More than just furry friends, assistance animals can support people with a disability to live safely, become more independent and complete everyday tasks.
But the NDIS rules around funding assistance animals can be complex and confusing.
Today we’re taking a look at what the NDIS considers when funding assistance animals and the evidence required to support a funding application.
What is an assistance animal?
The NDIS describes an assistance animal as one that is “trained to perform at least three tasks or behaviours that reduce the functional impacts of a person’s impairment and is assessed by an authorised body for public access.”
To be approved by the NDIS, an assistance animal must pass a special test to ensure they can access public places and transport safely and effectively. This is called a Public Access Test.
Examples of assistance animals that may be funded by the NDIS include:
- Dog guides (also known as Guide Dogs or Seeing Eye Dogs)
- Medical alert animals
- Hearing assistance animals
- Mobility assistance animals
- Psychiatric assistance animals
- Assistance animals for developmental disorders.
The NDIS does not provide any detail about the types of animals it may fund. Dog guides (sometimes referred to as therapy dogs) are the most common animals used for disability support.
Supports the NDIS may fund.
The NDIS may fund “reasonable and necessary” supports related to assistance animals including:
- A suitable and qualified animal
- Associated participant assessment
- Provider incurred animal training costs
- Costs associated with maintenance of the animal during its working life.
Applying and providing supporting evidence.
The application process for assistance animals is quite detailed. The NDIS has developed an Assistance Animal Assessment Template that will help you provide all the required information.
Evidence needs to be supplied in writing with input from:
- An NDIS participant assistant animal provider
- Allied health professionals
- The NDIS participant.
Guidelines for supplying information and evidence.
There are extensive rules which your application must meet and you’ll need to provide evidence to show that you meet each criteria. We’ve summarised some of the main guidelines below.
Safety and risk.
- An assistance animal will not be funded if it is likely to harm the participant or pose a risk to others. The primary handler must be able to control, care for and maintain the wellbeing of the animal.
- Funding won’t be provided if there is risk to the wellbeing and safety of the animal.
Achieving goals, objectives and aspirations.
- You need to provide evidence of how the assistance animal will help you work towards and/or achieve the functional goals, objectives and aspirations included in your NDIS Plan.
Social and economic participation.
- How will the animal assist you with social and economic participation? Evidence is needed about your current level of function and any barriers to social and economic participation. You’ll also need a description of how the assistance animal will assist in overcoming these barriers.
Value for money.
- Expected functional outcomes and long term benefits
- The benefit of the assistance animal relative to the cost of other supports that may achieve the same outcome
- How the assistance animal will reduce the need for other supports and over what time period.
Effective and beneficial.
- How the assistance animal will perform at least three tasks that will reduce the functional impact of a disability
- Other best practice interventions that have been used or trialled and their effectiveness
- Confirmation of training and qualifications of the assistance animal.
Top tip: Assistance animals won’t be funded if it is contrary to the law, where a participant has behaviours of concern or they’ve had drug or alcohol misuse that has not stabilised in the previous 12 months.
Can you use NDIS funds to train your own pet?
Unfortunately not. The NDIS will not fund a participant to train their own dog or other pet to be an assistance animal. It also does not generally provide funding for training an animal before it becomes a qualified assistance animal.
Can you use NDIS funds to buy a pet?
No. The NDIS will only fund an animal if they meet the requirements of an assistance animal. The animal must be fully trained and qualified.
Originally published on 07 August 2020, updated 07 October 2021.
Want to know more?
If you’d like to speak to a member of our crew to learn more about how to make the NDIS work for you, please give us a call on 1300 05 78 78, contact us via our website (online chat available) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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