elderly woman sitting in wheelchair making a phone call to NDIS service providers

8 Questions You Should Ask Any NDIS Service Providers

Options for NDIS service providers can be staggering. Plus, service agreements can make as much sense as a cryptic crossword puzzle.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers to quality 1-on-1 support services is understanding and navigating the maze of NDIS service providers.

To help put you on the right path, we’ve enlisted Flexi Support Director Peter Chen and Operations Manager Dee Raja. Based on experience, they identified 8 essential questions you should ask any NDIS service provider.

Peter says, “When you’re a new NDIS participant, things can be overwhelming. It helps to first write down the individual services you need in order to achieve your NDIS goals.”

Dee adds, “Once you’ve narrowed down your list, compare your needs to the provider’s service offerings and whether they complement your goals and lifestyle.”

1. What extra costs should I be aware of?

Extra “Gap” charges and Establishment fees.

The NDIS sets a funding limit for certain support services. However, sometimes a provider’s service fee is greater than the maximum amount funded by the NDIS. As a result, the “gap” between the provider’s fee and NDIS amount is charged as an extra out-of-pocket cost to participants.

Peter says, “This is where Flexi Support differs. All of our service fees are 100% covered by the NDIS. Participants don’t have to worry about out-of-pocket expenses.”

Another cost to watch for are “establishment” fees. At the start of a new service, providers can deduct a fee of up to $800 from your NDIS plan. Peter says, “This extra fee comes out of the participant’s core support budget. It’s no small fee; it’s equivalent to around 15 hours of support services”

Peter adds, “Flexi Support does not charge an establishment fee. We’d prefer our clients to save that money for their 1-on-1 supports instead.”

2. How will NDIS service providers be paid?

NDIS supports can be funded in a variety of ways. Clarifying ‘how’ your NDIS service providers will receive payment can give you better choice and control.

Each support listed on an NDIS plan can be funded differently. Peter explains, “This is intended to provide options, but the NDIS “lingo” makes it confusing.”

All NDIS money must be handled by an NDIS-registered body. This can be:

  • the participant
    • e.g. you claim NDIS funds and you pay providers
    • this is called “self-managed funds”
    • lots of work, but gives most flexibility and transparency
  • the NDIA 
    • e.g. provider claims NDIS funds directly from the NDIA
    • this is called “agency-managed funds”
    • less control and transparency
    • limits participants to only using NDIS-approved providers
  • a “Plan Manager” 
    • e.g. plan manager acts on your behalf to claim NDIS funds and pay providers
    • this is called “plan-managed funds”
    • offers choice and less work for participants
    • note: a Plan Manager is not an NDIS Planner and does not work for the NDIA

Why is this difference important? Peter explains: “For NDIA-managed funds, participants can only use NDIS-registered service providers. This is rather limiting.”

“Flexi Support is NDIS-registered, but we know most participants need a variety of supports. Often, from individual allied-health providers, like physical therapists,” he says. 

Herein lies the confusion: providers don’t need to be NDIS-registered to deliver NDIS-funded services (NDIS calls these “non-registered NDIS providers”). Participants can work with non-registered NDIS providers only if they self-manage their NDIS plan, or have an NDIS-registered Plan Manager. “To clarify, a Plan Manager is not your NDIS Planner. A Plan Manager is more like an accountant; they act on your behalf to claim NDIS funds and pay bills”. 

Peter says that many are not aware that NDIS plans can include a Plan Manager. “In an NDIS plan, funding for a Plan Manager sits on its own, separate to Core Supports. Meaning, it doesn’t impact or take any money away from your support budget.”

For this reason, it’s worth asking service providers about payment in relation to your NDIS plan. Also, ask your NDIS Planner about payment for your preferred providers.

“As you can see, the NDIS wording around all of this is very confusing,” says Peter. “We’re happy for new participants to call the Flexi Support team if they’d like help.”

3. If there’s a problem, how does it get resolved?

Contact your provider and get a response in a timely manner.

When a question arises, it helps if you can get answers in a straightforward way. This seems simple, but anyone who has sat through a call-waiting loop knows this can be a frustrating affair.

Due to this difficulty, Dee says that clients may hesitate to contact their providers. Unfortunately, this can snowball into further problems and headaches down the road. Given the complexity of NDIS, it’s worth knowing you can reliably contact your provider.

Dee says, “Consistent conversation between the provider and NDIS participant is very important. Communication and feedback is key.”

