It can be an amazing moment when you finally receive your NDIS package. Depending on your choices and the system you are switching from (or perhaps you’ve previously had no support at all), being funded under a National Disability Insurance Scheme package of supports can be a liberating moment where for the first time in a long time, you not only have a say, you have the say in what your life looks like and how you will be supported.

Yes, you (probably) should spend every dollar in your NDIS plan

Unfortunately, the hope and promise of the NDIS has so far found the cold realities of government management a rather challenging place. In the last year we have seen:

With all these misdeeds, mismanagement and calamities, it’s fair to say the community of NDIS participants, carers and care professionals are over all a resilient bunch to weather all this and still carry on with the scheme. Yet in all of that, or maybe because of it, we are a community that seeks to be fair, to not take more than is needed.

Beware NDIS Plan Reviews That Use Historic Spending

That is why it is so disappointing to hear when people report that the National Disability Insurance Agency is looking at historic spending when it comes to plan reviews. Making decisions about future funding based on historic spending goes against the goals-based empowerment at the core of the NDIS (though obviously, not the first time the NDIA has done this). It looks backwards at what was instead of forwards at what could be and to that end it is a regressive and disempowering approach from the agency charged with stewarding the NDIS rollout.

Beyond the immediate impacts, it also leads to one very obvious incentive – you are probably going to be better off if you spend your whole package.

This doesn’t just mean better off today, it also means better off tomorrow. Because if the NDIA continues to look at past spending in plan reviews, your choice to be frugal could cost you later down the line when you do need those funds.

This is a classic challenge of government budgeting, particularly in the care sector. In government agencies it is common to set budgets based on historic spending and further to claw back any excess cash at the end of the budget. This motivates civil service managers to spend, spend, spend or risk a smaller budget in the next period.*

It seems that the NDIA may be intent on bringing this same practice to it’s relationships with NDIS participants. So it is with sadness that we do have to concede that yes, you will probably be better off now and in the future if you make sure you do spend all of your package.

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Use it or lose it – How to spend your NDIS plan

This is not the position any of us want to be in. Really we’d all prefer a fair go and the plans based on goals that were originally promised. However, if this is the way the NDIA is going to run the NDIS, then we can at least make the most of it. If you are finding your provider is unable to meet all of your demand to ensure you use your full plan, you can take the opportunity to try out other providers in your area.

For example, if you normally get your services from a one stop shop provider – say you get OT and Speech Pathology from the same provider. You may find that one or both of these services are booked out and unable to provide you with all the supports you have available in your plan before it finishes. In this case, you may look and find another local Speech Pathologist who can provide that therapy and give them a go. This would give you a chance to see what another provider has to offer, giving you more choices if say your primary provider is sick, closes their practice or becomes too expensive.

If your plan includes consumables that have a decent shelf life, that is aids or continence pads and things that can last a few months or more, then you may find it useful to stock up. If you are behind on this part of your plan then it can be one easy way to catch up and keep your spend in line with your plan. It seems government managers (the people your NDIS planners answer to) generally find it easier to shift budgets that stay overall the same than to advocate for an increase after a decrease. So if you find your plan has over allocated consumables, you may be better positioned to get the money shifted to the things you really do need if you spend all your consumables budget and get it reallocated in your next plan.

While it is disappointing that the NDIA is reputedly looking to your past to define the future of your NDIS plan, we could choose to wallow in dismay, but that isn’t who we are. So yet again, we’ll make the best we can of this situation and hope that one day the NDIA will grow up to become an Agency that can truly fulfil the promise of the NDIS – dare to dream!

What are your tips on how to make sure your NDIS plan is all spent before a review? Please share your advice in the comments!


*Full disclosure: One of CareNavigator’s founders designed the outcomes-based commissioning framework for an Australian health system where this historic approach to public sector budgeting and incentivised mismanagement was a direct obstacle to overcome in the system design – we’ve lived this budgeting nightmare first hand.


  1. carla

    I have had my plan for 6 months and not a cent has been spent my support person has been getting a quote YES i say a quote since about 3-4 weeks after my plan come in but still has nothing happening I’m told that it will start this week fingers crossed it does. I pray that i keep on this good track and i don’t re-laps because the way this is working i would be left on my own with no support if that happens this way suppose to be a way of supports but if life was as bad as it was i would have died waiting for service to be put in place.

  2. Victor

    My NDIS plan has been running 10 weeks now and i have not been able to spend any of it yet. The agency blockes me at every step. Previous supports i had was the mobility allowance and self-funded cleaners for 5 hours each week. The NDIS tell me i cant get travel allowance to drive to work because i drive my own car. But, under the mobility allowance i was paid because i had to drive my own car because i could not use public transport. So, the confussing part to me is why do i loss the mobility allowance i was getting because im now under NDIS, when i dont receive any travel component in the plan. At my NDIS meeting they told me they were an insurance company and every claim would have to be reasonable and necessary. They told me the services would start out slow and catchup near the end so the next years plan would not decrease. Apparently they ticked the box so they managed the plan when i thought i would be self managed. Ive spent $1500 on services and they told me i can not get backpaid to the start of my plan because their copy of the plan says the core is NDIS managed, while my copy says it self-managed. Apparently we dont get a full copy of the plan and the online plan is not complete either. There is more written on their copy then ours. They have a complete breakdown on how the budget is worked out. They told me at week 4 my budget included 2.7hours of help with home cleaning. Now at week 10 they tell me a reasonable time is 1 hour per week. How can i use that part of my budgeted 2.7 hours when they only deem 1 hour reasonable. I feel they are blocking me from spending. Because i cant use the cleaner i want, they cant backpay, i cant start spending until my plan is changed, i cant get paid until i have a special bank account. These are the excuses i get. Im thinking they must have my budgeted funds in a bank account, earning interest. Why tell me i can have 1 hour cleaning per week and near the end of my plan bring in a skip bin and have a big cleanup. This is not what i want, why am i being treated like trash.