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Guide to Writing an Effective NDIS Report: Keys for Success

As an NDIS service provider, writing comprehensive and effective reports...

Written by
Dan McCutcheon

As an NDIS service provider, writing comprehensive and effective reports is crucial in ensuring NDIS participants receive the necessary funding and subsequent support tailored to their needs.

Good quality reports can make the difference between a poor outcome and a great outcome when NDIS plan review time comes.

It requires attention to detail, clarity, and a deep understanding of the participant's circumstances within the NDIS framework. Being organised and submitting all reports eight weeks before the person’s plan reassessment meeting will reduce the chance of the NDIA planner or LAC making a decision without all the available information. 

But first, why are NDIS reports important?

NDIS progress reports serve as a vital communication tool or ‘bridge’ between health professionals/participants and the NDIA. These reports provide evidence of the support delivered and help decision-makers determine the appropriate level of funding and support for participants going forward. Well-written reports are essential for participants to receive their reasonable and necessary support and for providers to meet the quality standards set by the NDIS.

By understanding the importance of NDIS plan review reports, you can ensure that your evidence contributes to improving the lives of people with disabilities. We’ve distilled some key elements to consider when creating a successful NDIS report. 

1. Understand the NDIS Framework

Before writing a report, it's an essential building block to have a thorough foundational understanding of the NDIS framework, principles and guidelines.

What is the purpose of the report you are writing? The NDIS focuses on achieving positive outcomes for participants, determining a person’s functional capacity (i.e. ability to complete everyday tasks and participate in life in the community) and achieving individual goals. It is essential to move beyond simply stating a diagnosis and instead focus on the day to day impact of a person’s disability and their individual circumstances.

Familiarise yourself with the NDIS legislation (NDIS Act & NDIS Rules), operational guidelines (available on the NDIS Website) and specific requirements for NDIS reports which are outlined on the NDIS website Report Writing Tips for NDIS Providers. Your report needs to demonstrate how your support is contributing to this person being supported to achieve their goals and build their capacity for the future.

2. Adopt a Person-Centred Approach

Focus on the individual's strengths, preferences, goals, and unique needs. Highlight their achievements and challenges while emphasising their aspirations and capabilities. Use respectful language and involve the participant and their support network in the report-writing process to ensure accuracy and relevance.

Each person has unique goals and it’s essential to tailor your report accordingly. Avoid using generic goals and instead focus on specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that directly align with the participant's personal aspirations for their life. Involve the person in the process. Make sure you speak to the participant, their family and support providers to identify short term goals (1-2 years), long-term goals (5-10yrs) and the strategies needed to achieve these. Outline these clearly in the report.

3. Collaboration and Communication

Engage with the participant, their family, carers, and relevant stakeholders to gather comprehensive information. Seek consent from the participant before including any sensitive or personal details in the report. Maintain professionalism and confidentiality while ensuring transparency and open communication throughout the report-writing process.

Make sure that as a team of person-centred support providers sitting around the person, you are all on the same page and are all working with the person towards the goals that they want for their life. Meeting and communicating regularly helps with this. 

4. Clarity, Accuracy & Objectivity

Using clear and concise language is a fundamental aspect of a good NDIS report. Keep in mind that the NDIA planner or LAC that is reading the report may not be from a healthcare background and avoiding medical jargon or overly technical terms will reduce the chance of being misunderstood.

Presenting information in a structured manner (did someone say headings and dot points?) will also enhance readability. Make it as easy as possible for the person reading the report. All information provided needs to be accurate, factual, and supported by evidence or observations rather than being based on your personal opinions. An NDIS report template can support you to be consistent in your report writing process and wording.

5. Goal Alignment and Progress Tracking

NDIS planning is centred around goals and your report should clearly link the recommended supports to the person’s individual goals and current/future outcomes. Clearly articulate how the supports and services provided align with each goal and the progress made towards achieving them. Include specific examples and measurable outcomes to demonstrate the impact of interventions or support services on the participant's life.

E.g. ‘Katie Smith’s goal of ‘learning to drive’ has not been fully achieved. However, progress has been made with Katie being supported to get her Learner’s licence and has commenced driving lessons which she is greatly enjoying. Katie has completed six driving lessons and her instructor expects she will be able to sit her driving test after an additional six lessons’. Using the STAR model (Setting, Trigger, Action, Result), you could demonstrate progress towards goals over time and provide a clear account of events, dates and observations.

