One of the first decisions you make as a new NDIS participant is how to manage your funds. Therefore, an NDIS Plan Manager is an important role. But unfortunately, it’s one that’s poorly understood.
Flexi Support Plan Manager, Phoebe Loi, says: “Too often, participants contact us after funds have run out and their essential services are disrupted. The most common request is for help to get extra funds.”
One major problem that contributes to this, says Phoebe, is the confusing way the scheme has been worded. “Many participants don’t realise that a Plan Manager is not the same person as their NDIS Planner!”
This confusion around NDIS Plan Management is one that Phoebe would like to clear up. “I think it’s important to help participants learn the benefits and responsibilities of a Plan Manager, and how these services can empower their choice and control, rather than hinder.”
Confusing Terms: “NDIS Plan Manager” vs “NDIS Planner”
Despite having very similar sounding job titles, NDIS Plan Managers and NDIS Planners fulfill very different roles.
NDIS Planner & Your NDIS Plan:
An NDIS Planner takes you through the process of writing your NDIS Plan and getting it approved for funding. They are also responsible for plan reviews, which happen at the end of each plan, and to approve future plans.
The NDIA assigns an NDIS Planner to you. Therefore, any change requests to your NDIS Plan (e.g. for extra funding due to change in circumstances) should be directed to your NDIS Planner.
NDIS Plan Manager & Plan Management:
On the other hand, an NDIS Plan Manager is someone you can hire to manage your NDIS funds. The NDIS calls this a “financial intermediary” support, or “plan management”.
In simpler terms, Plan Managers are essentially bookkeepers for your NDIS Plan. Their role is to help you receive invoices from your service providers and pay them on your behalf, by claiming the funds from your NDIS plan so you don’t have to manage that yourself.
Additionally, having a Plan Manager allows you to use “non-registered providers”, which opens you up to more choices of services providers. More on this in the next section.
Do I need a Plan Manager?
Everyone is different, so how you choose to manage your NDIS funds will differ. There’s 3 ways to do it: agency-managed, self-managed, and plan-managed.
|Amount of work for participant||Access to service providers|
|Agency Managed||Low – NDIA manages funds on your behalf||Restricted – Participants can only use “NDIS-registered providers”|
|Self Managed||High – Participant claims and pays all provider invoices and self-manages bookkeeping||Flexible – Participants can use any provider regardless of their registration status|
|Plan Managed||Flexible – Plan Manager does bookkeeping and pays provider invoices on your behalf||Flexible – Participants can use any provider regardless of their registration status|
Besides avoiding the burden of bookkeeping and admin, one benefit of having a Plan Manager is being able to choose “non-registered providers”. For instance, allied-health professionals working on their own, or non-health workers like cleaners or tradespeople.
Usually a provider needs to be registered with the NDIA to claim funds directly from your plan. Therefore, if your preferred provider is not registered, you are not able to use their services.
But since all Plan Managers are registered with the NDIA, they are able to claim the funds directly from your plan to pay the non-registered provider. This allows you to continue to receive services from your preferred provider regardless of their NDIA registration status, and opens you up to more options.
What does a great NDIS Plan Manager do?
At a minimum, a Plan Manager on your behalf will:
- Receive and pay invoices to your service providers
- Complete claims through the NDIA portal
- Alert you when funds are too high or low
- Provide regular financial statements
- Ensure funds are spent according to your NDIS plan
However, more than just the minimum, Phoebe lists these 5 things that all Plan Managers should be doing:
1. Provide accurate monthly statements
“The budget set out in your NDIS Plan has to last for the duration of the plan, which can range between 3-36 months,” explains Phoebe. “To help track funds over the entire duration, Plan Managers should provide monthly summaries. These show what’s spent and what’s remaining, to help participants get an overview of spending.”
2. Explain funding situation in simple language
“The NDIS is complex and so it’s vital to make things as easy to understand as possible,” says Phoebe.
“For example, Plan Managers should let you know about any “gap fees”. The NDIS sets out cost limits, but providers can charge higher than this. This extra cost is called a “gap fee”. Your Plan Manager should be familiar with the current NDIS price guides to flag any out-of-pocket costs.”
3. Have flexible Invoice Approval options
Since every participant has different circumstances and preferences, a great Plan Manager needs to offer flexibility for Invoice Approvals.
Phoebe explains, “For example, clients who receive a lot of services may not want the hassle of reviewing and approving every invoice. Therefore, Flexi Support lets participants opt for “no invoice approval required”, or to define a “maximum amount with no approval required”.
On the other hand, for participants who prefer to be more hands-on, they can choose to approve all invoices easily by email or post.”
4. Helps ensure funds are sufficient for services
“When supports alter, even if it seems like a slight change, this can unknowingly affect your budget,” Phoebe points out.
“With participants’ consent, we can check in with providers when we receive an updated Service Agreement. This extra step makes sure there’s enough funds for the service, throughout the duration of your NDIS plan.”
5. Support for languages other than English
Given the complexity of the NDIS, Phoebe highlights one of the most common problems: miscommunication between providers and participants. “At Flexi Support, we work with participants who speak many different languages at home. So we’re able to arrange free interpreter services for languages other than English.”
If you would like to work with an NDIS Plan Manager, then you’ll need to request it in your NDIS Plan (with your NDIS Planner).
It’s important to know that funds for Plan Management are treated separately. In other words, it doesn’t impact or subtract from your Core Support funds. Participants can ask for Plan Management funds without fear of affecting other funds in the application.
Flexi Support Plan Manager
A dedicated NDIS Plan Manager, Phoebe Loi approaches her work with integrity, respect and accountability. She is a CPA Australia member who brings a wealth of experience in financial reporting and cost analysis to the Flexi Support team. Phoebe takes pride in seeing participants achieve their goals through effective budgeting.