Formal Supports, Informal Supports & Mainstream Supports

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Have you heard the terms “Informal support”, “Formal Supports” and “Mainstream supports” used within the NDIS space and wondered what it all really means?

When a NDIS planner develops a participant’s plan, they will take into consideration the supports and services the participant already receives (or should reasonably obtain) from informal and mainstream supports. Once this is identified the planner will then determine reasonable and necessary funded supports a participant requires in their plan.

Let us look at these three terms in more detail:

  1. Informal supports can be parents, carers, family members, friendships, and community networks. Essentially, the natural connections you may have with family, friends and the community that assist you in everyday life. These are normally part and parcel of life and are unpaid support provided by your networks.
  2. Mainstream supports are community and other government services available to the public such as Aged Care, Transport, Employment services, Justice system, Education system, Health Care system, Child Protection, Family & Community Services, Housing etc
  3. Formal supports are funded supports approved within your NDIS plan such as for therapy, support workers, assistive technology, support coordination etc.

Here is an example of how a NDIS planner may incorporate informal and mainstream supports into your plan before considering the level of formal support you require.

12-year-old John is interested to play soccer with his local football club and has include this as one of his NDIS goals.

Training occurs on a Thursday afternoon and tournaments every second Sunday. John’s parents indicated that they are available over the weekend to transport and accompany John to his tournaments. However, will not be available on Thursdays to support him as they both work and there are no other informal supports available.

The NDIS planner will consider including funding for a support worker to assist John to get ready for training and accompany John to training and back on a Thursday. It would be reasonable to expect John’s parents (informal supports) to be able to support him during the weekend for tournaments.

John has a mobility issue due to his disability that requires orthotics. The NDIS planner can include funding (formal support) for a physiotherapist or an Orthopaedic to assess and prescribe orthotics, and funding to cover the cost of the orthotics. Funding will also be considered for a physiotherapist to provide a tailored exercise plan to ensure John is able to achieve his goal.

It is the participants responsibility to cover the cost of registration and all other soccer equipment required that are not considered disability specific such as shin pads, socks, jersey, water bottle etc.

John also has diabetes that is not related to his disability and his disability does not limit his ability to manage his diabetes. Therefore, the NDIS expects the health care system (mainstream support) to assist and manage John’s diabetes. This can include the General Practitioner developing a health care plan, access to resources and support groups and the purchase of insulin etc.

It is important to note that the needs of each participant is extremely unique and each NDIS plan is built specifically for the participant. Therefore, a participant with a similar disability or circumstance as John above may have a completely different plan. The NDIS reviews each case individually and your eligibility for funded supports will depend on several factors such as the type of disability you have, your access and suitability to informal and mainstream supports, sustainability of informal supports and the impact it has on your life.

Your support coordinator can assist you to identify and differentiate formal, informal, and mainstream supports based on your circumstances and needs. Your support coordinator can also connect you with mainstream supports available in your area and explore ways to strengthen your informal supports. For more information, visit the below NDIS links:

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