Financial and legal matters
A range of funding options and legal services are available to people with a disability.
Benefits, funding, pensions and grants
If you are looking for funding, the state and territory governments provide a number of programs that offer housing, home modifications, personal care, home help, respite care, transport, and equipment. Most are not means tested, but priority and waiting lists may force those who can pay for services to make "co-payments" or turn to commercial alternatives.
Also look out for other funding options on offer such as SCIA's Grant Scheme, the annual scholarships offered by ParaQuad or funding in the form of Grants coming from other organisations.
It is important that those in hospital with new injuries apply for the necessary services and funding as early as possible. The hospital social worker will co-ordinate this process. Leaving hospital without the full range of services being in place can result in dislocation from the community, poor rehabilitation, pressure on families and forced returns to hospital.
Funding options will change for people as they become a participant under the NDIS. For more information about the NDIS and how it will effect you please see the information SCIA has put together about the NDIS here.
Advance payments - Pensioners can get an advance payment of their benefit.
Aids and Equipment Schemes provide access to a range of aids and equipment for eligible people. The eligibility requirements may vary, as will the types and variety of equipment available.
Barrows Fund from Therapy Focus in Western Australia - The Barrows Fund assists with the purchase of a range of items including equipment, communication devices, sporting and recreational activities, home and garden modifications, accessible transport, respite, memberships and much more up to the total value of $1000.
Better Life Mobile - A phone plan offering affordable, low-cost mobile phone plans to disadvantaged and low-income Australians. Available to staff of community organisations and anyone with a Health Care Card.
Child Disability Assistance Payment - An annual payment to assist parents with the costs of caring for a child with a disability.
Companion Card - The Companion Card Scheme enables eligible people with lifelong disability to participate at venues and activities without incurring the cost of a second ticket for their companion. The cardholder presents their card at participating affiliate organisations to purchase a ticket or pay an entry fee and receive a ticket for their companion at no extra charge.
Continence Aids Payment Scheme - Assists people aged 5 years or more who have permanent and severe incontinence to meet some of the costs of incontinence products.
Disability Support Pension - The Disability Support Pension is paid to people who cannot work because of their disability. Eligibility is assessed according to assets, income and work ability.
Employment Assistance Fund (Job Access) - The Fund provides assistance to employers of people with disability and mental health condition by providing financial assistance to purchase a range of work related modifications and services. Assistance is available for people who are about to start a job or who are currently working, as well as those who require assistance to find and prepare for work.
Essential Medical Equipment Payment - For people who use certain essential medical equipment or have certain medical conditions that medically require the use of heating and/or cooling in their home.
GST Exemption for purchasing a vehicle - You can purchase a car GST-free if you are a person with a disability and you intend to use the car to travel to and from gainful employment for either two years or 40,000 kilometres from the date you purchase it.
SCIA Grant scheme - SCIA offer members a grant of up to $2000 to help with the financing of tools, equipment, respite and many other activities that can help empower people to live an independent and engaged life.
Grants from Therapyfocus in Western Australia - The Grants for Inclusion, Value and Equality (GIVE) program assists with the purchase of items and activities that support independence, participation and social inclusion of people with disabilities and their families. You need to be a client of Therapy Focus to apply.
Health Care Card - Holders of the Health Care Card are entitled to medicines at a reduced cost as well as other concessions.
Help to buy items - No-interest loans (NILS) are available from a number of community groups and charities. For information and to locate a NILS program in your area go to the Good Shepherd Microfinance website.
Home Maintenance and Modifications programs. Assisting people living in or returning to their private or rented home to make the modifications necessary to meet the needs of their disability. Visit the website in your State to find out details about the program. NSW / Vic / Qld / WA / SA / NT / ACT / Tas.
Blue Badge Insurance - Blue Badge Insurance is Australia’s first insurance specialist focused exclusively on providing better insurance solutions for people living with a disability or restricted mobility. Blue Badge will insure mobility equipment, wheelchairs and can provide discounted premiums to Disability Parking Permit Holders and cars that have been converted for drivers or passengers with a disability. The company insures a wide range of vehicle conversions including hand and foot controls, hoists and ramps from wheelchair modifications.
Suresave - Provides travel insurance for people with a pre-existing condition such as a spinal cord injury. When you are applying for insurance you will need to fully disclose your medical condition and the cover offered will be based on that and other factors.
Life Support Rebate - NSW - Assists people to pay their electricity bills if they are required, or have someone living with them who is required, to use approved energy-intensive equipment at home.
Medical Energy Rebates
People with spinal cord injury can have trouble regulating their core body temperature. This means they have additional energy costs for heating and cooling their homes year-round. In NSW, the Medical Energy Rebate will help cover those costs. Eligible customers will be able to apply for the rebate by contacting their energy retailer directly. The rebate of $130 annually will be automatically deducted from quarterly power bills.
