On your NDIS journey, you interact with a lot of people working in different roles, with somewhat confusing job titles. Often there is not a lot of explanation on what services they provide and what their responsibilities are, leaving us confused about who should be solving our problems when they arise… So exactly who is who, and what do they do for you?
Local Area Coordinators (LACs) and Planners
LACs and Planners work for “Partner organisations” – the organisations that are given contracts by the NDIA to handle all planning meetings in a designated geographical area. Their role includes linking you to the NDIS and to mainstream and community supports in your area. They are paid by the NDIA, not out of your plan money or out of your pocket.
LACs are responsible for:
– Helping you understand and access the NDIS – this can be through group workshops or one-on-one conversations.
– Creating your plans – Your LAC will have a conversation with you to learn about your current situation, supports, and goals to help develop your plan. It is important to know that LACs cannot approve an NDIS plan, this is done by someone from the NDIA.
– Implementing your plan – The NDIS website says that your LAC should help you to find and start receiving the services in your NDIS plan. Your LAC can also provide assistance throughout your plan if you have any questions.
– Reviewing your plan – Your LAC will work with you to make changes to your plan through a plan review when it is about to expire (usually 12 months) or if you ask for an unscheduled review.
– Linking you to information and support in your community
– Informing you about support available in your local community;
– Explaining how the NDIS works with other government services – supports like education, health, and transport.
If you have questions throughout your plan, your LAC can also provide assistance at any time. You can contact them by email or phone.
Support coordinators (SCs)
A support coordinator is like a ‘plan coach’. They generally come in when a person starts their approved plan. You can engage whichever SC you want to work with. They are a private, separate business and are funded out of your plan. You can ask for different levels of support coordination while you are having your planning meeting (with your planner or LAC).
Support coordinators are responsible for:
– Helping you to build the skills you need to understand and use your plan by telling you what your funding can be best used to reach your goals.
– Working with you to ensure you have a mix of supports to increase your capacity to maintain relationships, manage service delivery tasks, live more independently and be included in your community.
– Explaining what things in your plan mean, making you feel empowered, connected and supported so you can confidently spend your funds in appropriate ways.
– Connecting you to providers that you want to work with.
– Helping you to negotiate with providers about what they will offer you and how much it will cost out of your plan.
– Ensuring service agreements and service bookings are completed.
– Making sure the services you engage are relevant to your goals.
– Helping you to prepare for your plan reviews when they are coming up.
How you contact your SC is up to you and them. As they are a separate business, you can change support coordinators if they are not providing these things in a way that suits you. You have choice and control over your support coordination just like with every other provider.
Plan managers are essentially the accountants of the NDIS plan world – they handle all your bills and help you to understand what you can spend your funding on. You can ask for plan management at your planning meeting, and the funding will come out of a separate budget that is only for plan management. If you don’t ask for plan management your other options are having the agency (NDIA) manage your funding or managing it yourself. Plan management offers flexibility in what providers you can choose and takes the responsibility off your shoulders when it comes to paying your providers.
Plan managers must be NDIS registered providers and they are responsible for:
– Claiming directly from the budgets in your plan to pay your providers on your behalf.
– Paying your providers for the supports you purchase.
– Helping you keep track of your funds (this can be through offering emailed reports or optional online portals or mobile phone apps).
– Taking care of financial reporting for you.
– Holding onto all of the invoices and information for you for 5 years minimum, in case of audit.
How quickly the invoices are paid is important, to keep you up to date with your spending, but there are no definite rules in place, and processing times can vary between plan managers. Plan managers are a separate private business and in order to avoid conflicts of interest, it is best to use a plan manager that does not provide your other supports.
For more information about the role of plan managers, see Wait, what exactly does a plan manager do?
Check out our NDIS Dictionary to break down more of the confusing jargon.
Belle Owen is a writer, consultant and disability advocate with over ten years experience living and travelling overseas. She is passionate about social justice, human rights and disability representation in popular culture.