Tribunal: Member Dr Louise Bygrave

The applicant was granted access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (‘NDIS’) from 19 April 2017 and subsequently requested funding for a private motor vehicle in his NDIS plan. His first NDIS plan commenced on 29 June 2017 but did not include funding for a vehicle. The applicant requested a review of this decision and, on 12 March 2018, an internal review by the National Disability Insurance Agency (‘NDIA’) affirmed the decision not to include the motor vehicle in his funding. The applicant then applied to the AAT for review.

The applicant has muscular dystrophy and anxiety/depression, which affects his mobility and community access. He relies on an electric-powered wheelchair and lives at home with his mother who provides him full-time care. The applicant expressed to the AAT his strong desire for independence. He told the AAT that a motor vehicle would allow him to leave his home, carry out activities and attend appointments independently.

The applicant provided as evidence a quote for a new motor vehicle and additional costs for modifying the vehicle for wheelchair use. The applicant stated that his financial situation did not allow him to save money to buy his own car. He said that taking accessible taxis gave him extreme anxiety and expressed concern about the cost of the taxis as his NDIS transport budget was limited. He also noted that public transport options could compromise his immunity and exacerbate his anxiety. A private motor vehicle modified to fit and transport a wheelchair was donated to the applicant in June 2018. This vehicle allows the applicant to access the community but his independence remains limited as he requires another person to drive it.

The AAT had to determine whether funding a private motor vehicle for the applicant was a reasonable and necessary support in accordance with the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (the Act). The AAT found that the issue was speculative as the applicant did not have a current driver’s license and, at the time of the hearing, had not undertaken the procedures necessary to acquire a driver’s license, including a medical assessment and a driving assessment by an occupational therapist. The AAT also found that funding a car was not consistent with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Supports for Participants) Rules 2013, which specify that a support will not be funded under the NDIS if ‘it is not related to a participant’s disability’. This means that the NDIS will fund any modifications needed for a motor vehicle that enables the applicant to drive independently, but not fund the vehicle itself. The AAT also considered section 34(1) of the Act when deciding whether funding a motor vehicle was a ‘reasonable and necessary support’ and found that it was not reasonable on several grounds, including that:

  • It would not be value for money as the applicant already has a car that can transport him and his wheelchair. He has family and friends who can and do drive the vehicle, and NDIS funding for a carer to drive him.
  • It would be appropriate for the applicant and his family, carers, informal networks and/or the community to provide a motor vehicle and, in fact, a car has already been  donated to the applicant.

The Tribunal affirmed the NDIA’s decision not to provide funding for a private motor vehicle.

Read the full written decision on AustLII.