If you have your Approved Plan under NDIS, then you have probably been through quite a process of figuring out what it all means, what categories you are funded under and how and what you can spend those funds on.
Most likely you have been busy checking out the services available to you and have finally come to that space where you have chosen your Service Provider.
You meet with them, and they start to talk to you about a Contract or Service Agreement. Suddenly, things just got real serious with budgets, quotes, contracts and signatures. You start to wonder if you are signing your life away!!
Don’t let yourself get bamboozled and overwhelmed. This will become a normal part of your interaction with Service Providers and Supports under NDIS.
And the good news is, that it’s an important part that is there for the benefit of both you and your provider.
What is a Service Agreement and why is it necessary?
The NDIS describes the Service Agreement as a document that “sets out what supports will be provided and how they will be delivered. It should also explain each party’s responsibilities and obligations and how to resolve any problems that may arise.”
More than this, the agreements builds trust. You want your provider to be open, honest, and fair in it’s relationship with you. Your provider wants the same from you in return.
A contract / Service Agreement is the first step to establishing that trust.
It does this by setting out, clearly, “how things will work” as we work together.
As such, an agreement should be 2-way. It should include what you can expect from the Service Provider, and what the Service Provider can expect from you.
What should a Service Agreement include?
Whilst every provider will have a different Service Agreement with varying amounts and types of information within it, there are a number of key things that it should contain.
It would be wise to ensure that any agreement you go into includes, at least:
- the supports provided under the Service Agreement
- the cost of those supports
- details of the support
- commencement date and expiry date of the Agreement
- how issues, disputes and conflicts will be managed
- how any change to the agreement will be handled
- your responsibilities under the Service Agreement—such as letting your provider know if you cannot make a session or need to cancel, attending plan reviews
- your provider’s responsibilities under the Service Agreement
- how to make changes to the agreement
- how to renew or terminate the agreement
When you talk to your provider you may feel like there is a lot of information in the contract, and some of it may seem irrelevant, unimportant, or very “business” like.
Thats because it is more business like than what you may be use to when dealing with your provider in the past.
The agreement will aim to cover a lot of “what if” situations – such as “what if the session is cancelled late..” “what if I want to change providers?”… “what if I want to change things?”… “what if I’ve got a complaint?” – so that everyone knows what to do or what will happen if any of the “what if’s” become “Now what?..”
Bottom line, you are entering into a formal agreement and contract with your provider for services.
You now have the choice of providers, and the responsibility that comes with it, including the associated consequences of not fulfilling your end of the agreement.
Its a bit like when you join a gym you would be presented with lots of information, agreements, disclaimers, and paper work to be signed. All designed to ensure that you know exactly what you are getting and exactly what you need to do as your part of the agreement.
Do I have to show them my Approved Plan?
The short answer is “NO”.
There is nothing that says you have to show your provider your approved plan.
However, here’s the thing – You are bound to only use your approved plan funds on those things in your plan that are directly aligned and associated with the achievement of the stated goals in your approved plan.
There will come a time that you will have to demonstrate and evidence that you have purchased supports that contribute to the achievement of your goals.
It will serve you well to ensure that if you don’t want to show your providers your approved plan, that you:
- specifically share the stated goals in the plan; verbally or written
- discuss with your service provider how they can assist in providing supports / services that contribute to the achievement of those goals and how they contribute
- discuss the categories of support you have available and/or wish to utilise with the service provider
Once again I refer back to the importance of developing a relationship with your providers grounded in mutual trust. And the importance of open and honest communication in building that trust.
Am I locked in?
Always look for the “Termination Clause”.
Every agreement should have one. If it doesn’t, you need to ask for one.
The Termination Clause will set out:
- Termination notification timeframes
- How that notification is to be received
- Under what circumstances a termination will occur
- the right of both parties to terminate the agreement
- what will take place once a notification is received.
The termination clause is important, because it gives you the reassurance that you are not “locked in” for the full term of the contract. However, be sure to read and understand the terms associated with the termination.
No Contract, No Service – why?
Some providers may not commence any service supports unless they have a signed agreement with you.
No contract = no booking = no payment request = no funding = no service.
Thats as simply articulated as I can put it.
Your Service Providers want to deliver a quality service with quality staff. To retain quality staff they need to be good employers that meet their payroll obligations. Your funding is most likely critical for them to do this.
Remember how I said that it will feel more “business like”? This is part of it. Services need certainty that they will be paid for the services that they have provided.
You may have a service that will give you some degree of flexibility with the time between commencement of supports and contract signatures. This is generous and demonstrates high levels of trust and respect for you. Treat it with the respect it deserves and be responsive to the timeframes they provide.
Remember how I said you want to build a relationship of trust with your Service Provider – this is part of it.
Where can I get more information?
As with anything NDIS related, things are changing rapidly and today’s news could become “old” news very quickly.
I always recommend that you seek answers to your specific queries direct from the NDIS itself.
Be mindful that even they can’t keep up with the pace at which changes are occurring (so the staff on the National 1800 number keep telling me).
I hope this has been helpful to you. I am sure that as we progress into NDIS Land we will learn more about the processes, what to expect, and how things will work.
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