Questions and answers: Changes to Purchasing Rules and EMS

Last updated April 9 2024.

We acknowledge this is a difficult and unsettling time for disabled people and family carers. We are doing all we can to provide information to you and providers to help you understand how these changes may affect your individual circumstances.    

Whaikaha recognises that every situation is different. Please contact your IF Host, EGL connector or site, or NASC in the first instance with any questions related to your personal circumstances.  

We have compiled the following questions and answers to help you navigate the Purchasing Rules and Equipment Modification Services (EMS) changes introduced on 18 March 2024.

We are frequently updating the information and Q&As on this page. Although there are no alternate formats of this webpage at the moment, there are alternate formats of the Purchasing Guidance and 18 March news update.

You can also view the Purchasing Rules webpage and EMS webpage.

Guidance for the sector

Published 9 April 2024

Whaikaha has produced the following document (previously called called 'Key messages for the sector') that provides further guidance and clarity for providers (IF Hosts, NASCs, EGL sites, CiCL, FDS) in the application of the Purchasing Rules released on 18 March 2024. 

It is important to note that this document will be updated as further clarifications are developed, in response to provider queries and other feedback.

While this may not answer all the questions you have, we are confident that it goes some way towards addressing common questions being raised and clarifications being sought.  

We encourage individuals to continue to liaise with their disability support service providers, as we continue to support these providers in their understanding and application of the new Purchasing Rules.

General questions

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Where are the alternate formats? Why were these not available immediately?

Question updated 9 April 2024.

We are frequently updating the information and Q&As on this page. Although there are no alternate formats of this webpage at the moment, there are alternate formats of the Purchasing Guidance and 18 March news update.

The alternate formats were commissioned as soon as we had confirmed the official wording of the announcement. We thank our translation providers for their quick turnaround time on this important work. 

Why has Whaikaha made these changes?

Question updated 9 April 2024.

Whaikaha is responsible for managing disability support services within its budget.  

Demand for disability support services, and the cost of delivering those services, is under pressure and increasing year on year. More people are being allocated disability supports, but Whaikaha has a fixed amount of funding. Growing demand has meant we are already forecasting an overspend in this financial year, which ends on 30 June.  

To manage these demands and to ensure that disability funding is directed to those that need it the most, Whaikaha has made some difficult decisions.   

  • The changes to the Purchasing Rules will ensure we are taking a balanced and fair approach and that our funding is spent on disability supports, which primarily benefit disabled people. 
  • The changes to prioritisation and access to Equipment and Modification Services will ensure that services are provided to those with the highest needs first.  

We know that flexibility is valued by disabled people, tāngata whaikaha Māori, whānau and Family Carers who receive support from Whaikaha.      

It is important that flexibility, choice, and control are balanced against the need to ensure our funding is being used within guidelines and supports disabled people with the highest need.

The changes to the Purchasing Rules will be in place until we have completed work with disabled people, tāngata whaikaha Māori and whānau to develop and implement longer term changes to the disability support system to retain flexibility, guided by the principles of choice, control, and equity.

We are in the process of considering ways we can communicate further with our community and will update you with our progress. 

Why was the disabled community not given notice of these changes, and were these decisions made in partnership with it?

Question published 20 March 2024.

We needed to implement these changes urgently to respond to our need to remain within our budget this financial year.  We have had to implement the pause now so that we can engage with our community about what the settings may be in the long term.

Before Christmas we engaged with our community, and over the new year we engaged with our sector, to explore a significant rise in demand. Our potential overspend came under further pressure in our budget planning processes, and this meant we had to make immediate decisions. It was vital for us to prioritise our funding to ensure essential supports for disabled people

If we had gone through an engagement process, before announcing the pause, we are not confident that we would have been able to act quickly enough to prevent more significant effects on the disabled community. 

Is Whaikaha still committed to the EGL principles?

Question published 5 April 2024.

Whaikaha remains committed to transforming the disability system in line with the principles of Enabling Good Lives, and is committed to flexible funding remaining a key part of the disability support system. 

What changes are being made to Flexible Funding?

Question updated 9 April 2024.

The Purchasing Rules apply to Individualised Funding, Enhanced Individualised Funding, Choice in Community Living, Personal Budgets and Carer Support.  

These changes do not change the amount of funding that is allocated to disabled people, just the way it can be used.

We are committed to ensuring that disabled people, tāngata whaikaha Māori and their whānau have the flexibility to use funding for things that matter to them, and this requires us to manage that funding very carefully.  

