Updated: Nov 8
The reason for me writing this blog post today about Companion cards is to highlight some of the key facts about companion card schemes for those who are willing to apply for one.
If you are a person with a disability or caring for someone with a disability - It's worth knowing about this beneficial scheme.
We would explore in detail - what this card is, who can have one, and what are the rules around the application for its approval by the department.
The department’s website has information published in a much simpler form, however; I thought to write the article below to give some more clarity/idea for our readers.
Why is the Disability Companion Card important?
When it comes to expenditures such as tickets, fares, and entry fees while going on community outings, many of our clients with a disability, would like their carer to accompany them to these outings which would require an entry ticket for the carer.
So who pays the ticket for the carer? NDIS funding does not cover entry fees, memberships or tickets for either the participant or their carer, as it can only pay for the support (care hours) provided by the carer staff.
So, Is it the service provider who will pay for the carer's expenses (as it is their staff member), or the carer themselves should arrange their ticket? Both of these possibilities are unlikely.
So, Is it the person with a disability (based on service agreement terms) to pay for the carer entry tickets? - Yes it is very likely.
Hence the reason why - the companion card may be required as it can cover the cost of the entry fees for the second person who is the carer and supports the person with a disability.
What is the Disability Companion Card and who can get it - let's explore
A companion card is issued by the NSW government for those people who have a permanent lifelong disability and need intense care or support during participation in activities or at venues that charge or expect the person to pay for tickets at the entry.
Certainly, the person with a disability will pay for the tickets using their funds but the idea of a companion card is to have the other person (Carer/Companion) enter the venue at no cost, removing the financial barrier for the person with a disability.
It is not a discount, benefit, or concession and hence is not subject to income or means-testing but it will allow the companion/carer to enter the venue (Affiliated Business) with no cost/charge; accompanying the person with a disability, reducing the financial burden of the person with a disability, to not have to pay for the second ticket for the carer.
Who is deemed to be a companion under this scheme?
Your carer or companion can be one of the following
paid or unpaid assistant or carer
How to apply for a Companion Card?
Each State/Territory Government in Australia has its own process for processing these applications sent by an application. To do one such application, view the web link here – DISABILITY COMPANION CARD APPLICATION FORM
You may have to select the state/territory you live in.
Each state or territory regulator has their phone number listed for any queries one may have and, should one wish to discuss it with a person over the phone, before making the application.
Eligibility for Companion Card
The eligibility criteria to get this card are quite simple and mainly reliant on your answer to the five questions (based on your situation), as below –
Are you an Australian Citizen, or a permanent resident – hence the scheme does not consider non-residents eligible for the card.
Are you a person with a significant and permanent disability – Hence temporary disability is not considered an eligibility
Are you unable to participate in most venues or activities without a carer? – Hence if you require to be accompanied by a carer only during some activities, and the rest of the time you are fine - you may wish to give some thought to this assessment criterion.
If no aids or technology is useful to you and/or meets your needs, and hence it is required for you to have a carer with you all the time while participating in such venues and activities.
The level of attendant care you need is going to be lifelong.
If you answer yes to all the above questions, you may be eligible for a companion card.
Note that the department has specifically mentioned on their website and the application form - that being a participant under the NDIS scheme, does not guarantee your eligibility for a companion card, and each application is assessed on its own merits.
Questions about the Disability Companion Card application form?
There are 7 parts within the application form referred to as Items.
Part 1 is about the personal details of the person with a disability making the application.
Part 2 is about cultural information and language preferences.
Part 3 is about entering the diagnosis details of the person with a disability applying. This section also expects you to attach a report against your disability claim. Make sure you attach the most recent report if possible.
Part 4 requires the applicant to express in their own words and/or demonstrate, how their disability has impacted them permanently to participate at most community events without attendant care support from your companion. Note that his part of the form is your opportunity to display your case in as much detail as you can and present examples, conditions, and other details. Consider entering the Information in a bullet style format for an easy flow of information for the reader.
You can also add the contact information of any disability services you are using currently so that they can be your reference.
Part 5 is for those who live in residential facilities receiving high care. This can be completed by the service manager of the facility.
Part 6 is the Health Professional Declaration confirming the disability of the applicant and that the applicant is unable to attend the venues or activities without a companion permanently.
Part 7 is the applicant or nominee statement - to declare the accuracy of information provided by the applicant and a binding statement to agree by the applicant that the department will seek or obtain relevant information from the applicant's other services or health practitioners as specified within the form. Two-color photos are required that should go with the form (loose) with the professional signing on the form, needing to sign at the back of the photographs.
Where can I use my disability companion card?
Many businesses/ activity venues across all the states within Australia have applied and become an affiliate within this scheme. This would mean they will be accepting your companion card (providing a free ticket to your carer) upon your visit to that venue.
On the department’s webpage, a full list is available which can be downloaded by accessing the link here – AFFILIATE DATABASE NSW
Also, there is a search tool on the website, where you can enter a postcode to search for affiliate businesses in that area, that are a part of this scheme and will accept the companion cards. The postcode search button is available from the link here – AFFILIATE SEARCH BY SUBURB