CEO update to members, re: mealtime supports under NDIS

I understand that there is considerable concern regarding the funding of speech pathology supports for oral eating and drinking under the NDIS. At present there is variability in the different states and territories, in regard to which supports that allow people with a disability to participate in enjoyable, effective and safe mealtimes are provided from health versus disability services. Members are also reporting differing and inconsistent decisions by Planners within the NDIS.

The Association continues to advocate for speech pathology supports for oral eating and drinking for people with a disability to be funded within individual NDIS Plans as the NDIS implemented nationally. Speech Pathology Australia was informed at a meeting with the NDIA in mid-February that the decision regarding who will be responsible for funding mealtime supports is being addressed by the Council of Australian Government’s Disability Reform Council (COAG DRC). It was also stated that a decision was not expected to be reached for several months.

There has subsequently been some confusion and apprehension that a decision had been made by the Council of Australian Governments Disability Reform Council (which comprises jurisdictional Ministers of Disability, Health and Education), that funding for speech pathology supports for mealtimes would no longer be included in individualised plans, and that people with disabilities would be required to access these from Health. The Association has sought clarification from Minister Jane Prentice (Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) and on the 7 May we were advised of the following:

“The Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments through the COAG DRC have not yet agreed to a position on this matter. The email we received from Speech Pathology Australia is correct in reporting that responsibilities for dysphagia and meal time supports are not yet finalised and that negotiations to determine responsibility are ongoing. When an agreed position is determined, the NDIA will undertake a communication plan to educate NDIA staff and the community to ensure a clear understanding of the agreed position.”

Following this confirmation, the Association would advise that if a participant has funds within their NDIS plan and/or provision of mealtime supports is part of an existing service agreement, it is appropriate for members to continue to provide these supports using NDIS funds. As with other supports being provided under NDIS, mealtime supports should be provided by professionals with the appropriate skills and knowledge, and following the consent of the participant or their nominee that these supports relate to the goals within their NDIS plan.

Speech Pathology Australia will continue to monitor the situation, and will provide further updates and information to members as soon as a decision is reached.

Gail Mulcair
Chief Executive Officer