There has been confusion around what the funding can be used for. These changes are part of our work to make it clearer.  

The changes will ensure the highest needs of disabled people are prioritised, as we work with the community to implement longer term changes to the disability support system to retain flexibility, guided by the principles of choice, control, and equity. 

How are you letting people know about these changes?

Question published 5 April 2024.

We have asked Hosts and flexible funding providers to contact people that use their services. Our website will continue to be updated with more information.

We are also working with community groups and Disability Information Advisory Services to share information out into the wider community, and exploring other channels to communicate directly with those who receive flexible disability supports funded through Whaikaha.

Grace period and specific Purchasing Rules questions

We have moved specific questions about the Purchasing Rules and how they can be applied to our specific Purchasing Rules questions and answers page.

Grace period questions

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What happens if a person has already made a purchase which is outside the new rules? How does the grace period work?

Question updated 5 April 2024.

The Purchasing Rules changes were implemented with immediate effect from Monday 18 March 2024. 

If you have made a purchase between 18 to 28 March, and were unaware of the new Purchasing Rules, these are likely to be approved. However, quotes or queries where no costs have been committed to will be excluded.

If your purchases are for significant amounts of expenditure, it will receive greater scrutiny from the teams processing the claims. We want to be fair to people who have committed to costs in good faith without knowing the rules had changed, whilst ensuring that the grace period is being used as intended.  

From 11:59pm 28 March all new expenditure must be within the Purchasing Rules in order to be claimed. 

If you have further questions around specific purchases, please discuss this with your Connector, Host, or flexible disability support provider. 

When do I have to have my claim in by?

Question updated 5 April 2024.

All reimbursement claims under the previous Purchasing Rules must be submitted before 12 April. Claims for costs which have been committed to after 28 March will not be processed if they are not within the new Purchase Rules. 

Do Hosts and providers know about the grace period?

Question published 5 April 2024.

Yes, communications have been sent to IF Hosts and we have asked all providers to communicate with the disabled people and whānau they are supporting.

My provider pre-approved something before the 18 March, is this no longer allowed?

Question published 5 April 2024.

If you committed to an expense before March 18, for example, a booking or paying a deposit, or you have paid for, but not yet claimed those costs, we expect that those costs will be reimbursed. If you sought approval or quotes but had not made a binding commitment, those costs will now be excluded.

Information on transport

Updated 9 April 2024

Find useful definitions and information on how the Purchasing Rules changes effect purchases related to transport. 

Please contact your NASC/Host or EGL site in the first instance with any questions.

We have moved specific questions about the Purchasing Rules and how they can be applied to transport to our specific Purchasing Rules questions and answers page.

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Local travel

Local travel means travel within a local community where you usually live, work, engage in recreational activities, and otherwise live your life. Local travel will usually be:

  • Within a region;
  • In or to areas around a city; and/or
  • An equivalent distance where someone lives on or near the border between regions 

Local transport may also be partly funded by other agencies through the  Total Mobility Scheme external URL . NZTA and Regional Councils subsidise the costs of local transport for eligible people in many cities, which we understand includes many disabled people.

Travel to and from school is funded by the Ministry of Education Specialised School Transport Assistance (SESTA) external URL

Our expectation is that these subsidies will be accessed before considering the use of disability support funding to pay for local travel, which is independent of a support worker.

What are ‘Expenses that are a necessary part of providing support’?

Expenses that are a necessary part of supporting the disabled person while the full-time carer takes a break can be claimed.  

This may include the costs a support worker incurs when taking a disabled person to the supermarket (for example, mileage) or to participate in other activities outside the home (for example, to go swimming or go to Riding for the Disabled).  

However, travelling between cities or regions is considered Domestic travel, which is excluded under the purchasing rules.   

Domestic travel

Domestic travel refers to the costs of travelling between cities or regions to, for example, go on a break.

These costs can no longer be paid from your flexible funding. 

Overseas travel costs

Overseas travel costs refer to the costs of accommodation, food, and transport while travelling for the disabled person, family, and anyone providing support. These costs can no longer be paid from your flexible funding.

However, the costs of a person providing support while overseas (for example, wages) are not excluded under the Purchasing Rules. 

In between travel

In between travel refers to the time and travel costs that support workers incur when they are travelling from one client to another, as part of working for the same employer.

In between travel is not generally paid to support workers where disabled people and families are managing their funding, as you employ people to work with you, rather than with multiple families.  

