Updated: Jan 24, 2021
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is an Initiative by the Australian Government to assist people with disabilities live a normal life. NDIS does this by providing funding source for people with disabilities in order to purchase the supports and services that helps them achieve the short term and long-term goals and empowers them to live an independent life. NDIS refers to person with a disability as “Participant”.
NDIS plan is the document that contains comprehensive information about participant’s life goals and their support related needs. The plan also contains funding information that is allocated in the form of a budget to each goal. This plan has a start and an expiry date and it typically lasts for one year or in some cases for two to three years.
NDIS plan document provides overall direction in term of budget utilisation and what supports can be purchased that is directly related to the participant’s needs. Similar to managing your savings account in your day-to-day life, NDIS plan budget needs to be managed so that the funds last until the expiry of your plan, ensuring continuity of your services until your plan expiry. Managing this budget can be daunting for some and definitely requires you to have some financial and book keeping skills in order to do it correctly.
Managing your NDIS Plan
During your NDIS planning meeting, your planning officer from NDIA will ask the participant to select form one of the three options to manage your plan. You may select one of the below options that best suits you -
1. Plan Mange your plan – In this option, a service provider who is a plan manager and is a registered provider with NDIA manages your plan. When you select this option, you can choose both registered and unregistered provider, thereby giving you much greater flexibility to use your funding yet having full control over the plan usage.
Your plan manager will also help you with the management and solving the queries relating to your plan besides just paying all the bills and invoices. Plan managers are equipped with processes and tools and skilled at doing paperwork and record keeping relating to plan payments which otherwise would have done by you.
Some plan managers can also teach and build your financial skills so that you can manage your NDIS plan by yourself at a later stage should you wish to.
This option aims to take away the extra burden and stress, gives you the most flexibility and is a helping hand within your NDIS journey.
2. Let NDIA manage it – In this option, your chosen NDIS registered service providers claim their Invoices relating to your service directly from NDIA. Only registered NDIS providers can be utilised under this option. This means you will not be able to receive service from any one down the road until and unless you check that they are NDIA registered. The responsibility to check your budget and funding usage is to be done by yourself. This is to ensure you don’t use all your funding before your plan expiry. However, you may have a support coordinator who will assist you to organise and coordinate with the service providers and help you build your skills eventually.
3. Self-Manage your plan – Within this option, your chosen NDIS registered or unregistered service providers will send the invoices directly to you in order to be get paid. This option does gives you the flexibility to use both registered and unregistered providers however this option does require you to have appropriate financial skills or at least be comfortable managing your finances and having the skills to operate a computer in order to lodge the claims via NDIS participant portal. You also have to be responsible for all the book keeping related tasks of your plan.
Hence this option does give you some flexibility however you have to carry responsibility of paying providers and often gets stressful if you are not comfortable doing it.
Selecting a plan Manager
If you select plan management as an option to manage your plan, your plan will be built with an extra funding which is separate to the other funding budget. Your choice to choose a plan manager does not affect your original funding at all.
Once you have a plan ready to go, you may do some research to select a better plan manager that suits your needs. In order to find an ideal plan manager, you can ask your support coordinator, Local Area Coordinator or you may search it online. Also, you can check the search the providers in your area from the participant portal. While searching online make sure you check for reviews and ratings.
Once you get the contact information of two to more plan managers, you may wish to ring them and ask them questions relating to –
1. Their expertise and experience in doing plan management
2. Sense how friendly and supportive they are while speaking to them over the phone.
3. Check if they will come and see you before signing up with them.
Plan Management Guidance form NDIA
Until recently there has been no detailed guidance of what exactly a plan manager does besides pay your NDIS plan related invoices. As a result, there were many grey areas and hence confusions existed.
This guide also provided much needed clarity on what are the responsibilities of a plan manager especially at the start and at the termination of the plan management service.
The guidelines stated that your plan manager must -
A. Meet you in person or over the phone to discuss with you in detail about what plan management is and how will he or she be helping you over the course of your plan. It is only after this meeting that the plan manager is allowed to charge you the setup costs. Plan manager must record this meeting in some way as a proof or an evidence.
The first conversation meeting must cover topics such as
· Discussing the service agreement with plan manager giving you a copy
· Whether you or your support coordinator needs to see and approve all the invoices before processing?
· Communication methods relating to any of your plan related queries.
· Communication methods relating to your invoices and its approval.
· Discussion about your plan goals and funding.
B. Give you a report at least each month so to give you a clear idea about your spent and leftover funds.
C. Let you know if you are using funding too fast or too slow
D. Your plan manager can also tell you how to give feedback or make a complaint if you are unhappy with your other service providers.
E. If either of you or your plan manager wishes to cancel your agreement, give sufficient notice as per the agreement and agree on a cut -off date and
F. Plan manger must give you a report stating the left-over funding at the cut-off date.
Your plan manager cannot decide whether or not your services are reasonable and necessary and what services you must and must not get as this is decided by you and your support coordinator however your plan manager can certainly guide you with how much a service provider must charge you.