NDIS funds for swimming lessons

Please note: The below information is for Australian residents only and pertains to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. 

There are around 4.3 million Australians who have a disability.

Within the next five years the NDIS will provide an estimated 500,000 Australians who have permanent and significant disability with funding for supports and services.

This means the NDIS is designed to provide support to around 10% of the population who have a disability.

Can swimming be funded by the NDIS?

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a grey area. Swimming lessons are seen by the NDIS as an ordinary family expense for everyone and therefore not a disability-specific need.

Of course we know firsthand that mainstream swimming lessons are not suitable or safe for many of our participants, and that many of our participants (if not all of them) have an increased need to learn to swim due to their disability increasing the risks for them in and around the water.

In the past, the NDIS have funded the PRICE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GROUP AND 1:1 LESSON,  IF it can be justified that the participant requires 1:1 lessons due to their disability.

Despite the NDIS saying there have been no changes to the overall position of swimming lessons, we have noticed a decrease in participants having this arrangement funded over the past 12-18months.

Can swimming be funded by the NDIS?

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a grey area. Swimming lessons are seen by the NDIS as an ordinary family expense for everyone and therefore not a disability-specific need.

Of course we know firsthand that mainstream swimming lessons are not suitable or safe for many of our participants, and that many of our participants (if not all of them) have an increased need to learn to swim due to their disability increasing the risks for them in and around the water.

In the past, the NDIS have funded the PRICE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GROUP AND 1:1 LESSON,  IF it can be justified that the participant requires 1:1 lessons due to their disability.

Despite the NDIS saying there have been no changes to the overall position of swimming lessons, we have noticed a decrease in participants having this arrangement funded over the past 12-18months.

Some important points to consider when seeking funded support:

‘Aquatics program’ NOT swimming.

It's really important to understand that many participants are accessing aquatic services for reasons other than 'learn to swim'; reasons that are specific to their disability. This is essential to include in your application to the NDIS, as it ensures it meets the reasonable and necessary criteria.

Autism Swim approved lessons/sessions are actually referenced as an 'aquatics program' rather than 'swimming lesson' because they have disability-specific considerations such as:

Water Safety - so the participant can access water and water activities in a safe way and reduce their risk of harm.

Water Therapy - so the participant feels safe and comfortable in and around bodies of water and is able to work on therapy goals.

After the initial two are covered, they may begin the process of learning stroke/functional swimming skills, to meet their aquatic and social goals.

Increasing Capacity.

Increasing Capacity is also a focus of the NDIA. The water safety/aquatics program should be focused on increasing the participant’s capacity to be safe in and around water and to be able to participate, to the extent of their ability.

This includes water-based activities such as community and school swimming lessons, family outings to the beach and waterways, backyard swimming and water parks. An aquatics program that covers water safety is a disability related capacity building support.

Evidence

Evidence is required by the NDIA to look at what supports may or may not be funded.

When looking at what evidence to include for a funded aquatic program for a person under 7, it is important to consider:

  • Evidence that the family and early childhood professionals have considered mainstream swim schools and worked with providers and/or the swim school to accommodate the child’s disability-related support needs so they can safely join in with their peers. This could include the template we have provided below.

  • Evidence that the child’s family have used their Capacity Building budget to work with their team of early childhood professionals to address the disability related barriers that are limiting the child’s participation. This could include a letter from a therapist, such as an OT, that outlines goals they have worked on such as safety in the community, and the need to now generalise this skill to aquatic environments.

  • Evidence that the child wasn’t able to or would not be able to take part in the group swimming lessons, even with the support provided to the child from their family, the swim school and through the team of early childhood professionals. This could include reports from therapists relating to difficulties engaging in group activities, increased behaviours in more stimulating environments, increased need for 1:1 in the community etc.

My child definitely requires 1:1 in order to learn some key safety skills and be comfortable accessing the water, before considering transitioning to a small group (if applicable). What do I do?

We have put the below template together to assist you with applying for your aquatics program through the NDIA. This framework has been developed around the correspondence we received about the criteria that needs to be met for 1:1 aquatics to be considered reasonable and necessary support funded by the NDIA.

If you have applied for an aquatics/water safety program to be funded by the NDIS following the above advice and have not been successful, our advice would be to ensure you have supplied all evidence as per the above outline, and if so then initiate a review of the decision with the NDIA.

My child definitely requires 1:1 in order to learn some key safety skills and be comfortable accessing the water, before considering transitioning to a small group (if applicable). What do I do?

We have put the below template together to assist you with applying for your aquatics program through the NDIA. This framework has been developed around the correspondence we received about the criteria that needs to be met for 1:1 aquatics to be considered reasonable and necessary support funded by the NDIA.

If you have applied for an aquatics/water safety program to be funded by the NDIS following the above advice and have not been successful, our advice would be to ensure you have supplied all evidence as per the above outline, and if so then initiate a review of the decision with the NDIA.

Screenshot 2024-02-18 at 22.18.05

Access Information Form Template for NDIS Aquatic Sessions

To help participants wanting to access aquatic sessions under the NDIS, we suggest using our Access Information form template.

This form can help highlight the need for funded sessions for each participant, and may be useful during a plan review.

Screenshot 2024-02-18 at 22.18.05

Access Information Form Template for NDIS Aquatic Sessions

To help participants wanting to access aquatic sessions under the NDIS, we suggest using our Access Information form template.

This form can help highlight the need for funded sessions for each participant, and may be useful during a plan review.

Access Information Form Template for NDIS Aquatic Sessions

To help participants wanting to access aquatic sessions under the NDIS, we suggest using our Access Information form template.

This form can help highlight the need for funded sessions for each participant, and may be useful during a plan review.

Screenshot 2024-02-18 at 22.18.05

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