Posted by Regie Anne Gardoce on 11 October 2019
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is rolling out across Australia to provide support for Australians with disabilities, their families and their carers.
Many businesses are rolling in to become “NDIS providers” to offer support services to NDIS participants.
But there are a number of rules and regulations you need to be aware of if you intend to become an NDIS provider.
A new NDIS Quality & Safeguards Commission has also been set up to monitor NDIS providers in Australia.
Since the NDIS is a relatively new scheme, the rules and regulations surrounding it are constantly changing, so it’s important to stay ahead of these changes.
This article will walk you through what you need to know as an NDIS provider, what you need to do, and why it’s so important!
Where Do I Begin?
As a service provider under the NDIS, you’re technically operating as your own business (but you are working within a government scheme).
So, to get started, there are a number of things you have to do as any business would.
From deciding your business structure and registering your company to having employment contracts set in place — you want to make sure you have all your legals in good shape.
You can read our Business Legals 101 Guide if you’d like more information about taking these first steps.
But if you would like to become an NDIS service provider, you’ll have to satisfy several criteria before you even register.
Registering as an NDIS service provider can be a tricky and lengthy process, but don’t stress!
The NDIS has put together a handy Provider Registration Checklist to help you understand what you need to do and how to do it.
So, what other legals do you need to think about?
Let’s go through them.
What Laws Do I Need To Comply With?
As an NDIS service provider, the biggest consideration you’ll need to make is the number of requirements and regulations you must comply with.
We’ll go through some of these throughout this article but, at a high level, you’ll first need to make sure you comply with the Australian Consumer Law.
To give you an overview of what you’ll need to know, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has put together a useful guide for businesses that supply to consumers with disabilities.
Particularly, service providers must comply with the minimum requirements for Terms of Business, Price Guides and Support Catalogues outlined by the NDIS.
The NDIS is a heavily regulated area and there are a number of different standards and regulations you’ll need to follow.
A good lawyer can help you figure out where you stand and what you need to do.
NDIS Quality & Safeguards Commission
In 2018, the NDIS Quality & Safeguards Commission was introduced and is now effective in almost all states across Australia.
Put simply, all NDIS providers will now be monitored by this Commission to make sure they comply with:
- NDIS Practice Standards
- NDIS Code of Conduct
- Behaviour Support Requirements (if applicable)
- Work-Screening Requirements
NDIS Service Providers are also obliged to have in-house systems in place to deal with complaints, resolutions and incidents (and, in some cases, these must be reported to the NDIS Commission).
The Commission can also assess the ‘suitability’ of NDIS providers.
While these might seem like a lot of requirements to comply with, the extent to which you’re obliged to comply will depend on the independent nature of your business.
Speaking to a good lawyer can help you understand how all these requirements may affect your business, and what you need to do to make sure you’re compliant.
So, that’s the compliance side.
But what kind of contracts do NDIS service providers need?
NDIS Service Agreements
Like any business providing services, you’ll need a Service Agreement.
This is generally the contract you have with your customers that draws out the agreed details of your services, from the scope of work to payment terms.
But NDIS providers are required to have specific Service Agreements with NDIS participants.
The NDIS requires that particular things be included in these Service Agreements — for example, if you want to charge participants for certain services, these will need to be explicitly set out.
NDIS Service Agreements are to be the result of a collaboration between the participant (or their nominated representative) and you as the provider.
This is because the essence of the NDIS is to support the independence and workforce participation of people with disability. It is also designed to enable people with a disability to exercise control and choice in their lives.
So, while you might already have a template you use for regular business, as an NDIS Service Provider you must specifically consult the participant on decisions about how supports and services are provided.
You may have your own service agreements that you’d like to maintain, or you may need to negotiate with participants to come to a middle ground.
On top of this, the NDIS has particular requirements surrounding what you can and cannot change in your Service Agreement.
For example, you can only charge establishment fees if they are set out in your Service Agreement.
If you need help drafting an NDIS Service Agreement, it’s a good idea to chat with a lawyer who can help you understand how to do it right and what needs to go into your Service Agreement.
One of these is if you’re a private sector health service provider in Australia.
And you might need to comply with specific state or territory privacy requirements related to health, too.
For example, in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, private sector health service providers must comply with both Australian and state or territory privacy laws when handling health information.
In Australia, employers have a number of obligations which are monitored by the Fair Work Commission.
To ensure you’re meeting your obligations, a good place to start is putting in place employment agreements that comply with the National Employment Standards.
And you must also give a Fair Work Information Sheet to your employees before or as soon as they start working for you.
But the NDIS also has a number of specific requirements for employees working under the NDIS scheme.
For starters, employees must have met the NDIS worker screening requirements (which are different in each state and territory).
Employees must also comply with all the relevant NDIS standards and laws.
So, before you hire anyone, you need to make sure that they understand the requirements of working in the NDIS and that they obtain the appropriate screening checks.
What To Take Away
Like any business, there are a number of legals you need to consider when getting started as an NDIS provider.
Generally, when you’re starting a business, your primary focus is ensuring you comply with the relevant laws and are protected from any liability.
But for NDIS providers, the situation is more complex.
There are many specific NDIS requirements and minimum standards you’ll have to comply with across your business and employees.
You’ll also need to be prepared to negotiate services and agreements with participants, as the NDIS encourages participants’ active participation.
On top of this, you’ll need to make sure you have the right processes in place (such as worker screening and in-house complaints management) to comply with NDIS standards.
Speak To A Lawyer
All these different rules and requirements might seem like a headache — but don’t panic!
Speaking to a good lawyer can help you make sure you’re doing everything right.
At Sprintlaw, our lawyers can guide you through what you need to know as an NDIS service provider and what you should do about it.
From advice on complying with NDIS standards to drafting your NDIS Service Agreement, we’d love to help!
You can reach our friendly team on 1800 730 617 or simply drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.