As the NDIS rolls out providers are urged to transform their business processes and systems. The move from block funding to payment for hours of service provided requires good preparation, organisation and commitment. Registering as a NDIS provider is only the first step. New ways need to be developed, trialled and adjusted as part of your NDIS planning to interact with your customers and the new way of funding.
We have identified ten steps along the NDIS customer journey that you must take when your customer becomes a NDIS participant and selects you as a service provider.
In this first instalment in a series of three we discuss NDIS planning and how to tackle the first steps to enable a smooth start for your customers and your organisation.
1. Getting ready – NDIS Pre-planning support
The majority of people feel overwhelmed and find the NDIS difficult to understand. Spending time and effort on preparing for the planning meeting increases the chance of starting out with an appropriate plan.
Identify how your organisation can support and prepare your customers in the best possible way with the resources that you have available. This can range from information on your website, formal information evenings or informal get-togethers, hand-outs and flyers, emails, phone calls, a helpline or one-on-one meetings. There is no need to do it all, but do it well, and seek feedback from customers if your support has been helpful and if they feel supported.
There is a wealth of information and resources for planning preparation. For people who have never previously been funded under a state or territory disability program, it is important to realise just how broad-ranging funded disability support can be. The WA Individualised Services offer excellent resources to prepare for planning and are downloadable for free http://waindividualisedservices.org.au/resources/planning-card-set/ . The tool can assist people with disabilities and their families to think about what might be possible across a wide range of life domains.
The NDIS and various organisations have published NDIS planning workbooks https://www.everyaustraliancounts.com.au/wp-content/uploads/NDIS-Planning-Workbook.pdf
Whether you endorse or develop a pre-planning workbook or a simple flyer, make sure it is relevant to your customer, easy to understand and not loaded with NDIS jargon.
We recommend that you pass on Sam Paior’s Top Ten NDIS Pre-planning Tips https://www.facebook.com/TheGrowingSpaceAustralia/posts/1970547713157107
Create a template and help your customers to write up two contrasting weeks: how does their week look now (including your weekly service delivery) and what could it look like in the future? Make sure your customers list your organisation when asked about their current community and mainstream supports.
Help your customers understand how your service will support them to achieve their goal or support needs. A letter of support helps to ensure continuity of access to support as does a summary of the services that your customer receives at the moment. While the NDIS does not require individual quotes, figures help to communicate the frequency and level of support.
Ensure your customers understand that they can choose how their funds will be managed. Self-management and plan-management are the best option for people who want flexibility and the option to use providers who are not registered with NDIA. Self-management is the ultimate goal, but many people will find the administrative burden overwhelming. Plan management can deliver most of the benefits of self-management, without the administrative headache. Section 43 of the NDIS Act makes plan management optional for any NDIS participant. Agency managed (i.e. where the NDIA manages the funds) provides convenience for people who prefer the safety and capability of registered providers and offers fast payment for providers.
Encourage your customer to ask lots of questions in preparation for the planning meeting and during the meeting. Are your employees prepared to answer customers’ NDIS questions and who is the best point of contact in your organisation to answer the trickiest ones?
2. The NDIS planning meeting
Participants do not know what to expect and can feel insecure about answering questions at the NDIS planning meeting. At times people with disability or carers do not want to admit or expose support needs or overstate their abilities. Ensure your customers have the right support for the planning meeting. If you have time and resources you could offer that a staff member accompanies them or to have the meeting at your office or at some other location that best suits the customer. You may have known your customer for years and understand the personal and family situation much more deeply than a planner could ever hope to pick up during a two hour meeting. Attending at least some meetings can give you a better insight into the process and help with providing genuine advocacy and support to customers who have not yet been to a planning meeting. Alternatively, you could make a connection with a good independent Support Coordinator who may be prepared to support the customer, either on a paid or pro bono basis.
Reasonable and necessary funding is determined by a range of factors including the age and stage of the participant’s life, primary disability, functional impairment, their chosen goals and their living situation. Answering questions thoughtfully is important and not easy for everyone.
3. Putting the NDIS plan into action
The NDIS participant receives a letter from the NDIA with the plan, picks up the phone to inform all of their service providers and completes the service bookings on the portal. Wishful thinking is one thing and reality another. While LACs are supposed to help participants with the plan implementation we have observed that many participants receive little to no help and often do not know where to start. The delay between the start of each NDIS plan and the implementation and service booking is creating funding gaps, delays and headaches for providers (not to mention the impacts on the person with disability).
Here are some tips for timely implementation:
- Identify who in your organisation will take charge to follow up and communicate with your customers to implement their NDIS plan, for the part you are being chosen to support.
- Establish a list of your customers and which area they live in. Keep track of the NDIS roll out in each area. Ask staff members to record planning dates if they come to their attention.
- Investigate with your local LACs if and what support they will offer to your customers to implement their plans, and ask how much time they are able to spend with customers who may need significant one-on-one support with implementation, including multiple face-to-face discussions and potential stalled starts.
- Inform the customer and the carer to contact you as soon as they receive their NDIS plan in the mail. A one page hand-out in easy English could explain what the next steps are.
- Compile a list of good, independent support coordinators in your area who could be a suitable match and support for your customers. Local and expert knowledge is important for effective support coordination.
- Compile a list of good, independent plan managers for your customers to choose from in case they nominate plan management. A good plan manager needs to be easy to communicate with, diligent, competent, and organised to guarantee timely payment. The plan manager may assist your customer with managing their budget and providing a real-time NDIS plan status via an app.
- Keep track of potential emails regarding ceased State/Territory funding for your customers, record this in your customer list or CRM and follow up with the customer without delay.
- Stay in touch with your customers. If you haven’t heard in a while, call and ask if they have received a letter from the NDIS.
- If the answer is YES, do not make assumptions and pretend it is business as usual. Ask if they wish to continue with your services. Arrange for a face to face or phone meeting to discuss goals, support needs and what services they would like to purchase.
- Money matters. Provide quotes and explain where the budget is listed in the NDIS plan. Is there enough funding for all the services the customer wishes to buy? Does your customer want to engage other service providers who will compete for the funding?
- Explain the importance of a service agreement (we will discuss this in our next issue).
- Compile a list of information that you require from your customers. This includes their NDIS number, their date of birth (which is important if you get through on the NDIS helpline), the start and end date of their plan, how the money is managed, who will initiate the service booking, your customer’s goals and the service type and frequency they wish to receive.
- Customers or nominees who are computer savvy and able to log into the myplace participant portal can grant you access to some basic information on the portal, once you have a service booking. You could ask for permission or ask support coordinators and LACs if they could assist.
- Identify who will work with potential new customers. Keep a record of requests and be clear if you are able to provide services and support. An intake policy and procedures will help to appropriately engage with future customers.
Preparing for the NDIS planning meeting is essential and it largely falls onto providers to support participants to navigate the NDIS. Allocating time and resources for preplanning and planning support will greatly benefit your customers and show that you genuinely care for them. When your customer receives the paper copy of the plan, timely implementation is crucial. It will assist customers to purchase the supports they need and ensure a smooth transition to NDIS funding for your organisation. In our next instalment we will discuss the benefits of service agreements and how providers should deal with the tremendous task of service bookings.
If the content of this blog has piqued your interest and you think your organisation might benefit from an NDIS health check and some strategic or practical guidance, CBB has a team of specialist NDIS consultants available to support you.