Lisa and her husband Stu recently completed a major home modification including ramp installation, bathroom redesign and doorway widening to create greater independence and safety for their seven-year-old daughter Hayley*, and to assist them in their role as carers.
The modification was funded primarily by the NDIS, with Lisa and Stu contributing additional funds for modification in addition to that assessed to be reasonable and necessary.
Their key message for others is to be prepared, be patient, don’t hesitate to follow up with the NDIS to keep the process moving, and to select your service providers carefully.
Lisa offers the following tips to other parents and families undertaking home modification through an NDIS Plan.
The first step is to get approval to be an NDIS participant.
Information about NDIS eligibility and is available at https://www.ndis.gov.au/ndis-access-checklist or call 1800 800 110 if you have any questions or to ask for an access request form.
Be prepared to provide a lot of detail and reports about the nature of the disability and the impact on daily life, especially if your child is affected by a rare condition.
The next step is getting your NDIS Plan written and budgeted to include home modification assessment.
The NDIS Planners are not necessarily experts in disability or your family’s experience of disability. So, you can’t expect them to know what is out there for you, or to know what home modification involves or costs.
You may not even get to speak to an NDIS Planner face to face. Our Plan was put together entirely over the phone, but I had prepared well, I had put a lot of time into thinking about what goals we wanted to achieve and what wasn’t working for Hayley and us a family.
Parents need to be prepared or have help to do most the research, groundwork and advocacy for yourself. To help us prepare, we found support from our occupational therapist, physiotherapist and specialist. There are also agencies that provide service to help put plans together, and websites and booklets explaining what is involved in home modification, such as the resources from Home Modification Victoria.
Write ‘home modification’ specifically into your NDIS Plan.
A home modification assessment can only be undertaken when you have home modification written into your NDIS Plan.
Have clear objectives in your Plan, specifically stating your need for home modification, the reasons it is necessary and ‘what isn’t working’. In our situation, it was independence for Hayley to shower and toilet, safety (preventing falls) and personal hygiene. She needed to be able to get herself ready for school and her other activities.
Don’t’ wait for someone else to suggest these things.
In thinking about and justifying your need for home modification, be clear about the issues you are facing with your child in accessing the home and rooms within, and in providing care. In our situation, the focus was on the access into the house, into Hayley’s bedroom room, and the bathroom and toilet.
Also think about how the child’s needs will change as they grow, as they want to become more independent, if their condition is likely to change, and also your capacity to continue to provide care into the future.
We were just beginning to experience making the transition from being able lift and carry our child to no longer being able to do this, which had major implications for the future.
Engage experienced professionals to provide the home modification assessment.
The NDIS requires an in-home assessment to be done by an experienced occupational therapist in consultation with a registered building professional.
The funding for the home modification assessment needs to be approved and available before you can engage consultants.
Fees can vary, so make sure you do your homework and ask the NDIS Planner to allow sufficient funds for the assessment team of your choice.
We realise now why the assessment needs be done by an experienced team. There are complexities in home modification that most people would not be aware of, and the NDIS relies on the quality of their advice to approve the home modification, including the recommended design concept and the amount of funding.
It’s not simply the case of you telling them what you want.
You need to be aware that the assessors recommendations for home modification have to consider your functional needs, the compliance requirements such as building certification, waterproofing, plumbing and electrical safety, and the existing structure of the home.
The NDIS will only fund reasonable, necessary and compliant home modifications.
Ask lots of questions and communicate clearly with the assessor and building professional.
You need to feel confident that assessors are willing to listen to your ideas, what you want to achieve, and how you want things to look.
But in the end, their recommendation may be a bit different to what you initially imagined, so you need to understand the reasoning.
Home Modification Victoria came up with a very clever floorplan, design and fitting suggestions for our bathroom, including a new doorway opening into Hayley’s bedroom. They created a lot of space by reconfiguring things in a way we would not have thought of. We could see that their design was going to solve a lot of problems, and it ended up looking like a bathroom which anyone would be excited to have.
Ensure your home modification quote covers the total cost of the home modification.
The cost estimation that goes into the report to the NDIS should include all the costs including any design, building certification, professional consulting, asbestos removal, and project management fees, as well as the cost of materials and labour.
The building construction professionals should take care of this, but it’s worth confirming with them that your project is quoted comprehensively to ensure adequate funding.
This should include a fee for project management in the quote if your modification involves multiple contractors or has specific technical requirements.
When the time comes for construction, it really helped us to have an experienced project manager form Home Modification Victoria to take responsibility for things such as overseeing the design plans, engaging the building certifier and checking compliance.
If we had any questions or issues, the project manager was right onto things, making sure our project was completed as designed. They were able communicate very clearly with the builder and contractors too, so things ran smoothly and any issues were ironed out without compromising the outcome.
Be patient, but don’t be afraid to follow up with the NDIS about where things are up to with the inclusion of home modification into you plan and the approval of funding for your home modification.
When the occupational therapist Assessor submits their report and recommendations to the NDIS, the NDIS will approve reasonable, necessary and compliant home modifications.
We found this process took a few months longer than we expected and was difficult to track.
We had to send a lot of emails to the NDIS to progress the approval of our home modification.
We would recommend finding a good NDIS Support Coordinator in your local area. They can be a great asset by being proactive in following up on the NDIS approval process.
If you can, think about contributing funds of your own to upgrade or extend your home modification to include any additional things that may add value.
For example, we decided to pay for a tile upgrade, an additional doorway widening and cavity slider, and for underfloor heating in the bathroom.
This was discussed and worked out with Home Modification Victoria right from the start.
They were very knowledgeable about what the NDIS may or may not fund, and how to manage the contract to be clear about who was paying for what.
Our contribution was finalised before the design plans were done and the building contract was written.
Stay positive, it will be worth it in the end.
Seeing your child experience independence in basic daily life and regain the dignity and privacy they need, is so important for a parent.
What if things go wrong?
After we eventually got our assessment and approval through the NDIS system, we didn’t really have any problems with the construction side of things.
We contracted through the Home Modification Victoria who assigned a project manager and recommended a builder. They worked closely together.
If you do get to the point where you feel the unhappy with your NDIS Plan or a decision made by the NDIS, there are services out there to help you, such as AMIDA Action for More Independence & Dignity in Accommodation or can speak to your Support Coordinator and ask for a Plan Review or to make a complaint.
For pictures of Hayley’s home modification visit the Project Gallery.
Read more about Hayley’s Home Modification in the related story on the Architecture & Access website.
Download the Home Modification Victoria to Step by Step Guide to home modification for NDIS participants.
Home Modification Victoria is a service of Architecture & Access.
Architecture & Access would like to thank Lisa, Stu and Hayley* for providing this information in the interests of assisting others to navigate the process of undertaking an NDIS home modification. This information is based on their experience, and does not claim to be representative of the experiences of NDIS participants more generally, nor does it constitute professional advice.
Please call Home Modification Victoria at Architecture & Access to discuss your home modification needs on 1300 715 866.
If you have any questions for the NDIS regarding eligibility or to ask for an access request form, go to https://www.ndis.gov.au/ndis-access-checklist or call 1800 800 110
*Names changed for privacy protection. Published with the consent of participant’s.