What is a NDIS Functional Capacity Assessment (FCA)?

Information sourced from the NDIS website. For more information visit https://www.ndis.gov.au/applying-access-ndis/how-apply/information-support-your-request

Our team of registered Developmental Educators are suitably qualified and recognised by the NDIA to conduct functional capacity assessments and provide detailed reports and recommendations of services and supports. Our team uses NDIS preferred assessments of Vineland-3, WHODAS 2.0 and LSP-16.

What is functional capacity and how do you differentiate between ‘reduced’ and ‘substantially reduced’ functional capacity?

Functional capacity is the ability to carry out tasks in a variety of everyday situations. A person’s functional capacity is highly individualised. Some people experience difficulties with carrying out tasks (reduced functional capacity) but others may be unable to effectively participate in or complete a task (substantially reduced functional capacity).

How do you apply a subjective term as ‘substantially reduced functional capacity’ fairly and consistently?

The NDIA determines the difference between reduced and substantially reduced functional capacity by focusing on everyday functioning within six specific life skill areas:

  1. Communication
  2. Social interaction
  3. Learning
  4. Mobility
  5. Self-care
  6. Self-management.

The NDIA recognises that people will usually have both functional strengths and weaknesses. In recognition of this, it is not necessary to have substantially reduced functional capacity in all six of the life skill areas. A person only needs to have substantially reduced capacity in one area. The NDIA considers both what a person can and cannot do within each life skill area.

A person is likely to have substantially reduced functional capacity if they usually are not able to function without support for most activities within at least one of the six life skill areas.

Communication: includes being understood in spoken, written, or sign language, understanding others, and the ability to express needs.

Social interaction: includes making and keeping friends, interacting with the community, behaving within limits accepted by others, and the ability to cope with feelings and emotions in a social context.

Learning: includes understanding and remembering information, learning new things, and practising and using new skills. Learning does not include educational supports.

Mobility: means the ability of a person to move around the home and community to undertake ordinary activities of daily living requiring the use of limbs.

Self-care: relates to activities related to personal care, hygiene, grooming, feeding oneself, and the ability to care for own health care needs.

Self-management: means the cognitive capacity to organise one’s life, to plan and make decisions, and to take responsibility for oneself. This includes completing daily tasks, making decisions, problem-solving, and managing finances.

What is the difference between an activity and a life skill area?

An activity is a specific task, while a life skill area is a broad category the activity sits within. For example, having a shower is an activity (task) within the life skill area (category) of self-care.

A person would not be considered to have substantially reduced functional capacity for self-care if they are unable to have a shower but are still able to wash, use a bath, and clean their teeth because on balance within the life skill area they can carry out a range of activities.

Is functional capacity substantially reduced, within a life skill area, if it just takes longer to complete activities or they are carried out differently?

Taking longer to complete an activity or carrying out activities in a slightly different way to commonly accepted practice, is not considered a substantial reduction in capacity.

For example, a person who feels anxious about going to the shops at busy times but is able to still complete the shopping at quieter times does not have substantially reduced capacity to participate in the activity of shopping. If that same person has significant difficulty making friends and retaining friendships but retains a limited circle of friends and participates in activities where they have common interests, then the capacity for social interaction would not be considered substantially reduced. This is because the person can participate in social activities – even though their participation may be modified or more limited than someone who does not experience impairment.

Is it necessary for a person to be completely non-functional within a life skill area to be considered to have substantially reduced capacity?

No, but it is important to remember that NDIA does look at the balance between what a person can and cannot do when considering whether a person’s functional capacity is substantially reduced.

For example, someone who has substantially reduced capacity in self-management may be able to manage their own small budget for incidental expenses but need another person’s assistance to make major life/financial decisions and budget.

How do I provide evidence of the functional impact of my impairment caused by my mental health condition?

The best way to provide evidence is to have someone appropriately qualified (usually a mental/allied health professional) complete a functional assessment to demonstrate your functional capacity.

Appropriate assessments include the Life Skill Profile 16 (LSP-16) which is the preferred psychosocial functional assessment tool of the NDIA or the World Health Organisation Disability Assessment Schedule (WHODAS). The NDIA finds these types of assessments helpful because they provide a picture of your functioning over time (not when you are having a particularly good or bad day).

Your other supports such as family, friends, and/or support workers can also provide helpful information on your functional capacity as they see you in your day-to-day life. This information (and/or a statement from you saying how your impairment affects you) is helpful in addition to the information provided by a mental/allied health professional.

If you have any other formal documentation such as assessments given to Centrelink or other government departments, or if there are any formal orders in place, this can help the NDIA with determining functional impact.