Hub News chatted with Kristie McCarthy about how she manages her NDIS plan, her move towards living more independently and ‘the one that got away’ in the 2013 Powerchair Football Cup Final.
Kristie McCarthy has seen and experienced the highs and lows of self-managing NDIS plans. Kristie co-founded Empowering Solutions, an organisation focused on promoting and educating people with disabilities to have more control over their NDIS funding. She manages her own NDIS plan and has recently applied for Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) funding in the hope of securing a registered property soon.
Q. First up, Powerchair Football NSW - what made you choose football?
I’ve been playing Powerchair Football since 2011 - as long as it has been around. I’ve often been the only female in mixed teams - but they don’t treat me like a girl that’s for sure. And I’m so glad they don’t.
I played for Australia in the last Asia Pacific Oceania Cup - we made it to the Grand Final and I was goalie. We went down 2:1 and I felt like I’d let the team down. But it shouldn’t have even got to me!
"I don’t play anymore, I retired last year, but I’m still very involved. These days, my real passion is working with kids and it’s so rewarding to see their smiles when they get a goal and watch their skills improve.
Training kids and seeing them jump in a fast sports chair and get a goal - you can’t replace that with anything."
The NDIS is based on the idea that people with disability should be empowered to set their own goals and choose their own supports. Some people with disability also choose to manage their own support budget.
Q. How do you manage your NDIS funding?
One of the options under the NDIS is self-management and you can directly hire your support staff. So I hire my own staff and I am the ultimate boss, I don’t have to go to anyone and say do you have staff available on Friday night? I can just ask my staff “Are you free?”
It’s such a great way of doing it - it is a bit more difficult at first, but it costs me less money than it would by going to a service provider. For me it works, it wouldn’t work for everybody.
Q. How much work is involved in managing your own NDIS plan?
There’s a misconception around how long it takes - I put aside an hour a fortnight, but it rarely takes me more than half an hour and I can often do it in 15 minutes. I’ve got my system down - I know what I’m doing I just update my staff’s hours and it’s all semi-automated.
"I’ve wanted to move out since I was 16, not because I don’t absolutely adore my parents, but it was just something I wanted to do but never believed it was possible. I knew that the funding wasn’t there, and you get into a mindset like ‘Oh I’m going to live with my parents forever’. But now there are ways that you can do it and there is support available."
Q. How did you approach applying for Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) funding in your NDIS plan?.
I don’t have SDA funding - but I’m so close. I’m coming into my 4th plan. It has taken a long time and understanding the process is key. At first I set SDA funding as a goal, but as a medium term goal. I then realised I needed to request SDA funding as a priority.
My ideal plan was to have a third of my care outsourced to a service provider (my parents were doing the bulk of my care) in my first year, two thirds in the second year and then my full time care in the third year. I didn't really know about Supported Independent Living (SIL) so my assumption was that I’d move into non-SDA regular accommodation. My plan was to ease myself into independent living, because if I’d run into it full-on, I think I would have been very overwhelmed.
Q. What would you say to people reading this who are thinking “I’d like more choice and control, but I’m just not ready”?
Even if you don’t think you’re ready yet, try and get the funding in your plan because it takes a long time for funding to be approved and you can start getting ready in that time. If it’s something you want to do and even if it’s something you think you may never want to do, at least that funding is there. You can start building up your confidence bit by bit.
I would recommend trying to phase out your informal support like family and friends - not phase them out of your life, just phase them out of your care. Anything you consider to be a carer’s role e.g. meal prep, get carers to do that - if you’ve got the funding of course.
"Lack of confidence is one of the biggest barriers. We have lived through a culture of dependence and block funding. We did what we were told.
Q. You’ve recently applied for your own SDA registered apartment. Who has helped you through this process?
I was doing this myself - I read a lot about what the Summer Foundation is doing, but assumed I wouldn’t get a place because there are young people in residential aged care and I thought they would get priority. It never put me off, I just never really believed it. Until I get it I probably still won’t believe it.
Q. How did you connect with the Summer Foundation and the Housing Hub?
I actually saw an information session on independent living and the Summer Foundation was there and they’d just launched the Housing Hub website. So I went searching on the website almost daily and then all of a sudden these apartments that I really wanted came up and it was literally the day they came up, I rang Summer Foundation and said “I need to get into these ones”. I really wanted one of these apartments because they’re about 200 metres from the metro, it’s the perfect location for me. Not too far from the city or work, from friends. Plus it’s an amazing complex and location.
Q. How has the Tenancy Matching Service helped you apply for your own home?
They have helped so much. Kelly Aguirre (Project Coordinator NSW) did an information session with one of my support groups and she said to me “ You need to properly engage with us because you’re on the right track, but you’ve got to go through the process and we can help with that, rather than do it all by yourself. '' My actual Project Coordinator is Maria Ellensohn. She has been brilliant.
Q. Any challenges?
Finding OTs that are 1). Available and 2). Understand what you need. I didn’t get support coordination in my plan, even though I pushed so hard to get it. So having access to people like the Tenancy Matching Team at Summer who understand the process has been really important, for example, the guide to writing a housing plan is 69 pages - that’s not the plan, that’s just the guide! It’s supposed to be done by a support coordinator and I was trying to do that myself and it did get overwhelming.
Powerchair Football NSW:
There are a number of useful resources on the Housing Hub website to help you on your housing journey. If you have questions about SDA please call us on 1300 61 64 63 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Housing providers can find out more about the Tenancy Matching Service here or contacting us directly via phone on 1300 626 560 and speak to Alison Burgess or email email@example.com.