There are many degrees of intellectual disability. The definitions and accepted diagnostic test for determining whether or not a person has an intellectual disability are explained along with key legislation. It is vital that each person’s case be assessed individually, and that the views of the person who has an intellectual disability always be sought, taken into account and, wherever possible, acted upon. All people with Autism Spectrum Disorders can now be considered for disability services.

Disability services and programs

Last updated

30 June 2019

Who qualifies for the NDIS?

The NDIS is available to people who have a permanent impairment or condition. To be eligible, a person must also be an Australian citizen, or a permanent resident, or hold a protected special category visa. The person must also be under 65 years old.

The NDIS access criteria require that a participant (i.e. a person who is accepted to the NDIS) has one or more intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory, physical or psychiatric impairments that – under the disability stream:

  • is, or is likely to be, permanent;
  • is likely to mean the person will require NDIS support for life;
  • affects the person’s capacity for social or economic participation;
  • results in substantially reduced functional capacity, or psychosocial functioning, to undertake one or more of the following activities: communication, social interaction, learning, mobility, self-care;

or under the early intervention stream:

  • is, or is likely to be, permanent;
  • applies to a child who has a developmental delay.

For a person to qualify under the early intervention stream, it must also be shown that early intervention support is likely to reduce the person’s future need for support for their disability.

The early intervention support should also alleviate the impact of the person’s impairment on their functionality or strengthen the sustainability of their informal supports (e.g. building the capacity of the person’s carer).

In addition, early intervention support must be most appropriately funded or provided by the NDIS. (See also the NDIS website at

Eligibility for services

Intellectual disability services

Requests to a disability service provider for services for a person who has an intellectual disability may be made directly to the disability service provider. A formal assessment may not be required if a person’s disability is accepted as self-evident.

Other categories of disability

As with intellectual disability, requests for services for a person who has other disabilities may be made directly to disability service providers. A formal assessment may not be required if a person’s disability is accepted as self-evident.

Test for getting NDIS funding

NDIS funding is based on what is ‘reasonable’ and ‘necessary’ to achieve a participant’s goals, in addition to the support provided by family, friends, community services and other government support. 

Provision of disability services

Types of disability services

Disability services include linking clients to services, preparing service plans, providing outreach support in people’s homes, arranging respite, supplying long-term accommodation, and providing recreational and vocational services. Although generally funded by the NDIS, disability services in Victoria are mostly provided by not-for-profit and non-government organisations.

Services continue to be provided by the DHHS for ‘security residents’ or ‘forensic residents’ (for more details, see ‘Intellectual disability’ in Chapter 8.3: Disability and criminal justice). However, note that people who are neither security nor forensic residents may be subject to restrictive practices without consent in accordance with restraint and seclusion provisions in the Disability Act (pts 7, 8) regarding restrictive interventions and compulsory treatment (see ‘Supervision of restrictive interventions’, below).

Support Plans

The current approach to planning is called ‘person-centred planning’. A person who has an intellectual disability must be offered assistance with planning by the disability service provider from whom they have requested disability services. The assistance must be provided within ‘a reasonable time’ after an offer of services is accepted (s 55 Disability Act).

The NDIS process is intended to enable people with a disability to exercise choice and control in the planning and delivery of their supports. The NDIS Act (ss 31–50) provides the support-planning process for NDIS participants.

Appealing a NDIS decision

Internal reviews

If a person is found to be ineligible to receive services under the NDIS, they can request an internal review of the decision. Internal reviews can also be requested for other NDIS decisions (e.g. decisions to provide less funding than is required). (See ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter.)

External reviews

If a participant is not satisfied with the outcome of an internal review of a NDIS decision, they can apply to the federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to review the decision. Sections 99–103 of the NDIS Act set out the provisions for reviews of reviewable decisions and appeals to the AAT. For more information about applying for an AAT review, see


Complaints about disability service providers

NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (‘NDIS Commission’) is an independent agency established to improve the quality and safety of NDIS supports and services. The NDIS Commission began operating in Victoria on 1 July 2019. It is the NDIS Commission’s job to regulate NDIS providers, provide national consistency, promote safety and quality services, resolve problems and identify areas for improvement.

The NDIS Commission is responsible for the:

  • registration and quality assurance of NDIS providers;
  • complaints process;
  • management of reporting of incidents;
  • new practice standards for the NDIS;
  • NDIS Code of Conduct.

For now, the Victorian Disability Services Commissioner is responsible for issues relating to the provision of services to people with a disability who do not qualify for the NDIS.

Those who do qualify for the NDIS can complain to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (‘NDIS Commission’) (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter). This is a new independent Commonwealth body that will regulate the NDIS, register providers, and support the resolution of complaints about the quality and safety of NDIS supports and services.

Complaints about the NDIA

The NDIS is administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). Complaints about the NDIA are managed internally by NDIA officers or can be escalated to the Commonwealth Complaints Resolution and Referral Service (CRRS), the Commonwealth Ombudsman, or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of a decision. (For the contact details of these organisations, see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter). The CRRS also helps people with disabilities sort out complaints about advocacy services that are funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

Several disability advocacy agencies have been funded to assist Victorians to appeal against the NDIA’s decisions. The contact details for these agencies can be obtained from Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter).

Complaints about the abuse of people with an intellectual disability

Complaints about instances of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability can be made (as appropriate) to Victoria Police, the NDIS Commission, the Office of the Public Advocate, the federal Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter).

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Disability, mental illness and the law