If someone who works for you must travel more than 15km to work for you, and your specific requirements mean that there are few or no available alternative workers, you might pay ‘exceptional travel’ in line with the general in between travel guidance. You can find out more in section 4 of the implementation guidance for providers and funders on Te Whatu Ora’s website external URL .

Generally, in between travel is unlikely to be relevant to managing your Flexible Funding.  

If you are a Flexible Disability Support Provider managing personal budgets, and either ordinary or exceptional in between travel has been included in a Personal Budget, you can continue to claim for those costs. 

Information and questions regarding Family Carers

Information updated 9 April 2024.

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Information for Family Carers

We are very aware of the concerns raised by parents and family carers about these changes.

We will work with groups involved in supporting carers to ensure we can provide additional clarity about what these changes mean for you.  

In the meantime, the Purchasing Rules and Purchasing Guidance published on our website explain how Flexible Funding can be used.  

Please note that the changes do not affect employed carers and do not apply to Te Whatu Ora / Health New Zealand funded Carer Support.

Please contact your IF Host, EGL connector or site, or your NASC in the first instance with any questions about how these changes affect your personal circumstances. 

Find specific Family Carer Q&As on our specific Purchasing Rules questions page.

Family Carer examples

Examples published 22 March 2024.

We recognise that each situation is different. There is still flexibility available to you and your Host or connector can support decision making, but as a general approach: 

You can continue to use your Carer Support / IF – Respite for activities and breaks such as:

  • Activities that are provided by a person or organisation for the benefit of the disabled person. For example, Riding for the Disabled sessions and one to one swimming lessons
  • Respite programmes which are run within the community
  • After school, holiday programmes and youth programmes, which directly benefit disabled people
  • Associated costs to cover expenses for support workers and family carers, including entry fees for recreational activities. For example, Rainbows End, a music festival, the swimming pool or the movies. Please note, the disabled person and any other companions or family members are expected to meet their own costs.

You can’t use your Carer Support / IF – Respite funding for things like:

  • Devices. For example, recreational electronic devices
  • Beauty or therapeutic treatments to have a break
  • Overseas or domestic travel
  • Accommodation
  • Food and meals out, takeaway meals
  • Exercise and recreational equipment
  • Koha and gifts

From 18 March you can no longer use your Carer Support funding to purchase gifts or koha for people who are voluntarily providing support. However, you can still use your funding to reimburse them for their time, or any reasonable expenses they have incurred.

There may be other ways you can access services. For example, via Green Prescriptions. external URL

Information on Respite

Information published 20 March 2024.

The Purchasing Rules have changed to ensure that funding is being used for the purpose it was allocated, is fair and reasonable, and primarily for the support of disabled people.

This has meant we have reduced the flexibility family carers have to purchase items that support their own respite and wellbeing needs and have prioritised the needs of disabled people. 

Family carers must be able to take a break from their full-time caring responsibilities, both for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of the disabled person. We would like to assure full-time carers that we will continue to provide funding for alternative care which allows them to take a break. We have also retained flexibility about how and when they take breaks, and who provides the care. 

Expenses that are a necessary part of supporting the disabled person while the full-time family carer takes a break are also covered. However, costs for activities a carer undertakes while they are having a break are no longer funded. 

Please contact your NASC/Host or EGL site in the first instance with any questions.

Find respite Q&As on our specific Purchasing Rules questions page

Equipment and Modification Services changes

Information updated 9 April 2024

Equipment and Modification (EMS) services assist disabled people and tāngata whaikaha Māori to live as independently and safely as possible.  

EMS services are essential and currently support more than 100,000 New Zealanders a year. Demand for these services is increasing and so is the cost to provide them.

From Monday 18 March 2024 we introduced a prioritisation approach to Equipment and Modification Services. This prioritisation will ensure that disabled people with the highest priority are funded first.

  • The prioritisation of access to Equipment and Modification Services only applies to Whaikaha funded services and does not impact the purchase rules of other agencies.

We have also asked EMS assessors to ensure that the most cost-effective solutions are considered and recommended. The length of time each person will have to wait for EMS assessment will depend on a range of factors.

If you need to wait for your recommended Equipment and Modification Services, your EMS assessor will discuss other solutions which may assist you while you wait for a longer term solution.  
If your needs become more urgent you should discuss options with your EMS assessor. 

Information and other Q&As for EMS assessors is provided on our Equipment and Modification Services webpage.

Mental health and wellbeing services