Access Request, we will need to provide evidence that the child or young person has been diagnosed with a disability that will cause long-term impairment.

Sometimes a child may already have current evidence of their disability. If they don’t, their case worker will organise for the child to be assessed before they submit the NDIS Access Request.

This could include an assessment of the child’s:

  • mobility/ motor skills
  • communication
  • social interaction
  • learning
  • self-care.

The case worker will also:

  • provide consent for the child or young person to become a participant in the NDIS
  • act as the contact point for the child or young person for the NDIS
  • be informed by the NDIA of the Access Request outcome.

Once the case worker finds out whether the NDIS Access Request has been accepted, they will let you know as soon as possible.

Stage 2: Creating an NDIS plan

If a child’s Access Request is accepted, the next step is a planning meeting.

An NDIS Planner will contact the child’s case worker to schedule a planning meeting. The case worker will then tell you the meeting time.

In most cases you, the child, the child’s case worker and the carer will attend the NDIS planning meeting together.

Preparing for the NDIS planning meeting

You and the child’s case worker will work closely together during the NDIS planning process. You will likely have essential insights into how the child’s disability affects their:

  • daily life  (eg. bathing, toileting, dressing, eating meals, sleeping)
  • mobility and movement (eg walking, running, and use of fine hand movements)
  • ability to communicate with others
  • relationships
  • behaviour.

When preparing for the planning meeting, you will work with the child or young person and their case worker to consider the child’s goals and aspirations for the next 12 months and how these could be supported. This could include goals related to achieving independence, community involvement, education, employment or health and wellbeing.

You may also provide information on:

  • the services and supports the child already receives each week
  • additional supports or services the child or young person needs.

NDIS Planning Meeting

During the planning meeting the case worker will make sure the NDIS Planner records the child or young person’s goals and will request funding for the supports and services they need.

After the planning meeting, the NDIS Planner will develop an NDIS plan for the child or young person. Once the plan has been approved by the NDIA, a copy will be provided to the case worker.

The case worker will then give you a copy of the plan as soon as possible.

Stage 3: Using the NDIS plan

Once the child’s NDIS plan is developed, decisions must be made about how the plan will be implemented. The child’s case worker is responsible for making sure the plan is implemented.

As a carer, you play a vital role. In many cases, you will be the person who takes the child to appointments and assessment activities under the NDIS plan.

Implementing an NDIS plan involves:

  • understanding the goals of the plan and the types of support that has been funded
  • choosing registered NDIS service providers to deliver the supports
  • establishing service agreements with service providers
  • getting quotes for any aids and equipment that have been approved in the NDIS plan.

Support coordinators

In some cases the NDIS plan may include funding for a specialist ‘support coordinator’. A support coordinator will help to find service providers who can meet the child or young person’s specific disability needs. As such, a support coordinator is usually the first step the case worker commences implementing an NDIS Plan.

The support coordinator will work with the DCP case worker in consultation with the foster or kinship carer to find other registered NDIS providers for the remaining supports within the plan and manage arrangements with support providers.

Where support coordination is not funded in the plan, an NDIS Local Area Coordinator or the child’s case worker will find service providers in consultation with you.

Stage 4: Reviewing and changing the plan

The NDIA organises regular reviews to check that supports are working for the child or young person, and are helping them to progress and achieve their goals. Plans are generally reviewed once per year, but could more frequent when required.

As a carer, you are in a unique position to monitor whether a child’s NDIS disability supports:

  • are being delivered appropriately
  • are of a high quality
  • still meet the child or young person’s needs.

If you are ever concerned about the NDIS supports or services being delivered to a child or young person in your care, talk to the child’s case worker in the first instance.

Changes to supports

Some changes to NDIS supports or services can be made by the case worker directly with providers, without needing a review by the NDIA. These may include:

  • changes to registered NDIS service providers
  • changes to support types
  • changes to frequency of a service.

Some changes may require the NDIA to review the plan, for example when:

  • there is a significant increase or decrease in the child’s support needs
  • there is an urgent need for an additional support type that is not already included in the plan
  • the child is approaching an important life transition, such as leaving school, or leaving care.

You are in important part of all conversations about how the plan is working and any changes that may be required.  Any potential changes must be discussed and followed up by the case worker.

More information

NDIS – National Disability Insurance Scheme

NDIS – How ECEI works (for children aged under 7)

Raising Children – Children with disability: NDIS

National Disability Services – National Disability Services (NDS) is Australia's peak industry body for non-government disability service organisations.

NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission – The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is an independent agency which improves the quality and safety of NDIS supports and services.