Other states have similar schemes:
Victoria. The Medical Cooling Concession
Mobility Allowance - The Mobility Allowance is payable to people with disabilities to offset the cost of travelling to work, training, volunteering or job search activities. It is not means tested, but recipients must be involved in those activities 8 hours per week.
Newstart Allowance - If a person with disability is assessed as able to work but has not been able to find a job, he may be able to receive the Newstart Allowance.
Pensioner Education Supplement - for people who are studying to help with education expenses.
Pensioner Concession Card - Holders of the Pensioner Concession Card are entitled to medicines at a reduced cost as well as other concessions.
There are various models available for the management of your personal care.
Home and Community Care Program (HACC) - This program is managed by the States and provides funding for services to support people with disabilities. The program provides support and maintenance to people living at home Usually you will be asked to contribute some funding towards the program. Visit the HACC website in your State to find out details about the program. (As at Feb 2016 Australian Unity now administer the HACC program for NSW) / Vic / Qld / WA / SA / NT / ACT / Tas
The Community Support Program (CSP) provides portable, flexible and individualised funding for people with a physical or neurological disability who need significant and frequent personal care and supports to complete activities of daily living. The CSP replaces the former High Needs Pool and Attendant Care Programs, which were phased out on 30 June 2014.
The Lifetime Care & Support Scheme provides treatment, rehabilitation and attendant care services to people severely injured in motor accidents in NSW, regardless of who was at fault in the accident. People who are eligible for the Scheme will have a spinal cord injury; moderate to severe brain injury; amputations; severe burns; or will be blind as a result of the accident. For details visit the LCSS website.
SCIA Grant Scheme - offers Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) members a grant of up to $2000 to help with the financing of tools, equipment, respite and many other activities that can help empower people to live an independent and engaged life.
WA - Equipment for Living Grants - are available to assist eligible people obtain vital equipment not currently available through the Community Aids and Equipment Program or other support programs. The maximum individual grant is $5,000.
QLD - Youngcare Home Soon Grants - support young people by making it possible for them to transition out of aged care and back to their community. Funding between $5,000 and $20,000 is available for equipment, home modifications or respite/attendant carer services. In exceptional circumstances, funding of up to $50,000 will be considered.
VIC - Foundation 97 - Grants are available to people with spinal cord injury who don't have the funding available to participate in sport and recreation, or to undertake training or education to increase their employment opportunities. The deadline for the current round of grants closed on the 3rd of October 2014 but keep a look out for the next round of funding.
ParaQuad NSW's Golden Stave Foundation offers scholarships to provide opportunities for young people under 25 with a spinal cord injury to undertake further study.
SpineCare Foundation's Gregory and Dolores Farrell Scholarship is available to people who use a wheelchair for mobility; are Australian citizens; and have been accepted into a university course in NSW or are currently enrolled in one.
Sickness Allowance - In the period before Disability Support Pension is paid, Sickness Benefit is payable.
Telephone Allowance - Helps with the costs of having a telephone and home internet.
Travelling overseas - If you are leaving Australia to travel or to live in another country, you need to check how this might affect your Centrelink payments, health care and child support arrangements.
Taxi Transport Subsidy Schemes (TTSS) - Provides subsidised travel.
Legal Information and Services
If you are looking for legal services there are many places where you can go to find legal advice. SCIA has a partnership with Slater and Gordon who deal with a range of legal matters. Call them on 02 8267 0633 and mention SCIA to see if they can help you or visit Slater and Gordon.
The Law Society of NSW has an online directory where you can search for a solicitor or legal practice. Other States will have a similar service.
LawAccess NSW is a government service that provides free legal advice and information and referrals to people in NSW over the phone, and is often a good place to start. LawAccess cannot act for you in your matter but can tell you whether it is a problem the law can help with, give you general legal advice and tell you who may be able to assist you. You can contact LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529.
Legal Aid NSW will provide legal advice to anyone in most areas of law. You should contact your nearest Legal Aid office and make an appointment to see a lawyer or, if you are not sure which is your nearest Legal Aid office, call LawAccess NSW to find out.
Community Legal Centres. Most community legal centres can provide free legal advice. Occasionally they may also be able to represent you. However they have limited resources and can only act in a limited number of matters. A community legal centre may also give you referrals to other organisations. You can call LawAccess NSW to find the centre closest to you.
Private Law Firm Pro Bono Schemes. Some law firms have pro bono schemes and may be able to act for you without charge. Usually the firms can only assist you if you have been refused Legal Aid and cannot get assistance through a community legal centre. Different law firms have different criteria by which they assess whether they will take on a pro bono client. A law firm will not be able to take your matter on if it has a conflict of interest or if your case is in an area outside their expertise. The best way to be referred to a law firm pro bono scheme is through Legal Aid NSW, a community legal centre, or the NSW Law Society’s Pro Bono Scheme.
Authorising Contracts and other documents
Some useful advice on what you can do to authorise a document if you can't make a signature with a pen.
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