Short Term Accommodation and the NDIS – The Hard Truth

October 10th, 2023

As plan managers, we find Short Term Accommodation, or STA, is one of the most contested areas of NDIS funding, with many participants, support coordinators and even NDIA planners having differing opinions on what should and shouldn’t be funded.

What is Short Term Accommodation?

Short Term Accommodation is defined as support for when a participant needs to live out of home for a short period of time and can be used for respite for both participants and their carers.

On that simple level, STA aims to give participants a means to pay for the accommodation, care, food and activities that can be packaged together in a single stay away from their main place of residence.

However, and perhaps unsurprisingly when it comes to the NDIS, things aren’t so simple when you get into the details. Here’s what is clear:

  • STA comes out of a participant’s Core Supports budget.
  • It is usually funded for a group price, meaning they’re most likely to allow STA claims from specific providers who host multiple participants at a time.
  • Invoices for STA must consider price limits of all support items, including all expenses in the 24-hour period such as assistance with self-care or community access activities, accommodation, food and negotiated activities.
  • If a participant’s plan includes STA, it will be funded for up to 28 days of accommodation per year, but it can only be booked for up to 14 days at a time. A participant might arrange for several two or three day stays throughout any given year, or book two 14-day stays (or anything in between).
  • If a participant’s Plan does not specify the need for STA, they are still able to fund it if:
    • it’s relevant to their disability
    • helps them pursue their goals
    • fit the reasonable and necessary criteria
    • demonstrates value for money, including evidence of discounts for any partially delivered daily supports, such as missing daily activities or meals

In short, the NDIA is very clear on the fact that STA isn’t to be used as a way to have a holiday. Here it is direct from the NDIS guidelines website:

‘We only fund Short Term Accommodation when the need for this is related to your disability, such as for respite or skill building. Talk to your Support Coordinator, local area coordinator, Early Childhood Partner or planner if you’re going on holiday and need your disability support delivered in another location.’

So while the NDIS aspires to give participants choice and control, the reality is, if their need for STA isn’t clearly outlined in their Plan, then it’s their LACs or NDIA planners who are required to make a call on what’s reasonable and necessary when it comes to STA.

Where STA is not mentioned in a Plan, support coordinators, plan managers or even the participants must get in contact with the relevant LAC or NDIA planner.

What Are the Kinds of Things that Can be Funded?

On that basis, participants should be prepared to find providers who:

  • Have experience in delivering STA for NDIS participants
  • Offer group packages
  • Offer supports that can deliver clear benefits according to the needs and goals of the participant
  • Can demonstrate value for money through their services
  • Combine food, accommodation and all relevant supports into a single package price

What Won’t be Funded as STA?

Along with representing value for money and not being a simple holiday solution, STA funding needs to meet a number of criteria to be claimed.

If the services provided match any of the below criteria, chances are it won’t be able to be claimed as STA:

  • Crisis accommodation – the NDIA has separate rules for when accommodation is required in an emergency, with each State and Territory having specialist services available for these purposes. Use Google to search for crisis accommodation support for your region
  • Medium or longer term accommodation – if the length of stay is over 14 days, it’s no longer considered STA. The NDIA has separate guidelines for this situation, described as “Medium Term Accommodation” for use when transitioning between residences
  • No supports provided beyond accommodation – if it’s accommodation only and it’s unclear how it helps the participant in meeting their goals as detailed in their Plan, the NDIA is likely to consider this a holiday and not suitable for claiming
  • If supports are unjustifiably expensive – as mentioned, value for money is a key criteria for the support to be considered as STA. In addition, the NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits document lays out specific price limits for each type of support that might be included in STA

Getting to The Point

All of the above information makes it easy to understand why participants often struggle to understand what can and can’t be considered for STA funding.

Working with a good plan manager will help determine when something is clearly allowable, but it’s not their job to make a judgement call when things aren’t cut-and-dry either.

That’s why, whenever a participant is seeking to engage a provider for STA that isn’t clearly within the spirit of the NDIA’s guidelines, we will always ask they seek clarity from their NDIA planner or LAC in writing.

Debora Maiore

Debora Maiore is Capital Guardian's local representative for the Glass House Mountains and nearby. She also serves as State Plan Manager for Queensland, applying her extensive knowledge of the NDIS and business administration to support all our clients and their local reps statewide.

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