Many individuals with a disability seek a safe and familiar environment with their support system, often provided by their family and friends — known as family support services. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that NDIS participants frequently inquire about the possibility of their loved ones assuming a paid support role.

But is it even possible under current regulations to hire a family member to provide support and care with NDIS funding? In short, the answer is no. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules but in most cases, NDIS funding cannot be used to pay family members.

Even when it is possible to hire a family member as a paid support worker, there are strict guidelines and requirements that must be met to ensure that the person with a disability receives appropriate and professional support.

The difference between formal & informal support

Formal support refers to professional services provided by individuals or organisations outside of one's family or friends. These are paid for using funding from sources like the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

This can include support workers who provide assistance with daily tasks like meal preparation and personal care, as well as healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists and speech pathologists.

In contrast, informal support, also known as unpaid support or family support services, refers to the assistance provided by family, friends, and the community. During NDIS planning or review meetings, you may be asked about your current informal support network to identify any gaps that could be filled by formal support. It's important to recognise that both formal and informal supports are vital for the wellbeing and independence of individuals with disability.

Examples of informal supports

Teaching a sibling how to use a computer
Photo by Brooke Cagle / Unsplash

Some examples of informal family support services include:

  • Assistance with personal care provided by family members at home
  • Support from a sibling to learn how to use a new communication device or software
  • A lift from a friend to a doctor's appointment
  • Assistance from a member of a community group to learn new skills.

These informal supports play a vital role in the wellbeing and independence of individuals with disability and are often provided by people who have established relationships and understanding of the person's needs and preferences. They are also expected as part of regular everyday life.

Why can’t family members be hired as paid support?

As we mentioned earlier, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has strict regulations in place to ensure that funding is used for reasonable and necessary family support services related to the individual's disability.

Therefore, family members are typically not eligible to receive funding as their support is often considered something that should be provided as standard. There are several other reasons for restrictions to be in place:

  • It can restrict the individual's choice and control in the implementation of their support, which is not in line with the NDIS principles of empowering individuals with disability
  • It can hinder the development of the individual's independence and increase their vulnerability to abuse, neglect, and exploitation
  • It may also result in a conflict of interest between the family member's financial interests and the participant's best interests
  • If a family member assumes the role of a support worker, it can limit their opportunities for respite and negatively impact family relationships and dynamics

These factors are carefully considered by the NDIA in their decision-making process regarding the eligibility of family members as paid support via the NDIS.

What circumstances allow for informal support?

A friend puts their hand on another friend's shoulder
Photo by NONRESIDENT / Unsplash

While it’s not standard for family members to be paid for providing family support services, there are some rare circumstances where a family member can be approved as paid support under the NDIS. However, it is important to note that these situations are exceptional, and the NDIA carefully considers each case to ensure that the individual with disability receives appropriate and professional support.

Some circumstances where a family member may be funded to provide support include:

  • When there is a risk of harm or neglect to the participant, or when there are cultural or religious reasons for funding a family member to provide support
  • If the participant has strong personal views about their care, such as their privacy or dignity, a family member may be considered as a suitable support worker
  • If the participant lives remotely and has no access to other support and services
  • If all other options have been explored and have been found to be unsuitable

It is important to note that if a family member is approved as a paid support worker, the same rules and regulations apply as they would for any other support worker, depending on how the NDIS plan is managed. For example, if the person with disability is agency-managed, their support worker must be NDIS registered.

What Other Options Do I Have?

Like Family is an NDIS registered provider that can provide much needed respite to the primary carers of people with disability, illness or injury. We can help your loved ones to increase their independence, learn new skills and build lasting relationships through social and community support.

Our social support workers are highly vetted, including having an NDIS Worker Check, so you can trust and rely on them to provide quality care. You can search for support workers on our platform based on location, age, support experience and much more.

Get in touch with us today and let us help you find the right support for your needs.