The role of Developmental Educators in the NDIS landscape ....

Developmental Educators(DEs) implement and develop methodologies that enable the application of effective strategies to support the individual developmental learning goals of people with a disability. Developmental Educators can work closely with families and caregivers, and other allied health professionals who may be involved in the support of an individual.
“The NDIS(National Disability Insurance) aims to give people with disability better access to personalised, high quality and innovative supports and services. A specific focus is to enhance the independence, social and economic participation of people with disability and their carers” (NDIS website
Developmental Educators as disability specific professionals can be involved in many roles within a NDIS plan, one of which can be a plan manager. The following is the experience of a Developmental Educator working as a plan manager in the NDIS landscape:
Following the NDIS roll out in South Australia in 2015, choice and control for participants has a part of the service charter of the NDIA and a commitment from them. While the NDIS replaces the previous ‘block funded’ state government system with a new national system that pays for supports that are deemed to be ‘reasonable and necessary’, stakeholders are still learning about the system. There are no shortcuts to explain what are ‘reasonable and necessary supports’ for a participant, with many factors influencing this.  The ultimate aim of the NDIS is to support participants’ rights to live a good life, to take part in social activities and to reach targeted goals. A special emphasis is given to the term ‘targeted goals’. Participants’ goals, both short-term and long-term, are developed by NDIS planners, in collaboration with the participant and/or family, and are based on the individuals need. Developmental Educators (DE’s), as disability specific professionals, have important roles in assisting both participants and family members with the preparation of the NDIS Plan. Organizing and conducting pre-planning meetings with DE’s and stakeholders serves as the first foundation step of the planning process. Findings from the assessment/s and interview/s help DE’s in the development of individualized support plans. Furthermore, current knowledge in the disability policy landscape, as well as the NDIS, Rules 2013 helps DE’s to develop individualized plans that assist participants to receive ‘reasonable and necessary supports’.
The following are two key points from the NDIS Rules related to the participant’s Plan. 
  • The Plan must be directed by the participant
  • The Plan must include the participant’s statement of goals and aspiration prepared by the participant.
If the participant goals are not prepared in writing, the Local Area Coordinator (LAC) will record the information based on the panning meeting conversation. I have come across some Plans that did not reflect participant goals and aspirations. These Plans did not seem to reflect what was discussed and sought at the planning meeting. Upon questioning, I have been informed by the LAC on a number of occasions that the goals sought by the participant were considered unrealistic. In my opinion, seeking services from competent professionals such as DE’s prior to  the planning meeting would help to avoid unnecessary surprises. Such services assist both participant and/or family members to express their needs related to their disability. There are many participants, particularly those who receive services for the first time, who have difficulty in finding suitable Providers. Participants with funding for Support Coordination under the Capacity Building category can engage the services of a registered Support Coordinator to assist with finding appropriate services. Unfortunately, the majority of Plans now do not have funding for Support Coordination. In such cases, it may be a better option to seek funding for Plan Management under Improved Life Choices in a Plan. As per the NDIS rules, if a participant requests Plan Management services, it must be approved in most cases. Once the funding for Plan Management is in the Plan, participants have the flexibility in choosing Providers, including choosing services from Unregistered Providers. Thus, unregistered DE’s can undertake functions such as a Coordinator of Supports for participants. Hence, when Coordination of Support is not included in a Plan, a participant can engage a DE for connecting with services. Also, if a participant is wanting to receive continuous service from a DE, provided there is not enough funding under Improved Daily Living (therapy), and or the core funding lines subject to the NDIA rules. Consequently, a DE would invoice against the participant’s Core Funding under line item - Access with social and community. There appears to be a misconception that the core funding should be only used for care needs.  the following is an example of where a participant wished to use some of his Core Funding for time away from home (Short Term Accommodation - STA). The participant was accessing Core Funding for meeting expenses to build independent living skills. While processing the invoice, the Plan Manager will undertake some checks to ensure that the money was spent appropriately eg, accommodation and other relevant supports. Such expenses can be substantiated with the participant’s aspirations and goals as mentioned in the plan.  Both Plan Management and Self-Management could be considered as better options for participants to select appropriate services. Both registered and unregistered DE’s have important roles in assisting participants in preparation the participant goals as well as coordination of ongoing supports. If the funding is Plan Managed or Self-Managed the participant can access the services of a registered Plan Manager (accountant). 

Bijil Varghese
Plan Manager & Developmental Educator
1 Disability Support Services