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Complex Needs: What is it? Examples & Care Information

Post by Ruth Samer
January 21, 2023

What are complex needs?

Complex needs refer to a situation where an individual is grappling with multiple, interconnected challenges that significantly affect their overall well-being and societal functionality. For instance, such an individual could be living with an intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, or physical disability. These primary conditions may be compounded by additional health concerns like diabetes, dementia, and other factors restricting their independent living. Therefore, those with complex needs often require specialised care to effectively manage these multifaceted health and personal issues.

Explore our comprehensive NDIS & Disability Services Guide for in-depth insights and support options tailored to your needs.

Complex needs may also include mental health concerns, homelessness, addiction or substance abuse, or other psychosocial disabilities – particularly those that mean someone has had contact with other government support services or the judicial system.

The NDIS provides funding for people who have complex needs, to cover costs of providing them with complex care services. These services aim to assist people living with complex needs to reach their goals and live the most fulfilling life they can. If someone you love is living with complex needs and you’d like to know more about complex care needs and funding, you can find more information in this article or by reaching out to our team.

What are complex needs? A Definition by the NDIS

In 2018, the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) announced a new Complex Support Needs Pathway, to assist those with complex needs to receive the expert support they require. According to the NDIS:

“NDIS Participants are identified for the Complex Support Needs Pathway by the complexity of their situation and personal factors such as being homeless or returning to the community from living in residential aged care. Involuntary or voluntary involvement with particular government systems such as Justice or mental health would also be factors which would necessitate entry to the complex support needs pathway.”

A key feature of the new Complex Support Needs Pathway is for specialist support coordinators to assist and advocate for those with complex needs. These coordinators have the networks, skills, and knowledge of government and community services to effectively provide the multi-dimensional support needed for complex care needs.


Examples of complex needs – When might someone require complex care? 

Everyone who requires care has different needs and circumstances. For some, these needs fall under the complex needs category and require a multi-pronged approach that covers multiple complex care needs. The NDIS estimates that 10 – 15% of NDIS participants will experience complex care needs. Examples of complex needs, in living with a disability and in other circumstances, might include:

Children with disabilities:

Children living with disabilities often experience complex care needs, particularly if they live with an intellectual disability and physical health concerns simultaneously. Children with complex care needs may require learning support, physical assistance with day-to-day activities including grooming and personal care, and assistance with taking medication, monitoring blood pressure, dressing wounds, and more. (For children under 7, read more about the NDIS’s early childhood approach here.)

Aged care and disability:

Many older Australians not only live with the complexities of ageing, but also experience one or more chronic health conditions such as dementia, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular conditions. Their complex care needs can mean they require both in-home care for day-to-day living and nursing care for medical attention such as wound care or administering medications. Support providers that specialise in complex needs, such as Care For Family, can assist (alongside a specialist support coordinator) in providing care to those with complex care needs, including nursing care, disability support care, age care, and live-in or around-the-clock care services.

Complex health needs:

Some people living with disability, injury, or chronic disease will experience complex health care requirements. For some, this might mean needing the assistance of a nurse at home to help with wound care, administering medications by injection, or urinary catheter care, as well as a care worker to assist with feeding, toileting, and more.


How to support someone with complex needs 

Supporting a loved one with complex care needs is, needless to say, complex. Here at Care For Family, we provide both private and NDIS-funded support services. That means, whether or not your loved one is eligible to receive support from the NDIS, we can provide services to you. Our mission is to provide the absolute highest quality of care at an affordable price, so that we can support as many Australians as possible to live as independently as they can – no matter their circumstances. We provide: 

You can find out more about our services here. 



Complex Needs in Disability Care: Accessing Complex Needs Care with the NDIS 

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) was established to help Australians living with a disability to access the care they need. If someone you love is experiencing complex needs, the NDIA and the NDIS program are here to help. 

The first step in finding the appropriate care for your loved one is to check their eligibility with the NDIS, and then make an application either by phone or online. A practitioner will visit the home of your loved one to make an assessment and help you to determine what kinds of care your loved one needs and wants, as well as what their goals are. If complex needs are a factor, your loved one may be allocated a specialist support coordinator. (Read an example of how a specialist support coordinator can advocate for your loved one, here – Aaron’s example.) 

Once an assessment has been made and a care plan has been drafted, you can engage the services of a support provider like Care For Family. Crucially, the NDIS is designed to give your loved one (and their carers) autonomy over how their funding is allocated. This means that together, you can decide which support services to utilise, and from whom. Your loved one’s support coordinator will help them to find and access the different types of support they need. For more information about how Care For Family supports those with complex needs, get in touch with our team today.


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