16. Effect of temporary absence from Australia on plans
For participant’s, as with other members of Australian society, overseas travel, including extended holidays, is considered to be an ordinary part of life.
16.1 The grace period
Under the NDIS, a participant who has a plan in effect may be temporarily absent from Australia for a certain period without effecting their plan. This period is referred to as the grace period (section 40(1)).
If a participant who has a plan in effect is temporarily absent from Australia at the expiry of the grace period, the participant’s plan will be suspended until the participant returns to Australia (section 40(3)) (see what is the effect of suspending a participant’s plan?).
As a general rule, the grace period is 6 weeks beginning when the participant leaves Australia (section 40(2)(a)).
16.2 Participant may request that the grace period be extended
A participant can make a request to the NDIA for the grace period to be extended.
The NDIA will extend the grace period for a particular participant if it is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so having regard to any relevant matters and applying the criteria in the Plan Management Rules (see extending the grace period) (section 40(2)(b)).
A decision to refuse to extend the grace period, or to extend the grace period for a particular period is a reviewable decision (section 99(e)).
Therefore, the NDIA must notify a participant in writing of the decision to extend the grace period including a statement to the effect that the participant may request that the NDIA review the decision (section 100(1)).
16.3 Extending the grace period
When deciding whether to extend the grace period the NDIA must have regard to both the general considerations and specific considerations outlined in the Plan Management Rules (rule 5.5 of the Plan Management Rules).
It is expected that the NDIA will ordinarily extend the grace period if:
- one or more of the specific considerations apply to a particular participant; or
- when a participant is absent from Australia for humanitarian purposes (rule 5.6 of the Plan Management Rules).
16.3.1 General considerations for extending the grace period
The general considerations which apply to any participant who is to be temporarily absent for more than 6 weeks (including a participant who is on an extended holiday that lasts for more than 6 weeks) are:
- the proposed length of absence from Australia;
- any previous decisions that the grace period should be extended;
- the supports provided to the participant under their plan;
- the participant’s ability to continue to access supports while they are absent from Australia;
- the NDIA’s ability to facilitate the provision of supports to, and maintain a relationship with, the participant while they are absent from Australia; and
- whether the refusal to extend the grace period would cause undue hardship to the participant (Rule 5.8 of the Plan Management Rules).
16.3.2 Specific considerations for extending the grace period
The specific considerations which relate to extending the grace period are:
Overseas study (rule 5.9 of the Plan Management Rules)
If the participant is to complete an exchange program or course of studies outside Australia that is:
- an element of a course that the participant is undertaking at an Australian secondary or tertiary educational institution; or
- part of a recognised program of international exchanges;
a specific consideration is the period of the overseas exchange program or course of studies.
Temporary employment (rule 5.10 of the Plan Management Rules)
If the absence is because the participant, a spouse or family member is required to travel overseas for the purposes of temporary employment, a specific consideration is the period of employment.
Reserve forces (rules 5.11 to 5.13 of the Plan Management Rules)
If the participant is a member of the reserve forces and is required to be temporarily absent from Australia to fulfil their duties in this role, a specific consideration is the period of deployment.
If the absence is because a spouse or family member of the participant:
- is a member of the reserve forces; and
- is required to be temporarily absent from Australia to fulfil duties in this role;
a specific consideration is the period of deployment.
Medical treatment or therapy (rule 5.14 of the Plan Management Rules)
If the absence is so that the participant can receive clinically appropriate medical treatment or therapy that is not available in Australia, a specific consideration is the period of treatment plus a reasonable period to allow for recuperation.
Participant prevented from returning to Australia (rules 5.15 and 5.16 of the Plan Management Rules)
If the participant is prevented from returning to Australia for a reason that is beyond their control, a specific consideration is what period will be reasonable to allow the participant to return to Australia.
The following are examples of reasons beyond the participant’s control:
- while temporarily absent from Australia, the participant, their spouse, or a family member of the participant:
- is involved in a serious accident;
- becomes seriously ill;
- is hospitalised;
- is the victim of a serious crime;
- is a party in custody proceedings; or
- is required to remain overseas in connection with criminal proceedings;
- war, industrial action, or social or political unrest in which the participant is not willingly participating;
- natural disaster.