NDS Helpdesk Top 5: February 2023
The NDS Helpdesk team have chosen the top five questions and responses from the past month.
Do disability workers still need three COVID-19 vaccinations to work in Victoria?
While workers in the disability sector are strongly encouraged to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, NDS understands there are no vaccine mandates for disability workers in Victoria or across Australia. The Victorian COVID-19 Pandemic Declaration ended last October, marking the end of the vaccine mandate for Victorian workers in the disability sector.
However, employers must meet their occupational health and safety obligation to manage known risks to the health and wellbeing of their staff, which includes the risks associated with COVID-19. A consideration of vaccination requirements should form part of that risk management.
NDS held a webinar in late November with legal and industrial consultants to help organisations develop COVID-19 risk mitigation strategies. You will find the recording, slides and Q and A summary on our website. The presenters gave valuable information about employer responsibilities, including compliance with WHS obligations. While vaccinations are one consideration, the consultants also discussed how to determine needs within an organisation’s broader infection control strategy.
What is the difference between provider travel and activity-based transport? If I am transporting a participant to and from an activity, is this activity-based transport?
Provider travel and participant transport are treated differently in the NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits (PAPL).
Travel can be claimed where a worker travels to provide support to a participant. There are two aspects of this that can be claimed:
- The labour-related component, which covers payment for the worker’s time while travelling. This is claimed at the hourly rate of the relevant support item with time limits that depend on the area the support is being delivered.
- The non-labour component of the worker’s travel, which covers non-labour costs, including fuel and tolls. There are no price limits set for this, but the participant needs to agree in advance on the amount charged. The PAPL provides some guidelines about reasonable non-labour costs. Claims for non-labour travel costs must be made separately from the support and the labour-related travel costs.
There are two types of transport under the NDIS settings:
- General transport
This is where the provider just transports the participant to an activity without providing support during the activity. While there, the participant may get support for the activity from another provider. For example, the participant might get transport to and from the local shopping centre but the transport provider does not give support while they shop. This is general transport to be claimed under item 02_051_0108_1_1. Again, there are no price limits for this. However, the PAPL provides some indicative guidance. General transport is explained on page 55.
- Activity-based transport
Activity-based transport can be claimed by providers of social, economic and community participation supports and some capacity-building supports. This is where, at the request of the participant, a provider transports them to and from a location as part of an activity. This covers the time cost of the worker and any non-labour related costs of the transport. Again, there are no price limits for the non-labour component.
We are concerned that one of our participants is being neglected by their legal guardian who is withholding funds for essential items. Can we, as the provider, advocate for our participant’s rights?
Providers have an obligation under the NDIS Code of Conduct to “take all reasonable steps to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against, and exploitation, neglect and abuse of people with disability.” This obligation extends beyond violence, neglect, exploitation or abuse perpetrated by the provider or their employees to include abuses perpetrated by others, including family members and guardians.
The course of action will differ between states and territories. In Victoria, NDS understands that the provider can seek a solution via the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Before that, we advise having an honest and well-documented discussion with the guardian. You should share your concerns that their behaviour might constitute neglect and tell them about your obligation under the NDIS Code of Conduct to act on concerns about abuse, neglect, violence or exploitation of people with disability.
If you are concerned that a person with disability is being abused or neglected, you can contact the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline on 1800 880 052. It is a free, independent and confidential service for reporting abuse and neglect of people with disability.
What are the relative merits of Agency versus plan management?
We have outlined some of the pros, cons and differences between Agency management and plan management below.
- This means the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) manages the funds in your plan. The Agency pays invoices, claims reimbursements, reports against your plan, resolves billing issues and keeps records and receipts.
- It suits people who don’t have the time, support or capacity to deal with financial or administrative tasks.
- If you have your plan managed by the Agency, you can only access services and supports from NDIS registered organisations, which could limit your flexibility. If you live in a regional or remote area you may struggle to get supports from NDIS registered service providers.
- This means that you pay a service provider with your NDIS funding to manage your funds. This includes managing your invoice payments, keeping track of your funds, providing financial reports, claiming reimbursements, and resolving billing issues with service providers.
- This option can be good for those who want more flexibility than is available through Agency management, because it gives you choice and control to use both NDIS registered and non-registered providers.
- Some plan managers also offer support for participants to build their skills and knowledge around financial management and the NDIS, which could be a step toward self-management.
- The billing process may take longer than if you self-manage your plan
Would ceasing the delivery of services when a participant owes me a significant debt and fails to pay be a breach of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission Standards?
There is no clear guidance provided by the NDIA on appropriate debt management policies that providers should adopt.
The NDIS Practice Standards do, however, require registered providers to implement strategies that secure continuity of supports, including the following indicator:
"Arrangements are in place to ensure support is provided to the participant without interruption throughout the period of their service agreement. These arrangements are relevant and proportionate to the scope and complexity of supports delivered by the provider."
Ceasing services without due notice or without making other arrangements for the participant, which may include notifying the NDIA, support coordinator or LAC, could be a breach of this standard or the Code of Conduct.
This ACCC and ASIC guide for creditors and debt collectors may give you some useful general information. Most states and territories have requirements around dealing fairly with consumers, and debt management is likely to fall into this area.
For any enquiries, please contact Sarah Fordyce, State Manager Victoria, submit enquiry/feedback, show phone number