We talk LACs, Planners, Support coordination & Op shops with Libby Ellis
Ahead of our Get Connected information sessions we sat down with Libby Ellis, Founder of Incharge, to talk about important topics like understanding the different roles of the LAC, planners, plan managers, and support coordinators ? We think its worth taking some time out to hear what Libby has to say....
How has your experience in supporting your brother shaped your thinking and your approach to establishing your business InCharge?
In my early 20s I started to see the paucity of my brother’s life compared to mine, from growing up in group homes, attending special school and then a day centre when he left school. Apart from us, he was surrounded by people who were paid to be there. He never chose the people he lived or recreated or spent his days with. Imagine if your only relationships were with people paid to be there?
We made change. As a family we assisted him in moving from a group home into his own home. He lives with people of his choosing who don’t have disabilities. He has started his own small business and is a contributor to his community, not just a receiver. This is an incredible achievement for someone who doesn’t speak and has significant disabilities.
I was then motivated to work to create genuine change more broadly. Through this I developed a strong understanding of how people feel in the system: at the mild end embattled, disrespected, 'case managed', tired, taken-for-granted, ignored . At the most serious end are incredibly regular occurrences of abuse and neglect in the agencies society thinks are caring for people... the list goes on.
My experience has been that in creating change, people really need help with the How. You can be inspired to make change in your life, but it can be really difficult to know what to do and how to start. This was another motivation behind InCharge.
Tell us exactly what’s the difference between the role of an LAC, Planner, Plan manager, Ability Linkers and Support co-ordinator and where do you fit in the picture?
Its important for people to understand the different stakeholders and roles people have, especially where dual roles may create conflicts.
The LAC is short for Local Area Coordinator. They are an NDIS representative who assists in developing ones ‘First Plan’. The NDIA has contracted different organisations in different states to take on this role. So the LAC you meet might work for Uniting, St Vincent de Paul, Brotherhood of St Laurence or an organisation like that (LINK). The LAC has 2 roles:
- to have the first planning meeting with NDIS participants to collect information that will be used to develop their NDIS Plan. They don’t actually develop the Plan but collect and collate information to send to a Planner.
- once a participant receives a Plan, an LAC might also assist with helping participants get their plan underway.
A Planner is someone who works for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). They are the people who need to look at the rules around the NDIS and determine what is a reasonable and necessary support. They develop the actual NDIS Plan.
A participant might also receive funding in their Plan for something called Support Coordination. A Support Coordinator is someone a participant can choose who helps to get the Plan underway, find services and supports and help figure out how you are going to use your NDIS funding.
Ability Linkers are a service provided by the NSW Government and do not have a formal NDIS role. Ability Linkers are a free resource people can use to link in to a wider range of community supports, and connect in to different activities, groups and organisation in their local community. I’m sure Ability Linkers might also be assisting participants understand their Plans.
Plan Management is one of the three ways you can manage your NDIS funds. With plan management, you have the flexibility to pay for both registered and unregistered providers with your NDIS funds. Once your plan is approved, your Plan Manager (who will need to be NDIS registered) will deal with the financial and administrative side of your plan, and can do some service co-ordination tasks as well. Plan management is great if you want more control over how your needs are met but you don’t want to deal with the financial and administrative side of things.
InCharge provides Support Coordination.
What’s your top 5 tips to someone for getting the best outcomes from your first plan?
I would probably recommend more than 5 tips, so here goes:
- Develop your ideas well before your first plan meeting with the NDIA/LAC. Develop your own ideas, even document them and share them with the LAC in the first plan meeting. Its critical to be prepared for this first meeting.
- Understand the difference between the role of the LAC, a Planner, a Plan manager and a Support coordinator. When the meeting is established clarify that you are meeting with an LAC . LAC’s have been delegated the responsibility of gathering information for the development of your first Plan. The information gathered is used by the Planners who will assess what is ‘reasonable and necessary’ to formulate your Plan. Its important to understand the remit and boundaries of the LAC’s role.
- If you would like to, you can request a face to face meeting with the LAC for the first planning meeting (LINK)
- Know your choices around money management and the benefits and drawbacks of each option. You can self manage the funding, use a Plan Manager, or have the funding managed through the NDIA.
- Visit useful websites with valuable links to understand the NDIS planning process, money management options(List provided below). Aim high but also it is good to think about what you can realistically achieve in a year. Remember there will be more years and more NDIS Plans to come!
- Get Connected! I cannot stress this enough - one needs to find people and places to connect with and ask questions. Do not sit on your plan. If something is not happening call the LAC or the NDIA 1800 number or connect on social media (FB groups like NDIS Grassroots can be useful) or phone your main provider.
- You can choose your own support coordinator. Websites like myCareSpace can help you find a support coordinator in your local area, simply type in ''coordination" in the browser and your post code and a list of support coordinators in your area will be shown.
What are your top 5 ‘Don’t dos’’ when establishing your first plan?
- Don’t not sign a service agreement
- Don’t sign a service agreement if you do not understand the fine print or what you are signing up to.
- Providers should be quoting for services prior to signing a service agreement. You should know how much things are going to cost, and all the costs a provider is looking to charge.
- Think about whether you need to share your whole plan with a service provider – it’s not really necessary. They may need some bits of information and you can provide this, but not necessarily all the support categories and all the budgets.
- Don’t act on misinformation about self-managing your plan. Self management and plan management have great advantages, especially around the flexibility of providers which you can use. If you have concerns you can try out either funding arrangement or request assistance in your plan to learn how to self manage.
If you could have 30 minutes with the board of the NDIA what would you say to them?
I would love to talk to them about how transformational change really takes place. Real change of a transformational nature can only take place when the right investments are made. We talk about ‘choice’ under the NDIS but just being able to choose disability service providers alone does not necessarily lead to true change. I would love to share with the board what real economic and social success stories look like and pull them apart so as to identify the investments and interventions that facilitated success and the time period over which these changes took place.
The NDIA talks about capacity building but there is a real lack of understanding of what this means. We need better data on what investments and interventions lead to capacity building and link them to the impact and time frames.
What do you love most about living in the Blue Mountains?
It’s a real privilege to live in a World Heritage area. I enjoy bushwalking and hiking but of course there is not enough time to do this.
Tell us something we don’t know about Libby Ellis as a person?
Although I love living in the mountains I do need to make a bee-line for water. I am a keen searcher of places to swim. I am also an avid Op shopper.
Libby's most useful links:
NDIS Grassroots Discussion group on Facebook - their Files section has some really good information
WA Individualised Services Planning cards