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NDIS provider reporting 101

A smiling woman with glasses sits at her desk typing a report.

In the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), letters of recommendation and provider reports are vital tools that can have a powerful impact on the lives of people with disability.

Independently and together, these documents can be transformative for participants, providing critical evidence of the impact of their disability and expert advice on the supports they need to assist with daily life. This is information that’s influential when the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is making funding decisions.

So, what does this mean for you?

Put simply, as an NDIS provider, you hold the power to change lives. But with that power comes responsibility – and in this case, that’s responsibility for delivering best practice reports and recommendations that back your clients in when they’re seeking an uplift in funding or a change to the NDIS supports they access.

As a bonus, get reporting right, and we’ve no doubt you’ll build a reputation for service excellence – and that equals word of mouth referrals and more business for you!

We spoke with two support coordination experts – Selwyn Child from Around the Well and Kelly Butler from Focal Community Services – about letters of recommendation and the wide array of reports NDIS providers are called upon to deliver.

Documents that do good

In the world of the NDIS, evidence is king – and documenting the impact that funded supports can have, as well as the progress and outcomes they assist with achieving, is an essential part of every participant’s journey through the Scheme.

From progress reports and functional capacity assessments to early childhood reports, letters of recommendation and plan reassessment reports, the documentation delivered by trusted providers is pivotal.

That’s why it’s important for all providers to know exactly what’s required from them – and when – so they can structure their documentation to deliver the insights and evidence the NDIA seeks.

Sure, a quick Google search will help you find a multitude of templates and frameworks to get you started, but there’s more to writing reports and letters of recommendation than sticking to a formula.

Selwyn and Kelly have spent countless hours working with providers to deliver suites of impactful participant documentation for their clients, so we asked them for the inside track on everything providers need to know.

Getting started

According to Selwyn, report-writing usually occurs before a participant’s plan reassessment, when they’re applying for a new support, or when there’s a significant change in the impact of their disability or their circumstances.

Often, reports and letters are requested by participants directly, or by the NDIA if it’s looking for evidence to support a funding request, but support coordinators and plan nominees also seek them out – and sometimes proactive providers initiate the process themselves.

Kelly says that regardless of who triggers the process, it’s vital participants and their nominees are consulted and provided with a clear explanation of why a report or letter is needed.

“Clients should have an opportunity to provide input and discuss their preferences regarding the supports and services outlined in their plan,” she says.

She says Focal Community Services has created its own blueprint for writing provider reports and letters of recommendation, with a focus on goals and outcomes.

“We start by outlining the client’s goals and desired outcomes that should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound,” says Kelly. “This ensures that the requested supports are directly linked to their individual needs and aspirations.”

“We provide specific recommendations for supports, services, or modifications that align with the client’s goals. These should always be based on evidence, assessments, and the client’s individual circumstances.

“We clearly explain why these recommendations are necessary to support the client’s goals and improve their quality of life. And we’re sure to back up our recommendations with supporting evidence – such as assessments, reports, or professional opinions. This could include assessments conducted by healthcare professionals, reports from service providers, or observations of the client’s needs and progress.

“Providing robust evidence strengthens your case and increases the likelihood of securing funding.”

Kelly says a letter of recommendation doesn’t have to follow the traditional format of a letter. Instead, depending on the requirements and preferences of the participant and the NDIA, it might be delivered as a formal document or an email from a provider.

According to Selwyn, it’s crucial reports and letters are evidence-based and that they adhere to Section 34 of the NDIS Act by clearly demonstrating how the proposed supports will enhance the participant’s capacity and independence.

“It’s important to document alternative strategies that have been explored and to align the support closely with the participant’s needs and goals,” says Selwyn.

“Including measurable outcomes, professional assessments, and solid justification for each recommended support is essential. Utilise the NDIA’s templates and guidelines as a baseline, but tailor your report or letter to genuinely reflect the participant’s unique circumstances, ambitions, and the supports they need to lead a meaningful life.”

Selwyn says the role of a support coordinator is to link participants to necessary supports, bolster their autonomy, and foster skill development. For this reason, letters of support or recommendation should detail the participant’s current situation, provide the professional’s assessment, outline the expected outcomes from the recommended supports, and demonstrate how the supports will assist the participant to achieve their goals.

“A provider report goes beyond listing the services provided,” says Selwyn. “It should offer a holistic view of the participant’s journey, including progress made, challenges encountered, and how the services have impacted the participant’s ability to achieve their goals.”

“Significantly, provider reports should also include forward-looking recommendations for future supports. These recommendations must be aligned with the participant’s long-term goals and designed to further their independence and capacity building.

“Each recommendation within the provider report needs to be backed by clear, evidence-based justifications. This involves showing a clear link between the participant’s needs, the progress observed, and how the proposed supports are expected to contribute to their goals.

“Data, professional assessments, and observations can all serve as crucial evidence to support these justifications.”

When time is money, how do you get paid?

The thing about great quality documents – especially those packed with the insights, evidence and recommendations required by the NDIA – is they take time to write. And the reality is, time is money.

So, when the time comes for you to support your clients to put their best foot forward in funding discussions with the Agency, how do you make sure the budget’s there to cover your costs for preparing and delivering vital documentation?

Selwyn says this is where a service agreement really comes into force.

“The NDIA recognises the importance of compensating providers for their expertise and time, allowing these activities to be billed under designated line items related to therapeutic supports,” he says.

“Adding it to a service agreement ensures a mutual understanding of expectations and the comprehensive support necessary for the participant’s journey.”

If a client doesn’t have the funding for a full report, a letter of recommendation can be a more cost effective option to initially present their case to the NDIA. However, a report offers a more comprehensive evaluation, so it’s worth speaking to your client about seeking additional funding in future plans to cover the cost of report writing.

What happens if a client declines documentation?

No matter how persuasive letters and reports can be, sometimes there are NDIS participants who either don’t understand the need for them, or who just don’t value them.

So, what happens then?

Kelly says it’s crucial for providers to prioritise their clients’ right to choice and control, and to respect the decisions participants make. But she says it’s also the responsibility of providers to educate their clients and inform them of the potential consequences of not providing evidence to the NDIA.

“You could recommend the benefits of having a report or letter of recommendation, explaining how it can strengthen their case and improve the likelihood of a positive outcome in their plan review or funding request,” says Kelly.

“If the client chooses not to proceed with a report or a letter, despite your recommendation, and they have a support coordinator, it’s essential to document this decision. In their support coordinator’s plan reassessment report, they should clearly outline the client’s choice and explain that they’ve opted not to provide evidence. This documentation ensures transparency and provides context to the NDIA regarding why evidence is not being produced.

“In the plan reassessment report, they can also highlight any potential barriers that may arise from the lack of evidence. This helps to provide a comprehensive understanding to the NDIA of the client’s situation and ensures that their decision is appropriately documented.

“Ultimately, the role of a provider is to empower clients to make informed decisions while providing guidance and support based on their expertise.”

Letters of recommendation and provider reports are vital tools that can have a powerful impact on the lives of people with disability. They provide critical evidence and expert advice that can tip a funding decision from the NDIA in favour of your client.

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