The STAR model could be incorporated into a NDIS report template for readability. By demonstrating a clear connection between the recommended support and the participant's goals, you increase the likelihood of receiving funding for those supports.

6. Document Significant and/or Critical Incidents

In your NDIS report, it is essential to include details about significant incidents related to the participant. These incidents may be positive or negative and can provide valuable insights into the participant's progress and support needs. Include information from other providers from the support team to provide a comprehensive account of the incident.

NDIS ‘Reportable Incidents’ in line with the NDIS Commission requirements should be discussed in detail while demonstrating what actions were taken to mitigate future risks. By documenting significant incidents you contribute to a more holistic understanding of the participant's journey and help inform future support decisions particularly in the context of behaviours of concern and more complex support needs.

7. Justify the Recommended Supports

Provide clear justification for the recommended supports in your report. Demonstrate why the participant requires the specific therapy or support and how it directly addresses their functional capacity and goals. Consider Section 34 of the NDIS Act (Reasonable and Necessary criteria) in particular the value for money aspect and ensure that the supports you recommend are likely to have a substantial and long-term benefit for the person you support. 

  1. Describe the previous support for that category;
  2. Propose future support in that category;
  3. Justify this recommendation against the Reasonable and Necessary criteria; and
  4. Outline the risks to the participant if this recommendation is not funded. 

By providing a solid rationale for your recommendations, you increase the chances of the person receiving support at the recommended level.

8. Focus on Outcomes, Not Outputs

When writing NDIS reports, it is important to understand the distinction between outputs and outcomes. 

Outputs refer to the support provided, and

Outcomes focus on the results of the support.

Emphasise the outcomes of the supports you have achieved so far and when you are recommending future supports clearly demonstrate how they will enhance the participant's functional capacity and contribute to their overall goals for the long-term. By highlighting outcomes you are demonstrating to the NDIA the value of your support and how you are making a genuine difference in the participant’s life. 

9. Collaboration with Other Support Services

The NDIS is not solely responsible for providing all types of support to individuals with disabilities. Other ‘foundational supports’ e.g. mainstream and community supports also play a crucial role. As a therapist and as a service provider, it is important to understand the roles and responsibilities between the NDIS and other support systems. Avoid requesting support from the NDIS that are the responsibility of other service providers.

If there is ever a ‘grey area’ where it isn’t clear which service system should be providing the support refer to the APTOS principles which outline the responsibilities of each system. Collaborate with other support services to ensure a coordinated approach to the participant's care. By understanding the NDIS's role and collaborating effectively, you can provide the participant with a comprehensive support network.

10. Stay Within Your Expertise

As an allied health professional, it is important to stay within your area of expertise when writing NDIS reports. Avoid making recommendations or assessments outside your scope of practice. Stick to your discipline and provide professional recommendations based on your knowledge and expertise. If a recommendation falls outside your area of expertise, refer the participant to the appropriate specialist or service provider. By staying within your competence, you ensure the accuracy and credibility of your report.

11. Continual Evaluation and Professional Development 

Writing an NDIS report is not a one-time task. It is crucial to continually evaluate and review the participant's progress, goals, and support needs. Regularly assess the effectiveness of the recommended supports and make adjustments as necessary. Engage in ongoing communication with the participant, their support network, and other service providers to ensure a coordinated and person-centred approach to support. By embracing a continual evaluation and review process, you contribute to the participant's ongoing progress and well-being as well as your own professional development. 

To enhance your skills in writing NDIS reports, seek feedback from colleagues, supervisors, and the people you support. Embrace opportunities for professional development and stay updated with the latest guidelines and best practices. Attend workshops, webinars, and training sessions to expand your knowledge and improve your report writing skills. Organisations such as DSC & the Support Coordination Academy offer great value courses if you would like to learn more about creating great quality NDIS reports. 

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create reports that accurately reflect the participant's progress, support needs, and goals. Remember to justify your recommendations, focus on outcomes, collaborate with other support services, and continually evaluate and review the participant's progress. By consistently striving for excellence in your report writing, you contribute to the overall success of the NDIS and the well-being of people with disabilities. 

As an NDIS service provider, writing comprehensive and effective reports...
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