How to choose NDIS providers for mental health
Once you have received your NDIS plan, you will be able to use it to access support providers that meet your needs. There are many things that you may want to look for when choosing support providers but some good starting points to consider are:
Value For Money
You may want to make sure that the support you are buying is worth the cost. You probably wouldn’t want to pay a cleaner $150 an hour, and it would be hard work finding a psychologist who only charges $35 an hour. So, it can be useful to look at the type of support you are wanting to buy, what prices other places charge, and then balance this with the benefit you get or expect to get from the specific support you choose. Keep in mind that unless you are self-managing your plan, you cannot pay supports above the NDIS price limits.
Values, Culture & Approach
It is important that the support providers you work with fit well with your own values, expectations, and goals. Supports should have a positive impact on your life, they shouldn’t make you feel frustrated or like they are more of a hassle than they’re worth. Support providers should be working alongside you to design the supports you access, and these supports should help you work towards your NDIS and life goals. Remember, you are buying their services, if you bought a mobile phone and it didn’t do what it was meant to, you’d probably return it or not buy from that store again. The same goes for your NDIS supports.
Registered Vs Unregistered
Not all providers under the NDIS are what is called ‘registered’. Registered providers have undertaken strict auditing where they have to show that they meet a wide range of requirements when delivering their supports and running their services. Unregistered providers do not have to undergo auditing and can run their business in the way they want. This does not mean that registered or unregistered providers are any better or worse than each other. It just means that there are different things to look out for. Here are some things to look out for when looking at registered and unregistered providers:
- ALL providers who deliver supports under the NDIS are required to uphold the NDIS Code of Conduct – https://www.ndiscommission.gov.au/providers/ndis-code-conduct
- If your plan is NDIA Managed, you are only able to purchase supports from registered providers. If your plan is Plan managed or you Self Manage, you can choose to purchase supports from both registered and unregistered providers.
- Registered providers are not able to charge for services above the maximum rates set out by the NDIA. Unregistered providers can charge what they like for supports, but unless you are Self Managing your plan, you can only pay providers up to the maximum rate set by the NDIA.
- Ask your providers about their feedback and complaints processes. This will help give you an idea about how flexible and open to change they are when delivering supports. If a provider is defensive or rigid with how they handle feedback, then this might cause problems down the track. Registered providers have strict rules they must follow to keep their registration, so in theory, they should be open to feedback and responsive to complaints raised. A lot of unregistered providers also handle feedback and complaints amazingly. Asking about these processes at the start can really help give you more understanding and start to build trust from the get-go.
For Profit Vs Not for Profit
Not-for-Profit organisations use excess income to invest back into the organisation and provide services that benefit the community or support the organisations mission. For-Profit organisations use excess income to invest back into their employees through increased pay etc. While these different structures seem to be quite different, this does not mean that either have better values or beliefs than any other. There are many For-Profit organisations that use their work to have a positive impact on the community, however they also seek to increase their incomes to ensure sustainability and so their employees keep providing quality services. There are also some Not-for-Profit organisations that may not have as wide a range of services they provide, or might not be as flexible, because their mission is only focussed on certain things. It’s up to you as a customer to decide which organisations you want to access but knowing about the differences in how profit is used can help you ask questions to get a clearer idea of what an organisations mission and focus is.
Contracting Vs Employing
when using your NDIS funds, you have options to work with providers who manage their staffing, work with independent contractors who have an ABN, or you can choose to employ your own staff. All three options have different requirements and pros and cons which would be far too much to cover here. The Australian Tax Office provides some information about when someone would be classed as a contractor vs an employee (https://www.ato.gov.au/business/employee-or-contractor/difference-between-employees-and-contractors/) but it is important to speak to professionals, such as an Accountant, when deciding what you’d like to do.
The Boring (but very important) Stuff
it can be useful to check that the person providing your support is suitable and qualified for the support they are delivering. You won’t want to access Physiotherapy from an Accountant, so it can be good to get in the habit of asking support providers to explain to you their qualifications, check they have insurances to protect you and them if something went wrong, and check that they understand their responsibilities when providing services through the NDIS (this is their job, you don’t have to teach them).
For most of your supports it is important that they have a NDIS Workers Screening Check. This is a national check like a police check, but it also looks for anyone who might have previously been banned or suspended from working with people with a disability. You probably don’t need your gardener to have one of these checks, but if it’s a provider who is working directly with you, it can give good peace of mind to you when accessing their support.
For more information about whether you or someone you know is eligible for the NDIS funding, visit NDIS for Mental Health.