Helpdesk Top Questions: May 2023
Here are some of the questions keeping the NDS Helpdesk team busy over the past month.
Q. I am seeking some advice about claiming cancellation for services after the death of a participant. We are referring to home and community-based services and services for daily personal activities where, in normal circumstances, cancellation of up to seven days would apply. Our staff and support workers would still need to be paid and redeployment is not possible. Can you tell us whether cancellation charges are appropriate if a participant suddenly dies and how these should be invoiced?
Unfortunately, under the provisions of the NDIS, funding can only be allocated for participants. Once someone has died, they are no longer a participant of the Scheme. NDS has raised this issue in our advocacy, acknowledging the significant work required and costs incurred by service providers and support coordinators after a participant’s death. We note that plan managers can be funded for arranging final payments and so on, but this relates to services provided while the participant was still alive.
Q. Question about seven-day short-notice cancellations. Since 1 July 2022, the NDIS price guide says that for providers to charge participants for seven-day short-notice cancellations, it must be stated in service agreements. Because of the sheer number of service agreements we already have in place that won't expire until after that date, we want to alert participants before the service agreement review is completed.
First, we note that it is only the period of notice that has changed recently. The recommendation to include reference to short-notice cancellations in your agreements is long-standing. For some time, NDS has recommended that providers include a reference to short-notice cancellations within their service agreements with participants. If there is such a clause, it is enough to alert participants, with appropriate notice, to the change in timing, giving them an opportunity to discuss or object. If your existing service agreements do not include a provision for short-notice cancellations, then we recommend updating them to include such a provision.
SIL Service Provision
Q. We provide SIL services and charge a weekly SIL line item every week. The participant went away for three days during that week to attend a camp — not sure this was STA or community access. They did give a month’s notice. However, it is my understanding that, as a weekly line item was being charged, we could continue to charge for the full line-item even though they were away. Could you please provide some clarity?
As a SIL provider charging under the line item 'Assistance in Supported Independent Living — Weekly', there are no adjustments for weekdays, weekends or public holidays, since the weekly amount claimed includes an annualised compensation for such days. This may also include specific breaks. Thus, you would continue to charge as normal even if your client is away for a few days.
For example, if your client is away for a weekend to visit their parents, you would continue to charge SIL as usual. It would be the same for attending a camp.
Q. A service agreement clearly states that eight weeks' notice must be given to end service with a SIL provider. However, the participants’ nominee has asked us to remove all workers within two weeks. Are we entitled to claim for the remaining period of notice required?
If the terms of the service agreement align with the NDIS Act 2013 and NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits, you may be entitled to claim for the remainder of the period (six weeks).
However, we would recommend a more moderate approach. Negotiate what would be reasonable, taking account of the circumstances, your ability to redeploy the staff, the extent of costs incurred, and the reasons for the withdrawal request. The ACCC notes that contracts need to be fair, and this may also be a relevant consideration.
Q. What are the rights of service providers when NDIS auditors insist on changes in practice based on incorrect or inaccurate information? I tried presenting the facts (from NDIS Practice Standards), but it did not remedy the situation.
If a provider has an issue with an auditor accepting their evidence, which seems to be your case, and the auditor makes a finding based on inaccurate information, the provider is entitled to make a complaint to the Approved Quality Auditor (AQA). If the matter cannot be resolved, you can then take the issue to Jas–ANZ, the body that monitors the conduct of AQAs. This is spelled out in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Approved Quality Auditors Scheme) Guidelines 2018.
Your AQA should have provided information in your contract about their complaints process. Auditors are required to put a notice of any complaint received during the audit in your final audit report, so there is a bit of timing to consider here.
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