Source:  https://www.ndis.gov.au/about-us/operational-guidelines/including-specific-types-supports-plans-operational-guideline/including-specific-types-supports-plans-operational-guideline-assistance-animals

Before funding a support, the NDIA must make sure all the criteria in section 34 of the NDIS Act 2013 are met. These are known as the reasonable and necessary criteria.

Will the support assist the participant to pursue their goals, objectives and aspirations included in the participant’s statement of goals and aspirations? (Section 34(1)(a))

To meet this criterion, the NDIA needs information and evidence confirm how the assistance animal will assist the participant to work towards and/or achieve their functional goals, objectives and aspirations  identified in their plan.

Example 1. Joe is a 30 year old participant with low vision

Joe has a goal to travel by himself on the train to his new workplace. This goal is identified in his plan. To achieve this goal, he requires support with mobility.

The report to NDIA must outline the above, confirming that Joe possesses the required independent mobility skills to successfully navigate the environment and that the dog guide can provide support with mobility.

Example 2. Mandy is a 45 year old participant with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Mandy has a goal to independently complete her grocery shopping. This goal is identified in her NDIS plan. To do so, she requires a support that enables her to manage her anxiety to a level that enables her to successfully complete her shopping.

The report to NDIA must outline the above and confirm that an assistance animal can provide support with anxiety management.

Example 3. Connor is a 15 year old participant with autism spectrum disorder

Connor and his parents identify the goal of increased engagement at school.  This goal is identified in his NDIS plan. To achieve this, he requires support with regulating his emotions when he becomes overwhelmed.

The report to NDIA must outline the above and confirm that an assistance animal can provide support with emotional regulation.  

Will the support assist the participant to undertake activities, so as to facilitate the participant’s social and economic participation? (Section 34(1)(b))

To meet this criterion, the NDIA needs information and evidence confirming the following:

  • the participant’s current level of function and any barriers to social and economic participation; and
  • how the assistance animal will assist in overcoming these barriers.
Example 1. Joe

Joe identifies that he will often need to travel via the train station at peak times, to get to and from work. He needs a support that helps him to overcome the current barrier of negotiating complex environments, with open spaces and large crowds. In open spaces, particularly where there are crowds, Joe reports reduced confidence, unreasonably slow pace, and that he easily becomes disorientated.

Joe has a reasonable level of independent mobility using a long cane.  He has had an trial walk with a dog guide, including during peak time at the train station.

The report to NDIA must outline the functional outcomes of this trial walk and demonstrate how a dog guide will facilitate his economic or social participation, in comparison to not having this support.

Example 2. Mandy

Mandy gets increased anxiety when in busy and crowded places, to a level where she will avoid leaving her house without the support of another person.  Mandy has previously owned an assistance animal, during which time she says she accessed the community more than she has over the past two years, since being without this support.

The report to NDIA must provide an outline from Mandy’s treating therapists of their assessment of her, both with and without the support of an assistance animal, in relation to her access to the community for social and economic participation.

Example 3. Connor

Connor and his parents identify the opportunities school provides him in making friends and developing his social interaction skills.  He requires a support that enables him to display socially appropriate behaviours and engage in social interaction with his peers.

The report to NDIA must outline how an assistance animal can support Connor to manage his emotions to a level that supports his social interactions.

Does the support represent value for money in that the costs of the support are reasonable, relative to both the benefits achieved and the cost of alternate support? (Section 34(1)(c))

To meet this criterion, the NDIA needs information and evidence confirming the following:

  • the functional outcomes to be achieved through the use of the assistance animal;
  • the long term benefit of the assistance animal (for example a dog guide is expected to have a working life of approximately 8 years);
  • other supports which may achieve the same outcome, such as assistive technology, therapy supports, a behaviour support plan and/or a self-funded companion animal; and
  • how the assistance animal will reduce the need for other supports and over what time period (e.g. a few months, several years etc.).

 

An animal can have significant therapeutic benefits for people, including participants. However, the report must explain how the assistance animal will benefit the participant over and above that of a companion animal.

Example 1. Joe

In relation to Joe’s mobility support needs, he and his assessor should first explore the use and effectiveness of a long cane and other orientation and mobility techniques. Upon trial, there should be assessment of whether these alternatives assist him to navigate the train station at a reasonable pace and remain orientated.

The report to NDIA must outline the outcomes of the trial with these lower cost alternatives.

Example 2. Mandy

In relation to Mandy’s anxiety management support needs, she and her assessor should first explore the outcomes of alternative supports, including best-practice, evidence-based interventions, such as clinical mental health supports.

The report to NDIA must outline the best-practice evidence-based interventions Mandy has accessed and the associated outcomes of these supports, including Mandy’s ability to complete her grocery shopping independently.

