If you’ve been approved as an NDIS participant, then you have three options for how you can manage your NDIS plan. You can choose NDIS self management, which means you have complete control over exactly how your funds are spent, but you’re responsible for managing all the administration, contracts, scheduling, and payments. You can choose agency management, which means the NDIA manages all administration and pays your providers directly, but you can only choose approved providers, you can’t negotiate costs, and you must schedule all your providers through the NDIS portal. Finally, you can ask for a plan manager, which means a third party provider will manage the administration of your plan. If you choose this option, then you’ll need to find a plan manager.
What Is an NDIS Plan Manager and What Do They Do?
An NDIS plan manager is a provider who manages the administration of your plan. This means they’re responsible for paying all invoices to your support providers and claiming those payments with NDIA. Their job is to make sure that claims are made correctly and proper records are kept for reporting the use of your NDIS funds.
Your plan manager is not responsible for designing your support plan or determining what types of supports you can purchase with NDIS funds. That’s decided by the NDIA when your eligibility is approved. Your plan manager also doesn’t set fees for the support services you receive, although they can negotiate with your service providers for lower fees (just as you can if you’re self-managing). Plan managers are usually not responsible for choosing your service providers, setting up your service schedule, or managing the implementation of your plan, although they may help you choose service providers if you request that. Your plan manager is responsible for the financial administration of your plan.
If you choose a plan manager, they will keep you updated on how much you’ve spent of your funds and what’s still available in your budget for each category. If your funds are low, it’s their responsibility to contact you as soon as possible and help you budget your approved funds. If your funds are being spent too quickly, you may need to contact NDIA to be re-evaluated for additional support funding.
Because your plan manager is responsible for filing claims for reimbursement from NDIA for the invoices they’ve paid to your support providers, your plan manager is also responsible for ensuring that those claims are not fraudulent. If your support funds are used inappropriately or fraudulently, your plan manager can be liable for the unapproved costs.
Finally, your plan manager may provide additional services for capacity building and training. This involves teaching you how to manage the financial aspects of your plan. These capacity-building services can enable you to eventually transition to self-managing your plan if you desire.
What Are the Benefits of a Plan Manager?
Choosing a plan manager for your NDIS plan gives you the benefits of self-management along with the simplicity of agency management. It’s much easier than self-managing your plan, since you don’t have to keep track of all the invoices and claims yourself, and you don’t have to make sure to complete all the paperwork correctly. Just like agency management, using a plan manager allows you to not worry about the financial aspects of your support plan.
At the same time, using a plan manager gives you the same level of choice and control that you would have with self management. With agency management, you can only use NDIA-approved providers, and you have to pay the standard fees for all your approved services. But when you choose a plan manager, you can use any service provider you choose, including providers who aren’t NDIA-approved. You can also ask your plan manager to negotiate costs for you, which means you can sometimes pay less than the standard fees for services. A plan manager gives you the convenience of agency management and the flexibility of self-management, and so for many participants, it’s the best of both worlds.
Finally, using a plan manager will never cost any of your support plan funds. If you want a plan manager, you can request plan management from the NDIA during your support planning meeting. Plan management funding will be added to your support budget as an additional category, and it will have no impact on the funds available for you to spend in other categories.
Do I Need an Independent Plan Manager?
It’s important that your plan manager can manage the financial aspects of your plan with integrity and without bias. That’s why the NDIA encourages participants to choose plan managers who are independent, which means they aren’t providing any of your support services. Since you have the freedom to choose any provider for each of your services, the NDIA recommends choosing a plan manager separately from your service providers.
However, it can be more convenient to use a plan manager from an agency that is also an approved NDIS service provider. Plan managers are required to have policies in place to ‘actively manage any conflicts of interest’, ensuring they can offer impartial financial advice about the management of your plan.
The CareSide offers both plan management and support services. Our direct team of staff provides care support services such as personal hygiene and meal support. We also manage care for a variety of other services, such as specialist care like chiropractic as well as support services such as gardening and home maintenance, using our pool of independent service providers.
How Can I Find an NDIS Plan Manager?
Although your service providers do not have to be registered NDIA providers, your plan manager does need to be an approved provider. This means that the simplest way to find a plant manager is to use the provider finder tool on the NDIS website. Choose your state or territory or enter your postcode, and then under “Registration Group,” click “Plan Management.” This will show you a list of all the approved plan managers in your area.
You can also ask for a recommendation from your local area coordinator. Your coordinator is likely to be familiar with many of the plan managers in your region, and they may be able to recommend someone who would be a good fit for you. If you have any friends or family who are NDIS participants, they might also be able to give you a recommendation for a plan manager they use and are happy with.
Finally, you can search on Google for NDIS plan managers in your area. There are websites that offer reviews and ratings of support service providers, including plan managers. However, if you search online, make sure to check that the provider you’re considering as a plan manager is NDIA approved.
How Can I Get Started with a Plan Manager?
Once you’ve found a plan manager you want to use, you need to sign a service agreement with them. A service agreement is a contract with a provider who is offering support services in your NDIS plan. Plan management is considered a support service in your plan, since it’s a separate category that is fully funded by your NDIS budget.
Your service agreement will include exactly what services your plan manager will provide, how much those services will cost, and how long they will provide those services. Most plan managers will have a standard service agreement, but you can negotiate for any changes that you want if you don’t like their standard agreement. You can also write your own service agreement for plan management if you want. In addition, you can bring a friend or family member to help you negotiate with your plan manager, so don’t hesitate to ask questions or ask for any changes if you don’t like something in their standard agreement.
Here are a few points that should be included in your plan management service agreement:
- Your responsibilities to your plan manager, including how you should inform them about any changes to your support services
- Your plan manager’s responsibilities, including how frequently they will discuss spending and remaining funds with you
- The cost of the plan management services, including any fees
- How your plan manager will inform you and help you budget if you are close to overspending your funds
- How to resolve any disputes you have with your plan manager
- How to end the plan management service agreement
Your agreement should also say how to contact your plan manager if you have any concerns or problems. Keep in mind that although your plan manager can only charge the NDIS standard fees for plan management, they can charge additional costs such as travel fees. Make sure you understand all the fees you could be charged by your plan manager before you sign the agreement.
How Can I Change My Plan Manager?
The focus of the NDIS is to give you complete choice and control over your support services, so you always have the option of changing your plan manager at any time if you’re not happy with their services. Plan managers cannot charge any exit fees, so there’s should never be any additional cost for you to switch providers.
Some plan managers will not begin a new service agreement with you if you switch in the middle of your plan, so it may be easier to wait to switch when your plan expires. However, you have the right to change plan managers at any time, so don’t hesitate to look for a new manager if you’re unhappy. Just make sure before you cancel your old agreement that the new plan manager you’ve chosen is willing to start services with you before your plan expires.
To change plan managers, your first step is to contact the NDIA. Inform them that you are switching to a new plan manager, and if you know the name of the new plan manager you want, tell them that as well. Next, contact the new plan manager you want to work with and let them know you would like to begin services. Complete all the paperwork with them and confirm the date when they will begin services for you. Finally, contact your old plan manager and tell them the date when you want to end your service agreement with them. You don’t need to give any explanation to your old manager about why you want to change providers. Your support funds will switch to your new plan manager on the date when your new contract begins.
For many NDIS participants, using a plan manager can offer the best of both worlds, giving you full choice and control over all of your support services without any of the headache of administrative and financial management. The CareSide is an NDIA-approved provider for all types of disability support services, including plan management. Contact us using the buttons at the top of the page to learn more about the NDIS services we can offer you.