“Don’t let things fester, you should be able to talk with the provider when you feel something isn’t right.”

4. What’s your minimum shift?

A “minimum shift” is the minimum charge for one care shift. This differs between providers.

Care needs change over the course of the year, as well as over time as participants progress with their NDIS plan. Dee points out one example: “Participants often have family visit over the Christmas holidays, so during that time they need less care hours”. She explains, “It’s helpful to go with a provider with flexible shifts that you can adjust as you need.”

“Flexi Support’s minimum shift for core supports is 1-hour,” she says. “This gives our clients the flexibility to adjust shift hours as they need.”

5. What’s your availability hours for care services?

There’s more to life than 9-to-5. Check that the provider’s care services are available during hours that suit you.

Depending on individual support workers time and availability, Flexi Support are able to arrange core support shifts 24/7, 365 days a year. This opens the possibility for NDIS participants to bring in the right level of support services, during times that suit them. Peter says, “It’s not just about providing essential care, but supporting participants who prefer to live their best life independently.”

He explains, “For instance, providers may close over the extended Christmas period. This can disrupt participants who prefer a routine for wellbeing. Flexi Support can help arrange shifts throughout the year to support our clients’ preferred lifestyles.

6. Can you provide staff who speak languages other than English?

The NDIS is confusing at the best of times. Participants can benefit from services provided in their preferred language.

Any culturally or linguistically diverse person knows the nuances of different languages. Prior to taking the helm as Director at Flexi Support, Peter was a manager of a nursing home. From his first-hand experience, he says, “For a support service as personal as caregiving, it helps if you or your loved one can communicate in their preferred language.

“Caregiving and also care receiving can mean different things to different people. We have culturally diverse Support Workers at Flexi Support who can speak languages other than English and who understand these nuances.”

Peter also adds that NDIS Support Coordination services at Flexi Support can use translation services. “NDIS can be hard to understand, even for native English speakers,” he says. “We can arrange a free translation service to better assist participants in languages other than English.”

7. How does the provider check for quality of delivery by staff?

A provider should be proactive in both seeking and following up on feedback about service quality.

There’s the old adage, “why fix what ain’t broke?” Sure this can apply to your TV or fridge, but in health care, staying complacent until something goes drastically wrong can cost lives.

“High quality service happens when problems are visible and improved upon, rather than assuming that things “ain’t broke”,” says Dee. “A robust feedback process means encouraging open communication with our clients as well as internally within our organisation.”

More often than not, Dee says that issues are caused by simple misunderstandings. “It’s important for providers to take the lead with checking in and getting feedback on their service quality. Following things up and clarifying small questions early-on can save big headaches for everyone.”

8. What is the provider’s Cancellation Policy?

A clear cancellation policy means that when life changes, your services can change with you too.

Life is impossible to predict. But one thing is for certain; care goals and needs will change over time. Therefore, it’s worth asking any NDIS provider about policies on altering your services.

There are two policies to consider: their cancellation policy for individual shifts, and policy for ending or handing over a service.

Peter explains, “As our name suggests, Flexi Support offers flexible care services. To do so, we’ve shaped our policies with shorter notice times.”

“For example, we know there’s many moving parts to a NDIS plan. Our shift cancellation policy is 6-hours, and it’s a 24-hours notice to end a service agreement. This lets us work with other providers to handover services as soon as they’re ready to start.”

“It’s more common for providers to need 14-28 days before ending service agreement. But to be honest, we’d prefer happy clients than prolonging or delaying services,” he says.

Conclusion

Finding the right NDIS service provider can feel like a maze of options. For this reason, these 8 questions will help gauge whether a provider is right for you. Any care or community service provider worth their salt will be happy to discuss these questions with you.

If you’d like to chat about NDIS services with Flexi Support, feel free to get in contact with us. We’d love to help answer your questions.


Contributor Bios

Peter Chen
Flexi Support Director

Peter Chen is our bona fide Director at Flexi Support and has been at the helm since 2013. He believes that health services should help to make people’s lives better. In this way, he values no-nonsense honesty and empowers others to find solutions to their needs effectively. Peter brings a welcome approach: to make home and community care easier for anyone to understand and access.

Dee Raja
Flexi Support Operations Manager

Dee Raja is our extraordinary Operations Manager at Flexi Support. To deliver the best care, our Support Workers need the best support too. And Dee is the legend that helps our community of carers and clients not just function, but thrive. She’s a great communicator and believes that transparency and visibility is the foundation of quality care and community services.