Example 3. Connor

In relation to Connor’s emotional regulation support needs, his parents and assessor should first explore the outcomes of best-practice, evidence-based interventions, including a multidisciplinary therapy program and a behaviour support plan.

The report to NDIA must outline the best-practice evidence-based interventions Connor has accessed and associated outcomes of these supports.  The report should clearly identify what progress he has made thus far and the expected outcomes of future sessions where applicable.

Will the support be, or likely to be, effective and beneficial for the participant, having regard to current good practice? (Section 34(1)(d))

To meet this criterion, the NDIA needs information and evidence confirming the following:

  • best-practice interventions that have been used or trialled and how effective they are; 
  • how the assistance animal will perform at least three tasks that the participant is unable to do; 
  • pre- and post-trial outcome measures and/or lived experience;
  • how the outcomes are a direct result of the assistance animal; 
  • the assistance animal has completed relevant training, and been assessed as suitably qualified as an assistance animal, and 
  • how the assistance animal has been assessed as suitable for the participant.

 

The NDIA recognises that timely access to best practice early childhood intervention is vital for children to ensure that they achieve the best possible outcomes throughout their life. Using the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention approach it would be expected that a multidisciplinary team would have worked with each individual child and family prior to requesting funding for an assistance animal.

There is insufficient published and refereed evidence at this time to support the use of epilepsy seizure dogs as an effective and reliable disability support.

Example 1. Joe

Through trial walks with a dog guide, Joe and his assessor note the outcomes the dog guide enables Joe to achieve. Outcomes include better mobility to and from work, including negotiating the train station; increased confidence and capability in negotiating crowded areas; better ability to negotiate open areas without becoming disorientated; and the ability to move at a more comfortable and acceptable pace.  

The report to NDIA must outline these outcomes and how they relate to the achievement of Joe’s goal.   The report must identify how these outcomes compare to those that can be achieved by the lower cost alternatives also trialled

Example 2. Mandy

To confirm that an assistance animal will still help Mandy, a two week trial is conducted. The purpose of the trial is to work out if Mandy is able to better manage her anxiety in public places that are familiar to her and complete her grocery shopping without the support of another person.

Throughout the trial, Mandy and her assessor note the outcomes the assistance animal helps Mandy to achieve.  Outcomes include independently getting to and from the supermarket in a taxi, independence in finding the items from her shopping list in a logical order, ability to stay on task when there are distractions such as loud noises and ability to interact with other customers and staff while shopping.

The report to NDIA must outline these outcomes and how they relate to the achievement of Mandy’s goal.  The report must identify how these outcomes compare to those that can be achieved by alternate support options.

Example 3. Connor

To explore whether an assistance animal will help Connor with emotional regulation, engagement at school and interactions with his peers, a trial should be conducted in the school setting.  This trial should only proceed dependent on the status and outcomes of best-practice evidence-based interventions previously referred to.

The report to NDIA must outline the outcomes of this trial, where this has been considered appropriate to proceed.  The report must identify how these outcomes compare to those that can be achieved by alternate support options.

Does the funding or provision of the support take into account what is reasonable to expect families, carers, informal networks and the community to provide? (Section 34(1)(e))

To meet this criterion, the NDIA needs information and evidence confirming the following:

  • the tasks and supports expected of the assistance animal would not generally be considered parental responsibility;
  • the tasks and supports that would reasonably be provided by family and other household members; and
  • how the assistance animal will provide benefits above that of a companion animal (e.g. pet) that would generally be provided by an individual or their family. 
Example 1. Joe

Prior to consideration of a dog guide, Joe and his assessor must consider whether it would generally be considered a reasonable expectation of others, including family, to regularly support another adult to get to and from work.

The report to NDIA must outline the tasks and supports that would reasonably be provided by family and other household members and evidence that the assistance animal will provide benefits above that of a companion animal.

Example 2. Mandy

Prior to consideration of an assistance animal, Mandy and her assessor must consider whether it would generally be considered a reasonable expectation of others, including family, to regularly support another adult to complete their grocery shopping.

The report to NDIA must outline the tasks and supports that would reasonably be provided by family and other household members and evidence that the assistance animal will provide benefits above that of a companion animal.

Example 3. Connor

Prior to consideration of an assistance animal, Connor’s parents and his assessor must consider the level and frequency of support that a child of Connor’s age would typically require to manage their emotions in the school setting.

The report to NDIA must outline:

  • tasks which would generally be considered parental responsibility; 
  • tasks and supports that would reasonably be provided by family and the school; and
  • evidence that the assistance animal will provide benefits above that of a companion animal.

Is the support most appropriately funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme? (Section 34(1)(f))

Generally, assistance animal supports are most appropriately funded under the NDIS for a participant where all the above criteria have been met.